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No-fault divorce waiting time reduced by half

Governor, Tom Wolf, just signed a bill slashing the two-year waiting period for a no-fault divorce from one to two years in Pennsylvania. This reduces the time for dividing assets and determining spousal support and is anticipated to reduce legal costs and time in court.

This waiting period was last reduced in 1988 from three to five years. In some cases, litigants took advantage of the two-year period by filing a divorce action and receiving support for at least two years until the litigation was concluded.

This strategy is often used to support child custody disputes. Some cases were delayed over two years when a master was involved in the case. The two-year period often made couples live in the same house to reduce expenses, pending the outcome of their case.

There are two types of no-fault divorces under Pennsylvania law. If both spouses agree, a divorce order can be issued within 90 days, which allows access to the courts for division of their assets. When one spouse objects, however, the process is greatly delayed.

Reducing the one-year period may encourage spouses to cooperate on matters, such as discovery and to resolve any disputed divorce legal issues without the court's intervention. Reducing this time should also lead to quicker resolution of matters involving the couple's children and bring closure.

The new law will take effect in two months. Spouses seeking financial support will have to act promptly to assure that their case falls within the two-year period before the new shorter period governs. Some spouses, though, may benefit for waiting until the new law takes effect and the waiting period is reduced to one year.

Under the new law, issues, such as housing and schooling, will be more immediate. Spouses at the end of a marriage should seek prompt legal advice to determine their rights and options under this new time period. A spouse may lose important rights concerning support and custody by not receiving information and acting quickly.

Source: The Legal Intelligencer, "Lawmakers cut no-fault divorce waiting period in half," Ben Seal, Sept. 30, 2016

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