Wait times for divorce in Pennsylvania could soon be shortened

Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering reducing the wait period for contested no-fault divorces.

When it comes to getting a divorce in Pennsylvania, waiting is often the hardest - and longest - part. The state has some of the longest wait times for contested no-fault divorces in the region, with the current wait time of two years being well ahead of Pennsylvania's neighbors. While that long wait time was originally meant to encourage reconciliation, critics say it has only led to greater uncertainty and hardship for families, particularly for young children who are often caught in the middle of a drawn out divorce. The Pennsylvania Senate is now considering a bill that, if passed, would reduce the wait time to one year.

Considering wait time changes

Under current law, spouses going through a contested no-fault divorce must wait two years before their divorce is granted. During that two-year period they must also be living separately. By comparison, the wait times for similar divorces in neighboring states is much lower: New York and Maryland have a one-year wait period and New Jersey and Delaware have a six-month wait period. West Virginia, meanwhile, has no waiting period.

As the Legal Intelligencer reports, a bill is currently making its way through the legislature that deals directly with this issue. If passed, House Bill 380 would lower Pennsylvania's current wait period for a contested no-fault divorce to one year. The bill, which was introduced last year, has already passed the House and is now being debated in the Senate.

Reducing uncertainty

The two-year waiting period was originally designed to encourage couples to have a period during which they could hopefully reconcile and save their marriages. However, while the waiting period was well intentioned, in many cases it has actually led to uncertainty, animosity, and costly litigation for families.

As PennLive reports, instead of encouraging reconciliation, the current waiting period often draws out the pain of a contentious divorce. For the spouses going through the divorce, the waiting can lead to uncertainty about spousal support and property division and a sense that they are unable to move on with their lives. While spouses are free to negotiate such issues during the current waiting period, an embittered spouse can also use that period to delay any such negotiations, thus leaving the other spouse feeling as though he or she is stuck in limbo.

Family law help

While there is no guarantee that the wait times for divorce in Pennsylvania will actually be lowered, the issue does highlight how contentious and confusing a process divorce can be in the state. Because divorce can end up being so complex and may give rise to unexpected legal issues, it is important for those going through a divorce-especially a contested divorce-to reach out to a family law attorney. A qualified and experienced attorney can guide those in the midst of a divorce through the often complicated legal processes involved and provide peace of mind during what can sometimes feel like an overwhelming experience.

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