Once someone decides to end a marriage, the speed with which it can be done becomes quite important. There can be any number of reasons for this. Just wanting the marriage ended and behind you ASAP is understandable. Wanting to marry a new person in your life ASAP in a good reason, too. Wanting to just be free to do what you want is something I hear frequently as well.
There are two ways to get divorced quickly in Pennsylvania. If you have not been living separately and apart under separate roofs for at least the last 12 months, a no-fault divorce MUST have a 90 day waiting period in the middle of it. The 90 days cannot begin until the divorce is filed in court AND your spouse officially receives a copy of the filed documents. After the 90 days have ended, there are more documents for the parties to sign and more yet for the lawyer to prepare. Then the lawyer files the official request in court asking the judge to end the marriage, and judges are typically very busy with many other matters when that request is placed on the judge’s desk so it can be weeks before the judge reviews the case and signs the final decree. The the court clerk (the prothonotary in Pennsylvania) has to make the final entry in the court book (called the docket) before finally mailing out the decree. As you can see, aside from the 90 day wait, there is plenty to do both before and after those 90 days, much of which is beyond the lawyer’s control. Accordingly, the first “fast” type of divorce is available to those genuinely separated over a year because they will not have the 90 day wait in the middle of their case.
What’s the second type of speedy divorce? That would be the one available to couples separated less than a year. It is the old stand-by “fault” divorce, but one given very special – and expensive – handling by the lawyer. Fault cases use “grounds” that must be proven in open court at a scheduled hearing. In an UNcontested fault case, “indignities” is the universally used ground and, unless one is married to a saint, indignities are easy to show. Of course, one’s spouse must be fully cooperative. The hearing would be before a “Master in Divorce” who is just a lawyer appointed to hear the testimony and then recommend that the court grant the divorce. The usual (not the speedy) process is the filing of the divorce, the serving of the divorce papers, the scheduling of the hearing, notifying the other party of the hearing, the hearing itself, waiting for the court reporter to type up everything said at the hearing, waiting for the Master to submit the report then waiting for the judge to sign the final decree and send it on to the prothonotary’s for recording and mailing. Whew! That is usually about four months, but by a truly experienced lawyer acting at once every step of the way to rush things along, it can be reduced to four to six weeks. A speedy scheduling of the hearing, getting the court reporter’s summary done quickly, getting the Master’s report done quickly, finding a judge to promptly grant the divorce and pushing the decree through the prothonotary’s office really takes maximum effort AND some good luck. As you may have guessed, this type of divorce takes an extraordinary amount of the lawyer’s time, effort and expense, so its bottom line is typically several thousands of dollars… and without any guarantee because too many aspects are not within the lawyer’s absolute control.
Where the cost of a divorce is one’s main consideration and one has not been separated for one year, it’s best to relax, save your money and begin as soon as possible. Then get back to your day-to-day life. It will be over before you know it. Remember what great grandma used to say: “A watched pot never boils”. She was right.