Can I Still Get a Divorce If Child Custody Issues Aren’t Settled?

In some states, a spouse must prove that the other spouse is guilty of wrongdoing or “fault” to obtain a divorce. However, many states are moving to a no-fault divorce system that makes it easier, less costly, and quicker to obtain a divorce. In some states, including Pennsylvania, lawmakers combined the two types of divorce to give spouses a choice between no-fault divorce or fault divorce. Therefore, couples have a choice between several options for obtaining a divorce in Pennsylvania.

Because the choice of a divorce process can impact other issues, such as custody and property division, it is important to work with a Reading family law lawyer to determine which option is best in your unique situation.

Types of Divorce Actions in Pennsylvania

There are several different types of divorce actions available in Pennsylvania. Each divorce proceeding begins with one party filing a divorce complaint with the Family Court.

  • Mutual Consent No-Fault Divorce — Ninety days after the filing of the divorce complaint, both parties must file affidavits with the court consenting to the divorce. After the affidavits are filed, the judge may grant the divorce request.

  • Two Year Separation — If one party refuses to consent to the divorce, but the other party does not have grounds for a fault divorce or does not want to file for a fault divorce, the two-year separation divorce is the other no-fault option. The petitioning spouse files a complaint after being separated from his or her spouse for two years alleging the marriage is irretrievably broken. If the other spouse does not object, the judge may grant the divorce. However, if the other spouse files an objection or counter-claim, a contested hearing must be scheduled to determine if the petitioning party is entitled to a divorce.

  • Fault Divorce Actions — A spouse may file for divorce based on the grounds that the other spouse’s wrongdoing caused the failure of the marriage. Grounds for a divorce based on fault include abuse, adultery, bigamy, imprisonment for two or more years, insanity, and endangerment. Fault divorces are less common in Pennsylvania because they are typically more time-consuming and costly than no-fault divorce actions.

Custody Matters and Divorce

In most cases, matters pertaining to custody, child support, property division, and alimony are resolved before a divorce is granted. For a mutual consent no-fault divorce, the parties typically work with their attorneys to propose a settlement agreement for the court’s approval during the 90 days between filing the action and filing the affidavits. For other divorce actions, disputed matters are usually heard by the court during the trial on the divorce petition.

However, it is possible to obtain a no-fault divorce without custody being finalized in some cases. The ability to obtain a divorce before resolving custody can vary by county. Therefore, you want to consult a Pennsylvania family law lawyer to determine if you may obtain a divorce if you and your spouse are continuing to argue over child custody.

It should be noted that while you might obtain a divorce before custody is finalized, obtaining a mutual consent no-fault divorce before raising and resolving property division or alimony issues bars you from litigating these matters in the future.

Consult Our Pennsylvania Family Law Lawyer to Discuss Divorce and Custody Matters

Our Pennsylvania family law lawyers are experienced in all areas of family law, including no-fault divorces, fault divorces, and child custody. Contact us today to request a consultation. We can help you determine the best option for obtaining a divorce that protects you and your children.