Pennsylvania Changes Waiting Time for Divorce


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A new law in Pennsylvania is changing the amount of time that a divorce case takes to process. This could have a dramatic impact on divorce actions fled in the state.

Amended Pennsylvania Divorce Law

Historically, even if one party was not contesting the divorce, they could delay the divorce if they refused to cooperate. The old law would make it so that if one party was seeking a no-fault divorce and if the other spouse did not agree to getting a divorce, the spouses would have to live separately for at least two years before the court had the authority to grant a divorce.

The Pennsylvania Divorce Code was recently amended to shorten the required waiting time for certain divorces. The new law applies to no-fault yet non-consensual divorces. The new waiting period has been shorted to one year.

Purpose of Amendment

The lawmakers that created the bill and sponsored it said that their primary goal was to create a smoother divorce, primarily for the children involved in divorce. They reasoned that a shorter waiting period would help parents finish the process sooner so that there would be less turmoil between them. This in turn could result in a more stable environment for the children.

The lawmakers also believed that the shorter waiting period would give the parties a chance to work through their divorce more quickly. This could reap the benefits of having a less costly divorce and more agreements that focused on fair custody agreements and property division.

Other states around Pennsylvania have waiting periods of six months to one year, which was much shorter than Pennsylvania’s two-year requirement. In this way, the amendment put the state more in line with the designations in surrounding states.

Consensual No-Fault Divorces

If both parties agree to getting a divorce, they do not have to wait the historical two years or even the new one year in line with the new rule. Instead, they can agree to the divorce and it can be finalized a minimum of ninety days. To begin the divorce process, one spouse must file a complaint in which the grounds for divorce are alleged and the party requests that the court order the parties divorced. He or she must then have the other spouse served with this complaint. The state minimum runs from the date when the spouse is served. In these types of cases, the parties do not even have to be separated for a year before the divorce can be finalized.

Fault Divorces

The new law also does not change a spouse’s right to pursue a fault-based divorce. When fault grounds are alleged, the spouses do not have to be separated for at least a year if the moving spouse successfully establishes that there are fault grounds.

Pennsylvania fault-grounds include adultery, bigamy, conviction of a crime and imprisonment for at least two years and abandonment without cause for a minimum of one year. Other fault grounds include cruelty which endangers the health or life of the other spouse or humiliating the spouse in a manner that makes the marriage intolerable. Pennsylvania courts do no consider a spouse’s misconduct or fault when it makes decision regarding property division, but a judge may consider such things when deciding whether or not to award spousal support.

It is important for a spouse to talk to a lawyer before pursuing a fault-based divorce because there are important considerations to contemplate before pursuing this cause of action. Fault-based divorces tend to be more expensive. They may also involve public demonstrations of private details of a person’s marriage. Additionally, it requires a party to first establish these grounds to the satisfaction of the court before proving the rest of the case, such as dealing with property division or child custody. There are times when a fault-based divorce may be appropriate, though.

Legal Separation

Spouses who want to be apart but who do not want to be divorced at the present time may prefer a legal separation. Either spouse can file for a legal separation.

Contact an Experienced Divorce Lawyer for Assistance

If you are seeking a no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania, it is important to contact an experienced divorce lawyer for assistance. He or she can explain whether a no-fault divorce is appropriate in your case. He or she can also explain if a consensual divorce is possible or if you will have to serve the one-year waiting period, based on the specific circumstances of your case.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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