By:  Lori K. Shemtob

I heard I can be divorced in 90 days, right? 

If my spouse and I are separated for a year I can be divorced, right?

I hear these questions all the time.

The answer to both questions is that isn’t completely accurate; it’s more complicated than that, although many people think that is the law. 

Both of those timetables are important though.  Ninety days after someone files for divorce and serves it upon the other party, both parties can file an affidavit of consent under section 3301(c) of the Pennsylvania Divorce Code. This affidavit indicates that their marriage is irretrievably broken. However, this doesn’t mean the divorce is final after the 90 days. All the 90 days and filing of the 3301(c) consent does is provide the court with the ability to get involved in dividing assets, if that hasn’t already been resolved between parties and attorneys.  The 90 day consent affidavits establish “grounds” for divorce.

Both parties must sign their own 3301(c) affidavit of consent.  If one party won’t sign their consent affidavit, then the parties need to be separated for one full year. At the conclusion of a year, the party who wants the divorce can file an affidavit called a 3301(d) affidavit stating that the marriage is irretrievably broken and the parties have been separated for more than one year. But again, the parties are not divorced at that time. The one year separation and filing of the 3301(d) affidavit allows the court to get involved in dividing assets.  Just like the consent affidavits after 90 days, this one year separation affidavit provides the party with a “grounds” order. In other words, grounds for divorce have been established and the court can get involved in dividing the marital assets.

Either of these two alternatives allow parties to establish grounds for a no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania. However, until assets are divided, either by written agreement of the parties or by court order, the divorce will not be processed.

Therefore, although the 90 day consent period and the one year separation period are required to move forward with a divorce, it is not until there has been an agreement or court order dividing marital assets that the court will issue a divorce decree.  

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