Effective December 5, 2016, the PA Divorce Code is modified to require one year of separation, instead of two years, before a spouse can request a no-fault divorce with no economic claims or the appointment of a divorce master to resolve a no-fault divorce involving economic claims, without the other spouse’s consent. I am not going to discuss whether I think this change was a good idea or bad idea, because at this point my view does not matter. I will point out the practical consequences of this change.
First, the change to one year separation is only effective for couples who separate on or after December 5, 2016. If you separated on or before December 4, 2016, you are bound by the two year separation period.
Second, the change only applies to situations where both spouses are not consenting to a no-fault divorce. If both spouses consent to a divorce and have resolved their economic claims such as division of assets and liabilities, alimony and claims for counsel fees, they can finalize their divorce as soon as ninety days after service of the divorce complaint. If they are both consenting to a divorce but have not resolved these economic claims, they can agree to have a divorce master appointed before the one year separation period has passed.
Third, this change only applies to no-fault divorces. For practical purposes, that includes virtually all divorces in Pennsylvania. I believe this change will virtually eliminate fault-based divorces in PA because the primary reason for pursing a fault-based divorce in the past was to avoid the two year separation period if a spouse would not consent to the divorce. With the one year separation period, it will probably be just as quick to pursue a no-fault divorce through the court system after a year of separation as it would be to purse a fault-based divorce and with a no-fault divorce, both parties can avoid the personal and financial costs of testifying about marital fault.
If you live or work in the central Pennsylvania area, including Carlisle, Harrisburg, Hershey and surrounding communities and would like to discuss how your divorce will proceed or any other family law or estate planning or administration issue, please contact me.