Requesting Marriage Counseling in Divorce Proceedings
In most divorce actions, if either spouses (the Plaintiff, who filed the divorce complaint, and the Defendant, who was served with the complaint) believes that the marriage can be saved through marriage counseling, that spouse may request the Court to Order the parties to attend marriage counseling during the divorce proceedings. Generally, the court can Order the parties to attend up to three (3) counseling sessions.
For divorces filed pursuant to the no-fault and “mutual consent” provision of the divorce code, the counseling must be requested within ninety (90) days of the commencement of the divorce action. For divorces filed pursuant to the no-fault provision where the parties have been separated for at least one year, the court will order the parties to attend marriage counseling only if the Defendant denies the allegations in the filing party’s affidavit and, after a hearing, the court determines that there is a reasonable prospect of reconciliation. In such cases, the court will continue the divorce proceedings for between 90 and 120 days and require the parties to undergo up to three (3) counseling sessions during that time. If the counseling sessions are unsuccessful and at least one party states that the marriage is irretrievably broken after the 90- to 120-day period is over, then the court will grant the divorce. There is no specific timeframe for counseling for divorces filed under 3301(a)(6) of the Divorce Code (the “indignities” provision, which relates to indignities allegedly committed during the marriage).
There is no statutory right to ask the Court to order counseling for fault based divorce actions (divorces based on adultery, desertion, imprisonment, etc.).
In some instances, the court will not require counseling, even upon request. The court will never require counseling over the objection of a spouse who has obtained a Protection from Abuse (“PFA”) Order against the other spouse, nor will the court require counseling over the objection of an abused spouse, when that spouse was a victim of a personal injury crime (e.g. assault, strangulation, etc.) for which the other spouse was convicted or received Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (“ARD”).
The court can provide a list of qualified counseling providers to the parties upon request, but the parties are free to choose any qualified provider for their counseling.
Some spouses ultimately reconcile and do not move forward with the divorce process after counseling, while other spouses are not able to reconcile and will proceed with the divorce proceedings after participating in marriage counseling.
If you are a party to a divorce action and you have questions about this process or your rights with regard to a request for marriage counseling, please contact Tanner Law Offices at 717-731-8114 to schedule a consultation.