What Is the Separation Period in Pennsylvania for a Nonconsensual Divorce?
The divorce process is made logistically simpler when both parties consent to it. But what happens if one of the parties does not respond to the divorce notice, cannot be found or simply does not provide consent?
In October 2016, the state of Pennsylvania passed a law that reduced the length of time a person filing for divorce has to wait for the divorce to go through without the other party’s consent. Act 102, which took effect at the beginning of 2017, mandates that a spouse will need to wait one year before securing a divorce without the consent of the other spouse.
Now, spouses must live apart for one year before one of them can file paperwork affirming an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. The previous rules, in place since 1988, required spouses to live apart from each other for two years before being able to get a nonconsensual divorce.
The new law also enables spouses to begin the asset division process earlier and come to more efficient decisions when it comes to alimony.
Reason for the change
Advocates for the change had long argued that an extensive mandatory separation period did not actually encourage reconciliation — it simply forced people to wait longer for the inevitable.
In fact, there had been problems with some spouses taking advantage of the longer waiting time to attempt to intimidate the other into backing away from a divorce. This meant that, in some circumstances, the law actually benefitted people who were prone to manipulating or abusing their spouses.
Family law attorneys had also argued that longer separation periods made divorces more contentious, which further complicated settlement negotiation processes.