In Pennsylvania, divorcing couples can get divorced the easy way or they can get divorced the "hard way." By the hard way, we're talking about the two-year separation divorce where one of the spouses refuses to consent to the divorce.
In these situations, one spouse wants a divorce and the other spouse won't have it. In effect, the stalling spouse is simply stretching out or delaying the inevitable, and this often comes at a price – emotionally and financially.
As Pennsylvania divorce attorneys, we find the "mutual consent," uncontested divorce to be the fastest, cheapest way to end a marriage, and one of the key instruments in a no-fault divorce is the marital settlement agreement, which we'll tell you a little more about below.
Couples Prefer to Control the Outcome of Their Divorce
One of the greatest advantages of a mutual consent, no-fault divorce is that the spouses maintain control over important matters, namely child custody and property division, and divorcing spouses accomplish this through the "marital settlement agreement."
In a contested divorce, the case ends up in front of a judge, who decides on contentious matters, such as child custody and visitation and property and debt division. The problem with this method is that the judge is the one in control, and he or she does not know the couple or their situation personally.
It's impossible for couples to accurately predict how a judge will decide on important matters, however, their respective attorneys can do their best to advise them of the possible results, especially if the attorneys are familiar with the judge presiding over the case. Still, there's no guarantee that a judge will do exactly what an attorney thinks he or she will do.
Marital Settlement Agreements in Pennsylvania
Armed with this information, the vast majority of spouses that we deal with prefer to reach their own agreements, rather than deal with a costly, protracted divorce trial, one that's unpredictable.
The terms of the spouses' agreement are recorded in a marital settlement agreement (MSA), which is a written legal contract where they hash out the provisions of their divorce, such as child custody, child support, spousal support or alimony, property and debt division.
So, once the spouses agree on the terms/provisions of their divorce, the provisions in the couple's MSA will be entered into the court's final divorce judgement, and from that point forward will be in force until a future court order (post-judgement modification) makes any changes (where applicable).