Divorce is hard on everyone involved: the husbands and wives seeking to end a marriage, the children, who often are caught in the middle.
Last year, we wrote about Pennsylvania House Bill 380, which would reduce the waiting period for a unilateral, no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania from two years to one. We maintained then, and continue to believe now, that cutting this waiting time in half is beneficial to all the parties impacted by a divorce; facilitating an end to an unhappy marriage enables all parties involved more quickly to get on with their new lives.
On Nov. 9, 2015, HB 380 passed the Pennsylvania House by an overwhelming vote of 191 to 6. It has since been sent on to the state Senate judiciary committee. We continue to monitor the bill and will keep our clients updated as to its progress. Given its quick and decisive passage through the House, we remain hopeful that its passage will be similarly expedited through the Senate, after which it will be presented to Gov. Tom Wolf for approval.
The Pennsylvania Bar Association continues to support House Bill 380 for a number of reasons. In the most extreme cases, reducing the waiting time to one year protects spouses by limiting the amount of time they remain vulnerable to physical or mental abuse. In less dire situations, it still can be helpful to complete the divorce process as quickly as it can be arranged, to limit the stressful impact it can have on the lives of the divorcing parties and their children.
A longer waiting period serves no one. It is more likely to cause further strife and more exhausting divorce proceedings than it is to bring about reconciliation. Financially, there are even fewer benefits. A prolonged waiting period increases the amount of time a couple’s finances remain tangled; divorcing parties cannot begin the process of dividing assets and moving forward to determine whether alimony or spousal support is owed until after the waiting period has passed.
It is time for Pennsylvania to adopt a policy that has worked perfectly well for its neighboring states, which have waiting periods of six to 12 months for unilateral, no-fault divorces. The Bucks and Montgomery county family law attorneys at Williams Family Law hope you’ll join us in supporting House Bill 380 as it makes its way through the Pennsylvania Legislature.