A new law just went into effect in Pennsylvania that reduces the waiting period for one type of no-fault divorce from two years after the spouses separate to one year. In other words, the divorce may move forward 12 months after the couple separates, even if one spouse does not agree.
The reduction in the waiting period allows the parties and the courts to focus on resolving the overall divorce issues instead of prolonging a process that can be both economically and emotionally costly.
Pennsylvania has two no-fault divorce grounds: Mutual Consent, and Irretrievable Breakdown. Mutual Consent requires no particular length of separation, but does require the active cooperation of the spouses, and either spouse can bring the divorce process to a halt simply by refusing to sign the divorce consent forms. If there is no mutual consent, grounds for divorce of Mutual Consent simply cannot be established, and that remains true even after Pennsylvania’s divorce law change goes into effect.
For the divorce-filing spouse in Pennsylvania who wanted to move things forward without the consent of the other spouse, but who could not establish fault grounds (such as adultery) against that spouse, that left only the Irretrievable Breakdown divorce. Irretrievable Breakdown did not require consent, but did require the following:
- that the marriage be irretrievably broken; and
- that two or more years had passed from the date of the parties final separation.
With the new law, the Irretrievable Breakdown ground for divorce will require only one year of living separate and apart from your spouse for one party to be able to proceed toward a divorce decree without the others consent.
For a party who is separated but paying court-ordered spousal support, this change drastically reduces the time the spousal support must continue, as the law enables the party to move forward after a one-year separation toward a final financial settlement and divorce decree.
For a party who is receiving court-ordered spousal support, the new law reduces the time the party has to establish financial independence before the divorce is finalized. Reducing the waiting period aligns Pennsylvania with many of its neighboring states. New Jersey and New York have a six-month waiting period, Indiana has a sixty-day waiting period, and Ohio has no set waiting period.
If you believe that this amendment to the law might affect you, contact your attorney to discuss your particular situation.
Please be aware that this change to Pennsylvania divorce law applies to a separation period commencing after the date on which the new law became effective. The earliest possible time to take advantage of this change to Pennsylvania divorce law by moving forward without the other spouses consent is December 4, 2017.