Shorter divorce wait times designed to protect children

Pennsylvania has reduced the wait periods for unilateral no-fault divorce from two years to one.

Divorce is now a little easier to get in Pennsylvania following the passing of a new law that reduces wait times for certain divorces from two years to one, according to PennLive. The shorter wait times, which bring Pennsylvania's divorce laws more inline with neighboring states, are partly designed to protect children from being subjected to a drawn out contentious divorces and to protect victims of domestic abuse. While the two-year wait period had been designed to allow couples to change their minds and save their marriages, in practice it simply led to more acrimony and, in the worst of situations, to one spouse taking advantage of and manipulating the other spouse.

Reduced waiting periods

The new law affects unilateral no-fault divorces, such as when just one spouse is applying for a no-fault divorce without the other spouse's consent. Previously, in such cases, spouses had to wait two years before being granted such a divorce. Now that wait time has been reduced to just a year, which is similar to the wait times in most neighboring states.

During that wait time the spouses must be living apart from one another. After the wait time is over, one of the spouses can file an affidavit affirming that the marriage is irreparable. As the Allentown Morning Call points out, this is not the first time Pennsylvania has reduced wait times for no-fault divorces. When no-fault divorce was first introduced in 1980 the wait time was three years before being reduced to two years in 1988.

The problem with long wait times

The wait period is designed to give couples who are having marital problems time to think over their decision and possibly repair their marriage. While that intention is laudable, critics of the two-year wait period point out that it was highly ineffective at getting couples to reconcile. They note that in relationships where emotional or mental abuse was a factor that the abusing spouse could use the long waiting period to intimidate the other spouse into staying in the marriage.

Furthermore, even in marriages where abuse was not a factor, the long waiting periods tended to make divorce much worse for children. Because the waiting periods tended to draw out and magnify disagreements between spouses, it often exposed children to more acrimony and disputes between their parents.

Family law

As Pennsylvania's divorce and family laws continue to evolve, it is important for anybody who is getting divorced in the state to reach out to an experienced family law attorney for help. An attorney can help individuals who are going through a divorce in a number of ways, including assisting them with issues related to property division, child custody and support, and spousal maintenance.