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“Til Death Do Us Part” Just Got Shorter: Pennsylvania Divorce Code’s New One-Year Separation Period

By:    Robert B. George, Esquire
[email protected]

When first enacted in 1980, Pennsylvania’s Divorce Code required a three-year separation period before a divorce could be obtained on no-fault grounds without consent. In 1988, the law was amended to reduce the waiting period to two years. Legislation to further reduce the waiting period, known as House Bill 380, was introduced in February, 2015, and secured approval from the House of Representatives in June of 2016.

On October 4, 2016, Governor Wolf signed House Bill 380 into law, which reduces the waiting period for unilateral no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania from two years to only one year.

This change, which took effect and became the new law in Pennsylvania on December 4, 2016, essentially means that a spouse involved in a no-fault Divorce needs to wait only one year after the filing and service of the Divorce Complaint before obtaining a divorce without the other spouse’s consent.

This reduced waiting period will allow couples to more quickly start the process of dividing assets and determining whether alimony is appropriate in their case. This reduced waiting period should bring improvement to the lives of many for whom divorce is a financially and emotionally draining life event. The earliest possible time for someone to take advantage of this change to Pennsylvania’s divorce law by moving it forward without the other spouse’s consent is December 4, 2017.

In the case of a spouse who is paying spousal support month after month, the reduced waiting period should be a very welcome change, as it can potentially cut an entire year off of the period of time that spousal support would have had to have been paid.  If, on the other hand, you are the spouse who is receiving support, you now have a much smaller window of time to get your finances together before the underlying divorce, as well as the related equitable distribution and alimony issues, are finalized by the Court.

Some lawyers have expressed concern that the new law will only make it easier for people to get a divorce or incentive people to seek a divorce who might not otherwise have been inclined to do so under the prior two year waiting period.  However, there is no empirical evidence to show that either of these concerns has much merit. To the contrary, the longer two year waiting period under the prior law did not appear to help people reconcile.  In fact, the two year waiting period under the prior law also tended to increase the chances that the couple’s relationship became more acrimonious and hostile, as the party contesting the divorce was able to essentially hold the non-contesting spouse hostage to an unnecessarily lengthy divorce process.

If you are currently involved in a Divorce, or contemplating filing for a Divorce,  it is important that you speak to an attorney who is familiar with this area of law, and specifically familiar with this recent change in the law, to ensure that your rights and interests are properly protected.

The attorneys at the Law Firm of DiOrio & Sereni, LLP are experienced and available to help you. Contact Robert B. George, Esquire at 610-565-5700, or send him an e-mail at [email protected]

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The Law Firm of DiOrio & Sereni, LLP, is located in Media, PA and serves clients in and around Media, Glen Riddle Lima, Brookhaven, Wallingford, Newtown Square, Lenni, Springfield, Swarthmore, Chester, Aston, Bryn Mawr, Morton, Woodlyn, Broomall, Gradyville, Folsom, Chester Heights, Crum Lynne, Glen Mills, Marcus Hook, Ridley Park, Drexel Hill, Marple, Bethel, Garnet Valley, Chadds Ford Concord, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County.

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