On December 5, 2016, the law in Pennsylvania as it relates to the required length of separation in order to establish grounds for divorce reduced from two years to one year. This reduction was highly contested for many years in our legislature and had been proposed on multiple occasions during the last decade. While the pros and cons of the reduction in the length of separation were argued multiple times, the legislature finally determined that the reduction was appropriate.
The reduction of the two-year waiting period means that any spouses who physically or legally separate after December 5, 2016 now will only have to wait one year before they have established grounds for divorce unless otherwise established. In no-fault divorces, there are only two ways to establish grounds for divorce. The parties consent to the divorce, or complete a separation period which has now been shortened to one year.
Fault divorces still exist in Pennsylvania, and spouses may proceed under the fault provisions of the Pennsylvania Divorce Code by establishing fault grounds for divorce, such as adultery, indignities, desertion and the like. Given the cost and required litigation for establishing fault grounds for a divorce, many spouses choose to proceed under one of the two no-fault provisions of the Pennsylvania Divorce Code. This can sometimes minimize costs and allow the parties to focus on the economic issues that must be resolved in a divorce matter before a divorce decree can be issued. This choice is often preferable because the dollars spent on court costs and attorneys’ fees result in economic benefit as opposed to incurring fees to simply establish grounds for a divorce before economic issues can be resolved.
While many people believe that reducing the two-year waiting period to a one-year waiting period for spouses in Pennsylvania is not appropriate, there are economic benefits to the reduction. The change in the law only applies to individuals separated after December 5, 2016, so individuals who separated since that date may now see the economic benefits the legislature hoped they would. Your divorce attorney will help you determine the best option for your unique circumstances.