On September 29, 2015 the Family Law Committee of the Pennsylvania Bar Association submitted a proposal to the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee to shorten the divorce 2 year separation requirement for persons 1 year. Current Pennsylvania divorce law allows one spouse to move forward to establish grounds for a divorce without the consent of the other spouse if the couple has been separated for a minimum of 2 years. Once the 2 years has passed, the grounds for divorce can be established and the couple can proceed with having a judge hear their case of dividing up the marital property and divorce/property settlement agreements.
During this two year waiting period custody and support of children can be taken to court and decided. However, the cloud of the waiting period often hangs over the proceedings and affects people’s thoughts, attitudes and behavior and not in a positive way.
The Committee is recommending the shortening of the two year divorce waiting period on the basis that divorce data over the past 35 years since the enactment of the no-fault divorce law shows that couples have not reconciled during months 13-24, i.e. the second year of the required waiting period. The belief is that the waiting period is detrimental to the overall health of children and relationships. Reconciliation does not occur. Nothing positive happens and a great deal of negativity continues. This is unhealthy for the children of the marriage, at least one of the two parents and as a consequence the community of family, friends, neighbors, schools and town.
By shortening the waiting period to 1 year, individuals and children can begin to build their new lives rather than being held hostage to one person’s anger and control. I have personally seen this in my 31 years of practice on several occasions. I believe the ideas put forth by the committee are correct and worthy of discussion by the legislature.
The bill in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives is Bill 380. If you have questions about the bill, the proposed change in the PA Divorce Code or Pennsylvania divorce in Montgomery or Bucks Counties, please call my office for an appointment to discuss your situation for divorce, property settlement, custody or support in a confidential environment. 215-822-2728.