Pennsylvanians now don't need to wait as long for divorce

This article looks at some of the reasons why Pennsylvania recently reduced divorce waiting periods.

The waiting period for a no-fault unilateral divorce in Pennsylvania has been cut in half, from two years to just one. As the Allentown Morning Call reports, the new law means that in cases where only one spouse is filing for divorce and is not alleging fault, then that spouse need only live separate from his or her spouse for a year before proceeding with the divorce process. The longer waiting period of two years had been designed to encourage estranged spouses to reconcile; however, critics claimed that such a long wait period was simply leading to more acrimony and causing emotional distress for families.

Cutting waiting periods

When no-fault divorce was introduced in Pennsylvania in 1980 the waiting period - during which both spouses had to live separate and apart - was three years. In 1988, that waiting period was reduced to two years and, in December 2016, it was further reduced to one year, which is more in line with the waiting times seen in neighboring states.

As the Philly Voice points out, it is important to note that the reduced waiting periods only apply to no-fault unilateral divorces in which one spouse is filing for a no-fault divorce without the consent of the other spouse. The change does not affect fault divorces or divorces where both spouses have mutually agreed to part ways.

Better for children and finances

The waiting times for divorce are supposed to give spouses who are thinking about divorce some breathing room to reconcile and save their marriages. However, in practice there has been little evidence showing that longer waiting periods have actually helped save marriages. Instead, some family law experts say that such long waiting periods have simply allowed manipulative or abusive spouses to pressure the other spouse into abandoning his or her divorce bid. Furthermore, the wait times can cause financial hardship since it forces people to delay the process of dividing marital property and working out spousal maintenance.

The waiting periods were also often not in the best interests of children whose parents were going through divorce. A two-year waiting period merely tended to draw out and intensify the acrimony that existed during the marriage. Exposing children to more acrimony between their parents is, obviously, not beneficial to either the children or their parents.

Family law help

Divorce is a difficult and often complicated process. Anybody who is going through a divorce should reach out to a family law attorney for help. An experienced attorney can help clients with the many issues that arise during a divorce, including with filing the necessary paperwork, dividing marital property, working out child custody arrangements, and negotiating child support and spousal maintenance.