Proposed Law Could Shorten Divorce Waiting Period
In Pennsylvania, divorce litigants have the option of proceeding by filing a fault or no-fault divorce. A fault divorce requires that one spouse prove misconduct by the other spouse for one or more of the reasons enumerated in 23 Pa.C.S. §3301(a).
A no-fault divorce does not require either spouse to establish fault. Currently, a no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania can be obtained by alleging that the marriage is irretrievably broken and either:
- By mutual consent of the parties, 90 days after service of the Divorce Complaint and after the filing of an affidavit by both spouses declaring that they each consent to the divorce; or
- The parties have lived separate and apart for at least two (2) years and a hearing is held to finalize the divorce by court order.
Thus, if one party wishes to contest the divorce, the other spouse must wait a full two (2) years before proceeding with a no-fault divorce.
Possible Changes to No-Fault Divorce Law
A proposed Bill, House Bill 380, seeks to shorten the required waiting time for contested, no-fault divorces, to one (1) year.
The Bill’s author, Representative Tarah Toohil, says that the primary goal of the Bill is to create a less traumatic experience for children that are caught in the middle of a divorce. She argues that reducing the mandatory waiting period will lead dissolving families to have the entire process completed faster, resulting in a more stable environment for the children.
Toohil also argues that the reduced waiting period will also create an opportunity for the parties to work through their divorce quicker, which will ultimately lead to a less costly divorce. Toohil notes that in the states surrounding Pennsylvania, the waiting periods for no fault divorces range from six months to one year, which is considerably shorter than Pennsylvania’s current waiting period. Read more from Toohil here.
The Bill has the backing of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. It was approved by the State House of Representatives on November 9, 2015, and is now headed for approval by the State Senate. If it is approved by the Senate, it will go to the Governor’s desk for final approval before becoming law.