The breakdown of a marriage can be a tiring and complicated process. If possible, you may want to consider getting marriage counseling to see if you can salvage the marriage. If not, you may be thinking about getting a divorce.
There are two types of divorces: contested and uncontested. A contested divorce occurs when the couple can’t agree on one or more divorce issues. These can be alimony, child support, child custody, or property division.
An uncontested divorce occurs when either both parties agree to terms in divorce. Or, a party didn’t respond to the petition to divorce time. When both spouses agree to the divorce and its related issues, it’s considered a mutual consent divorce.
The main benefit of a mutual consent divorce is that it’s much more straightforward and can be a shorter process than a contested divorce. This makes it ideal for couples who want to separate and avoid a lengthy court battle.
On average, a mutual consent divorce takes around four to six months if there’s no mediation or disputes. A traditional divorce may take more than a year to resolve.
What Is Divorce by Mutual Consent?
A divorce by mutual consent is a divorce in which both spouses consent to the divorce.
Compared to traditional divorce, a mutual divorce can be quicker, cheaper, and less emotionally draining. They typically require fewer legal fees because they allow spouses to dissolve their marriage without multiple court hearings and negotiations.
Divorce by mutual consent also makes co-parenting easier since it preserves the spouses’ relationship, even after the divorce.
For instance, a couple may want to get a mutual divorce agreement if they both agree that their marriage is unsalvageable. They may also opt for a mutual consent divorce because they want to maintain a good relationship with each other for the sake of their children.
What Do I Need to Get a Mutual Consent Divorce?
You and your spouse need to meet the following conditions for divorce by mutual consent before you file for this type of separation:
- You and your spouse must establish that the marriage is irretrievably broken through a mutual divorce agreement.
- You and your spouse need to establish that both parties agree to divorce.
You and your spouse need to be in a no-fault state, like Pennsylvania, to file a joint petition to divorce.
- If you’re in a fault state, the spouse filing for divorce will have to file separately. They will have to pursue an uncontested divorce where both parties come to a mutual agreement on the terms outlined in the divorce decree. The defendant — the spouse opposing granting the divorce — will then have to sign a Waiver of Service document.
- Each spouse must agree to file an affidavit to show that they agree to the divorce.
You or your spouse must have lived in the state you’re currently living in for a minimum of six months before filing for divorce.
- If you’ve recently moved, you may have to file a complaint in the previous state you lived in.
- You will also need to check with your state to ensure that you follow any requirements for filing a mutual divorce. These can be about timelines or rules about cohabitation. For example, in Arkansas, you must live separate and apart for 18 months to qualify for a mutual consent divorce.
How Quickly Can You Get a Mutual Consent Divorce?
The length of a mutual consent divorce varies depending on a variety of factors:
- The state you live in: Every state has its own rules for divorce. For example, it takes around six months to process a mutual consent divorce in California. In Pennsylvania, it takes about 4 to 5 months.
Whether you have children: If there are no minor children involved, mutual consent divorces may only take four to five weeks. Children, custody battles, spousal support disputes, and financial issues can make the process last a year or more
- For example, let’s say you and your spouse can’t agree on how you will split your financial and personal assets or which child will live with whom. To resolve these issues, you decide to hire a mediator. Mediation can take a lot of time since it involves a lot of back-and-forth exchanges. Sometimes, these methods can fail, and you will have to take your case to family court, which lengthens the divorce process.
- Which judge finalizes your paperwork: If you live in a county with a busy courthouse, it may take your assigned judge months to finalize your paperwork.
What Is the Process for Mutual Divorce?
Here’s what you need to do to get a mutual divorce.
1. Issue a petition to start the mutual divorce process
Once you’ve checked that you and your spouse are eligible to begin the divorce process, ask your spouse if they want a divorce.
If both spouses agree that they want a divorce, the next step depends on whether you’re in a no-fault state or a fault state.
If you’re in a no-fault state, you and your spouse can file a joint petition to divorce.
If you’re in a fault state, the spouses can’t file a joint petition to divorce. Instead, one of the spouses needs to file a complaint to start the divorce process. Depending on the state you’re in, you will need to prepare various forms to file your complaint.
The spouse filing the complaint is the plaintiff, while the other is the defendant. If you’re the plaintiff, make two copies of the complaint before you head to the clerk’s office. The office will keep one set, stamp the second, and give the third copy back to you for safekeeping.
The filing fees will depend on your state. Check your county’s court website to confirm the amount. If you have documentation proving that you’re low-income, you may be able to file for free.
2. Serving the second set of papers
You must now “serve’ or deliver the stamped second set of papers to your spouse.
Serving can happen by mail or personal delivery and requires your spouse to sign an acceptance form. It indicates they’ve been served and that they know the petition for divorce has been filed.
3. Filing the acceptance of service document
After your spouse has signed the acceptance of service document, you need to make two copies of it and file it with the court before a certain deadline. This deadline varies depending on your state, but it’s usually 20 or 30 days after your spouse receives the divorce papers.
4. Wait a period of time according to your state
Once the court receives your spouse’s acceptance form, they will return the two copies with a stamp. The date on this stamp indicates the beginning of the waiting period. You can check the amount of time you have to wait here.
5. File an affidavit
After the waiting period is over, each spouse will file an affidavit stating that the marriage is irretrievably broken and that both of you want a divorce. Each spouse may have to file other documents depending on their state.
What Happens After Mutual Consent Divorce Papers Are Signed?
After the affidavit and all other mutual consent divorce papers are signed, you’re officially divorced.
You can now remarry or move to another state after waiting a specific amount of time. This period of time depends on your state. If you have children, the court may prohibit or restrict you from moving until they reach the age of majority.
But before you make any major life decisions, you should read the divorce decree for any orders the judge included. The judge may have included orders for child support or child custody that you and your ex-spouse need to put in place.
The judge may also order the following to protect and preserve the family:
- You and your ex-spouse get counseling if either of you requests it.
- You and your ex-spouse attend a class about how to help children deal with divorce.
Review the judge’s decree with an attorney to better understand what you need to do. You should also consider updating your personal and financial documents like your Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, and Living Will.
How Much Does a Mutual Divorce Cost?
The cost of a mutual consent divorce depends on whether you choose to divorce with or without a lawyer, or with a mediator in a collaborative setting.
Without a lawyer
If you choose to get a mutual divorce without a lawyer, your mutual divorce will not cost you that much. The fee to file your divorce papers can vary from $100-$450 depending on your state.
If you use an online service to file your papers, you may have to pay an additional amount ranging from $150 to $1,500.
With a lawyer
If you’re going through a mutual divorce with a lawyer, your mutual divorce could cost you anywhere from $150 to $400 an hour.
Many experienced private attorneys charge high rates. Particularly if they participate in hearings about child support, marital property, and alimony. You’ll also need to pay a down payment of around $2,500 to $5,000.
If you can’t afford a private attorney, check your county’s bar association to see if any lawyers, law firms, or associations offer free or discounted services.
Through collaborative divorce or mediation
Another way to approach your mutual divorce is through collaborative divorce. This process is a fusion of mediation and hiring a lawyer. Lawyers from both sides will sit down with the spouses to discuss divorce issues.
If the spouses can’t agree on certain issues, they can decide to go to court. Most collaborative divorce proceedings start around $10,000.
You can also choose to go through mediation. Mediation utilizes a neutral third party to help the spouses reach a consensus in their settlement agreement. The mediator can’t impose a solution on the parties, but they can help them come to a solution together.
If the parties can’t resolve their issues through a mediator, they can go to court. The average cost of divorce mediation varies but can be anywhere from $3,900 to $9,000.