In the state of Pennsylvania, the settlement of most divorces is consensual. However, some couples cannot resolve their differences.

When conflict brings the divorce proceedings to a halt, scheduling a master hearing may be the next step in the process.

Normal circumstances

After filing for divorce in Pennsylvania, a couple must then wait out a 90-day separation or cooling off period before their consensual divorce becomes final. If the couple can come to an agreement about their property settlement and other divorce-related matters, there will be no need to go to court.

Without consent

Some divorces are more complex than others, and there are sticking points that a couple cannot sort out on their own. If the parties cannot consent to certain terms, resolution of their differences might only occur during a master hearing. The waiting period is about a year, and the hearing means added expense, but it may be the best solution for a difficult divorce case.

About the master

A master is an attorney who has experience in matters pertaining to family law and serves as a hearing officer. When the court appoints a master to a particular divorce case, he or she will work toward bringing the case either to settlement or to trial. The goal, however, is dispute resolution without the need for litigation.

In the hearing, the master may address all of the issues pertaining to the divorce or only specific problems. Upon hearing the actions and ancillary claims in the case, the master will provide a report with recommendations to the court. The court will never appoint a master in cases involving child custody or paternity.

Going forward

As a divorcing couple, you should make every effort to settle your differences to take advantage of the faster and less expensive process. If this is not possible, examine your legal options. You may conclude that a master hearing is the best solution for resolving the conflicts that exist between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse.