PA House Bill 380 Looks to Shorten Waiting Period for Divorce

January 13, 2016
Lindsay M. Schoeneberger

For the first time in well over two decades, the divorce process in Pennsylvania could be getting a major face lift.  Modern divorce as we know it came to Pennsylvania in 1980 when the legislature established a means through which a couple could divorce without one spouse being assigned fault or institutionalized.  A divorce can now also be obtained through consent, or irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.  When both parties consent and agree to the economic issues, a divorce can be obtained in a few short months.  Originally, in 1980, if one of the parties did not agree the marriage was over, the parties had to be separated for three years prior to obtaining a divorce.  In 1988 it was shortened to two years, which is where it currently stands.  When one party is unwilling to consent to the divorce, the two years can seem to move at a glacial pace.  Granted, I have seen some couples reunite during this two year waiting period, however, it is rarely after year one.  House Bill 380 was recently introduced proposing that the two year waiting period be reduced to one.  The bill passed a full House vote 191-6 and is now on its way to the Senate.  If this bill passes, it will put Pennsylvania in line with its neighboring states, all of which have shorter waiting periods.

One side note, while divorces through a finding of fault or institutionalization are rarely seen, both are still on the books and are an available remedy for those rare instances where a divorce through consent or irretrievable breakdown will not work.  Personally, I have dealt with one case where a divorce was obtained through a finding of fault and that is more than many family law attorneys will ever see.

Lindsay Schoeneberger is an attorney at Russell, Krafft and Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas including Family Law.