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Legal Update: Reduced waiting period in Pennsylvania for no-fault divorces

There is a new answer to the question "How long do I need to wait for a no fault divorce in Pennsylvania?" Since 1988, Pennsylvania law has required that, unless both spouses are consenting to a no-fault divorce, the parties must be separated for a period of 2 years and the court must make a finding that the marriage is irretrievably broken before the court will allow the divorce action to move forward. Governor Tom Wolfe recently signed a law which reduces that waiting period from 2 years to 1 year. This change will take effect in 60 days (December 2016). Proponents of the change argued that the 2 year waiting period was unnecessary and didn't benefit anyone, least of all any children involved. Further, they argued that the long waiting period allowed manipulative spouses to maintain control over the other spouse who wished to move on. Opponents to the bill believed that the shorter waiting period simply made it easier to obtain a divorce and reduced the time that a dependent spouse could receive certain benefits during the pendency of the divorce.

It's important to remember that a divorce isn't automatic at the end of the 1 year waiting period; the non-consenting party can still object and argue that the parties haven't been separated for a year or that reconciliation is possible. However, it allows the court to address the issue in a shorter period of time. Also remember that if both parties are consenting to the divorce, there is still only a 90 day waiting period before the divorce action can move forward. The new 1 year waiting period only applies to periods of separation which begin after December 2016.

This change comes on the heels of a bill signed by Governor Wolfe in April of 2016 which makes allowances in the divorce laws for victim of domestic violence. If one spouse has been convicted of a personal injury crime against the other party then the court will presume consent to the divorce. In addition, if there is an active Protection from Abuse Order in place or the abusive spouse has been convicted of committing a personal injury crime against the other (or admitted into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Program) then the victim spouse can file an objection to the court-ordered counseling which can be ordered in a contested divorce.

If you're considering filing a divorce in Berks County or if you've been served with divorce papers already, contact our experienced Reading, PA divorce lawyers today at 610-372-5128 or email us at [email protected]

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