On September 27, 2016, the state General Assembly’s passed House Bill 380, which will reduce the waiting period in unilateral, no-fault divorce proceedings from two years to one year.
House Bill 380 and its passage were lauded by Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) leaders. “Divorce law should be a tool for the orderly and just dissolution of a marriage,” said PBA President Sara A. Austin of York. The PBA Family Law Section worked closely with the Bill's sponsor, Rep. Tarah Toohill, to advance legislation that would mitigate the effects of stress on the parties involved and the children of the divorce, thereby allowing the family to begin the healing process sooner.”
Former PBA Family Law Section Chair Mary Cushing Doherty of Norristown said the reduction in the waiting period would allow the parties and the courts to focus on resolving the overall divorce issues instead of prolonging a process that can be both economically and emotionally costly.
“H.B. 380 by no means allows for a quick divorce,” said Doherty. “Because the parties are not given access to the courts until after grounds for divorce are established and the waiting period has ended, there can be up to an additional year of waiting for final resolution of the divorce proceedings. Because it is uncommon for parties to reunite once the divorce process has started, requiring parties to wait for two years only prolonged the inevitable and resulted in increased legal fees, intensified turmoil between the parties and extended stress on the family.”
Doherty also said reducing the waiting period would align Pennsylvania with many of its neighboring states. New Jersey and New York have a six-month waiting period, Indiana has a sixty-day waiting period, and Ohio has no set waiting period.
“Unfortunately, with a two-year waiting period, the settlement of financial matters takes longer, puts individual financial situations in limbo and causes more uncertainty and instability for children involved,” she said. “When the waiting period is reduced to one year, the amount of time to resolve the financial aspects is shortened, and the parents can begin the process of settling down and creating a stable routine for the children.”