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No Fault Divorce

In a move designed to ease the toll that the divorce process takes on families, the state of Pennsylvania has amended its waiting period from one to two years, beginning in December 2016.

Many people mistakenly believe that no-fault divorces always involve both parties agreeing to end the marriage. In fact, only one party needs to do so, providing they live separately from their spouse for a specified period of time. That time has now been cut from two years to one year.

What has changed

The catch to no-fault divorces in Pennsylvania, however, has been that if the other spouse doesn't agree to a divorce -- even a no-fault divorce -- there was a mandatory two-year waiting period.

Now, with Act 102 becoming law, a unilateral divorce -- meaning, if just one of the two parties wants to end the marriage -- can now happen after one year, rather than the previous two-year regulation. The one year has to entail living apart.

The pros and cons

Advocates for cutting the waiting period in half explained that, rather than helping couples "cool off" and reconcile, longer waiting periods can actually breed resentment. Those who might return to their marriage after separation find one year more than enough, divorce lawyers have learned, while two years of waiting can only fan the flames of resentment in a hopeless marriage.

Another predicted improvement resulting from the shorter waiting period is that a couple's financial settlements will be resolved much more quickly, rather than having the assets held up, or drained by legal bills. This expedited process enables everyone in the family a chance for emotional closure, as well as to make plans based on the knowledge of what they are legally bound to do, once the divorce is finalized.

Getting these issues finalized is often crucial for families, because divorces can become incredibly complex. If you are contemplating a divorce, Pennsylvania's new one-year waiting period for the no-fault process means that you and your current spouse will be able to more quickly settle such issues as:

  • Custody and visitation
  • Child support
  • Spousal support
  • Division of assets
  • Division of property and living arrangements
  • Debt responsibility

Of course, these matters can be complicated if you try to handle them on your own, no matter how long or short the state's mandatory waiting period is. If you need advice on these matters, consider contacting an experienced family law attorney in your area.

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