First of all, any discussion of the types of divorces that we have in Pennsylvania must begin with this statement: No matter how long you may be separated, NO divorce is ever automatic.
I blame our rather inept news media for leading people to believe that once they were separated for a certain number of years, the other person could not stop the divorce. Here is where that comes from. When we got no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania in 1980, if you were separated over 3 years and the other side did not contest, the divorce would go through. A few years later, that was changed to 2 years and, at the end of 2016, it was changed again to just 1 year of separation.
If you were separated less than those numbers of years, your divorce had to have (and still does) a 90 day waiting period right in the middle of it and when the 90 day period ended, both of you had to consent in writing to the divorce. If you were separated more than those numbers of years, you did not have to have that 90-day wait and, if the other party did not contest within 21 days after being served divorce papers, the Court would grant the divorce.
I must emphasize my foregoing references to the other party filing or not filing a contest within those 21 days. It is true that an expensive, locally filed divorce (currently) based on a separation of over 1 year would be granted if no contest is filed; however, the party filing the divorce, typically through a lawyer, is required to send the other party two documents, the mailing of which begins the 21 day period. One document (called an Important Notice) tells the defendant spouse that a divorce has been filed and a contest, if any, must be filed within 20 days.
The other document (called a Counter-Affidavit) can be used by the defendant, without a lawyer or filing fee and with just an envelope and a stamp, to contest the divorce. That affidavit has four statements that can be checked: 1. The marriage is not broken, 2. We have not been separated over a year, 3. I want money and, 4. I want things and/or property. Now checking off any of those may be absolute nonsense, but it will be a contest and will stop the divorce dead in its tracks until you pay many thousands of dollars in court costs and legal fees to schedule and hold hearings to decide each checked item. See? NOT automatic, and that is the case no matter from whom or where you saw or heard otherwise. Anyone who told you their divorce was automatic misunderstood how it worked, period, end of sentence, and I will, given the facts and circumstances, easily debunk any story of an “automatic” divorce.
Now, to get into the types of divorce we have here in Pennsylvania, they can be categorized as fault and no-fault and either or those may be contested or uncontested. If a divorce is contested, it does not matter if it is fault or no-fault…it will be very expensive and take a long time to resolve. If a divorce is not contested (uncontested) and is a fault divorce, there must be a brief hearing with you testifying against your spouse (who need not and usually does not show up). That is still, at best, a $1500 to $2500 process done in your local court with a local lawyer. An UNcontested no-fault divorce requires no court appearance and if it is a simple case with both parties being and remaining fully cooperative, the type I have handled since 1980 for literally tens of thousands of clients, not only will there be no hearing, there will be no office appointment or travel of any type and it will cost a total of a couple hundred dollars.
If you are wondering about what type of divorce best suits you, read all about it at this site, padivorce.com or call me, free of any charge, 1-800-486-4070.