New bill may reduce Pennsylvania’s divorce waiting period

A new bill aims to reduce Pennsylvania’s current two-year waiting period for couples with divorce disputes.

For many people getting a divorce, waiting for the ordeal to be over can be the most difficult part. This is even more of a challenge in states that have a lengthy minimum waiting period before a divorce can be finalized. Pennsylvania is one of these states. With a divorce rate of 9.2 percent, Pennsylvania ranks as one of the 10 states with the lowest divorce rates in the country, according to Statistic Brain. Even so, many couples with disputes feel like they should not have to endure a lengthy waiting period and other legal hurdles before being able to end a marriage.

New bill offers hope of faster resolution

The recent introduction of a new state bill may allow divorcing couples to get the process over with more quickly, reports Philly.com. House Bill 380 was passed on November 9 and is expected to go through a Senate vote soon. If it succeeds, the new law will lower the mandatory waiting period for a no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania to one year.

As it stands now, divorcing couples in most counties in Pennsylvania have to wait two years before being able to go through with their divorce if they are unable to agree on their disputes. Couples may be able to establish grounds for divorce within three months if they both agree on an uncontested divorce option. However, it is not unusual for one or both spouses to disagree on their divorce terms, for numerous reasons that may include the following:

  • Neither spouse can agree on child custody or support matters.
  • One spouse is dependent on the financial support of the other.
  • One spouse is angry or bitter and wants to cause the other pain.
  • Divorce is not an option for one spouse, and he or she wants to save the marriage.

In fact, if one partner wishes to reconcile, this may trigger mandated counseling sessions in addition to the two-year waiting period.

Impact on children

There are important reasons a shorter waiting period can be beneficial for families. Divorce has a significant impact on children, according to Psychology Today. Younger children may have difficulty accepting their parents' split and become clingier and more dependent. Older children may act out in anger and have difficulty in school. The faster a divorce is over with, the sooner parents can help their children begin the healing process and establish new routines and traditions that can give them a sense of stability.

A lengthy waiting period for a divorce tends to exacerbate instability in many ways. Property division is not officially finalized until the divorce is final, as well as custody arrangements and financial matters such as spousal support. Allowing divorcing couples to address their disputes earlier can allow them to put this difficult chapter behind them. An experienced family law attorney may be able to help spouses negotiate divorce terms they can agree with.