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New state law shortens waiting period for no-fault divorce

Pennsylvania has had no-fault divorce since 1980. That was the year that it reformed its divorce code, which had been in place since colonial days. The initial waiting period for a no-fault divorce was three years. That was lowered to two years in 1988.

Now a new law, which takes effect before the end of the year, reduces that wait time to one year. Couples are required to live apart for a year before an affidavit for divorce can be filed.

Advocates for the law, known as Act 102, which include attorneys and marriage counselors, say that a shorter waiting period is less traumatic for any children involved. It also allows a couple to begin determining how they want to divide property and assets and whether one person will need spousal and/or child support.

One attorney also notes that "a long mandatory separation period doesn't help people reconcile." In fact, it can create greater rancor. A Pennsylvania marriage counselor agrees that a year "is more than ample" for a couple to work things out if they're able to.

The bill's sponsor, a state representative from Luzerne County, said, "The shorter waiting period allows the couple's financial situation to be resolved more quickly and at less expense, so they can tend to their children's well-being." She also notes that the law, which has the support of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, puts our state in line with our neighbors, where waiting periods are between six months and a year.

Opponents of the law argued that shortening the mandatory separation period would harm people who are dependent on their spouses for support because they will have less time to make the transition to living independently.

Of course, Pennsylvania family law attorneys can work to help these spouses seek the financial support they need while they're making this transition. The sooner a person seeks legal guidance, the sooner your attorney can begin working to help you get a fair division of assets, the support you need and the custody and visitation arrangements that are in the best interests of your children.

Source: The Morning Call, "New Pa. law reduces no-fault divorce waiting period to one year," Dan Sheehan, Oct. 07, 2016

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