Last October, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed legislation to reduce the waiting period in certain divorce proceedings from two years to one year. The bill applies to unilateral no-fault divorce proceedings, essentially “uncontested” divorce actions. The statute became effective in December, 2016.
Proponents say the new law will provide many benefits for individuals and families in divorce. First, because parties know that their marriage will be dissolved sooner, they can initiate the process of equitably dividing debts and assets much sooner. In addition, children of divorce will spend less time in limbo, as a parent need only wait 12 months before filing an affidavit stating that the marriage is irreconcilable.
Opponents of the bill had argued that the two year restriction allowed a “cooling off” period where spouses might engage in meaningful attempts to reconcile. Proponents successfully asserted, though, that there was no evidence that the longer separation period contributed to any increase in reconciliation. In fact, some proponents felt that the prior law actually had the opposite effect, allowing some to coerce a spouse into dropping a divorce complaint because of the lengthy wait. They also said that the two year waiting period increased the legal costs of the process, as lawyers would bill more hours.
Opponents also contended that shortening the time period would give parties less time to make the necessary transitions to life after divorce, including access to health insurance. Supporters of the bill challenged that concern, saying that one year is plenty of time to make any necessary adjustments.
At the office of Joanne E. Kleiner & Associates, we have more than 25 years of family law experience. We’ll help you stay focused on what matters. To schedule an appointment with an experienced Pennsylvania divorce attorney, contact our office online or call us at 215-886-1266.