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Recent Changes to PA’s No-Fault Divorce Waiting Period

Divorces in Pennsylvania can fall into one of three categories: mutual no-fault, in which both parties agree to the divorce; no-fault irretrievable breakdown, where one party consents to the divorce but the other does not; and fault, in which one party has to prove wrongdoing by the other.

When the no-fault divorce was introduced in Pennsylvania in 1980, it required spouses to live separately for three years before a divorce could be granted. The waiting period was reduced to two years in 1988, and the recent change at the end of 2016 has further reduced it to one year. So long as you and your spouse separated after December 6, 2016, at the end of the year-long waiting period, one spouse can file an affidavit claiming that the marriage is irreparable.

The waiting period was initially established to allow couples to have time to reconcile, but it has had the opposite effect. In some cases, the long wait has been found to provide time for one spouse to intimidate and manipulate the other. Advocates for the law claimed that the reduction in the waiting period would allow couples to move forward more quickly with the process of dividing assets, establishing alimony and child support, and establishing their own residences. Experts also agree that the shorter waiting period is better for any affected children, as the parents are better able to focus on the children’s needs, and the children are able to settle into their new living situations faster.

If you are considering a divorce, read this!

If you are considering a divorce, advance preparation can help make this life-altering process much more manageable. Of course your first step is to consult an attorney, because everything you say and do has repercussions on your divorce! In the meantime, here are some additional tips and suggestions of what steps to take before filing that will help you during this transition.

  1. Conduct yourself with integrity. During a divorce, your actions will be analyzed, so this is the time to be on your best behavior.
  2. Document your spouse’s actions. If you receive an angry text or email, save and print it, and keep it in a safe place.
  3. If you have children, ensure that they are well-cared for, and say only positive things to them about your spouse. Building or maintaining a great relationship before the divorce will help to provide comfort and stability after the divorce.
  4. Determine what you own and what you owe. Begin to collect and copy bank statements, investment statements, loan statements, and proof of other assets so that you have proof of what you have and where it is kept.
  5. Prepare your budget. If you or your spouse is moving out, you will both have to pay housing expenses, utilities, child care expenses, and more. If you and/or your children are currently covered under your spouse’s insurance policy, you will need to consider what options you have, and factor that into your budget as well. If your spouse attempts to remove you or your children from his or her health insurance, you should contact your attorney immediately, as your spouse is likely to require to maintain the family on the insurance plan pending the completion of the divorce.
  6. Separate your money. If you have joint accounts, and you fear that your spouse may empty them, ask your attorney if it’s advisable to open a separate account and move half of the money into it, keeping accurate records. In addition, if you have joint credit cards, you will want to close them if possible, to prevent your spouse making purchases that you may be responsible for. If you don’t have much individual credit, you should start to build credit in only your name.
  7. Focus on the end result. The details associated with divorce are cumbersome, but if you stay organized, maintain your integrity, and follow your attorney’s advice, you will be in a much better position to achieve the best possible outcome.

As we mentioned above, working with an attorney as early as possible during the divorce process is crucial. If you are considering a divorce, contact our office to discuss whether your divorce will quality as mutual no-fault, no-fault irretrievable breakdown, or fault, and to obtain our guidance during this period of change.

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