Divorces in Pennsylvania now don’t have to take quite so long

This article looks at why Pennsylvania recently reduced the wait times for unilateral no-fault divorce.

On December 3, 2016 an important change to Pennsylvania's Divorce Code went into effect. As ABC 27 News reports, the change reduced the waiting period for filing for a divorce in instances where only one spouse wants the divorce from two years to one. The change means that Pennsylvania's divorce waiting times are now more in line with the wait times found in neighboring states. While the change will not affect all divorces, especially those where the spouses are already in agreement about getting divorced, it will, its supporters say, help reduce the pain and acrimony that was being dragged out under the old law.

The purpose of waiting times

The change in waiting times applies to situations where one spouse wants to get a divorce (and isn't alleging fault) but the other spouse doesn't. In those situations, there is a waiting period where the spouses must be living apart before they can apply for divorce. That waiting period is designed to offer the couple a chance to rethink their situation and possibly reconcile. Prior to December 2016, the waiting period in Pennsylvania was two years, longer than most other states in the region.

However, critics have long contended that long waiting period did nothing to help reduce the rate of divorce in the Commonwealth. Instead, forcing couples to endure two uncertain years where they could not move on with their lives often simply extended the pain of the divorce. In some cases, it also allowed one spouse to try to manipulate or intimidate the other spouse into either returning to the marriage or agreeing to a settlement that was overly lopsided.

Reduced waiting times

As the Allentown Morning Call reports, when no-fault divorce was originally introduced in Pennsylvania in 1980 the waiting period was three years for no-fault unilateral divorce. That waiting period was later reduced to two years in 1988. Most recently, on December 3, 2016, the waiting period was further reduced to one year.

It is important to note, however, that completing the one-year waiting period does not mean that the couple is then divorced. Instead, it merely means that the spouse who wants the divorce can file an affidavit that affirms the marriage is irreparably broken. That affidavit allows the couple to begin the process of dividing property and dealing with other important matters related to their divorce.

Getting legal advice

Those who are going through divorce or are planning on getting divorced soon should talk to a family law attorney. An experienced attorney can help clients with the various legal issues that must be addressed following the end of a marriage, including spousal maintenance, child support, and division of property. The outcome of these decisions could significantly impact the divorcees life for years to come, which is why it is imperative to consult with an attorney who will help ensure that any final settlement is in the client's best interests.