Separation Period Prior to Divorce Now Cut in Half in Pennsylvania

In a Pennsylvania no-fault divorce, how long must the parties remain separated before receiving a divorce?

For couples seeking a divorce in Pennsylvania, the process just became a bit easier: the separation period prior to the granting of a divorce has been reduced from two years to one.

Pennsylvania offers two types of no-fault divorce. One of these, divorce by mutual consent, has always been relatively speedy. If both parties agree and complete all the paperwork, the marriage may be able to be dissolved in as little as ninety days.

But if one party does not consent, the wait is longer. Until now, parties had to remain separated for two years. At that point, the spouse seeking the divorce could claim that the marriage was irretrievably broken and courts would usually grant a divorce. Recent changes in the law have reduced that wait to one year.

At Attempt to Minimize Pain for Families Involved in Divorce

The shorter, one-year pause is an attempt to make the process less painful for couples and the children caught in the middle.

The rationale for a long separation period has always been to give a couple a chance to repair their marriage. Divorce lawyers who oppose the change regard this as a prudent policy and are dismayed by the new shorter waiting period.  

Matrimonial attorneys who support the law say that reconciliation is rare and that there is no correlation between the likelihood of reconciliation and the length of the waiting period. Most couples, they say, do not reunite once the divorce process begins, so prolonging it for two years merely exacerbates the bitterness and increases costs.

Faster Resolution of Alimony, Child Support and other Financial Issues

The old law also allowed a dependent spouse to receive financial support for twice as long while awaiting a divorce. Now, with only a one-year wait, matters such as alimony, child support, and property settlements will have to be finalized faster.

Dissolution of a marriage is an innately unhappy proceeding and even the friendliest divorce may involve contentious issues. Whether the new law will achieve all of its goals remains to be seen. If you are contemplating divorce, an expert divorce attorney can advise you on the best strategy in light of both the new law and existing rules.