New Law Shortens Pennsylvania Divorce Waiting Period
Pennsylvania has a new law that amends the PA Divorce Code by reducing from two years to one year the length of time a married couple must live separately before they may obtain a no-fault divorce based on separation.
The new law, which was signed by Governor Tom Wolf on October 4, 2016, becomes effective on December 3, 2016. The new one-year separation period applies only to couples who separate after the law goes into effect. It does not apply to couples who have already filed for divorce or for those who separate before December 3, 2016.
It does not affect a couple’s ability to obtain a 90-day no-fault divorce based on mutual consent.
No-Fault- Divorce. No-fault divorce has been available in Pennsylvania since 1980. Most couples decide to obtain a no-fault divorce. There are two types of no-fault divorce. If both spouses agree to the divorce, they usually choose the 90-day consent divorce. If one spouse wants the divorce and the other does not want the divorce, the spouse who wants the divorce must proceed under the two-year separation statute.
Divorce. The divorce and equitable distribution trial procedure in Chester County is a multi-level process. If the parties are not able to resolve their divorce and property division privately or with the help of a mediator or their lawyers, either party may file a Motion for the appointment of a Master. The Master will first schedule a preliminary conference with the lawyers for both parties. Clients do not attend the preliminary conference unless they do not have an attorney. After gathering information at the preliminary conference, the Master will schedule a half-day settlement conference.
At the settlement conference, the parties and their lawyers discuss the issues and negotiate toward a settlement. If they reach a settlement, the Court Reporter will record that agreement for the court and the Master will issue a written report and recommendation. If the parties do not reach a settlement, both parties and their lawyers will sign a Certificate of Trial Readiness and the case will be placed on the Master’s trial list.
The trial before the Master is a full evidentiary hearing, with sworn testimony by both parties that is recorded by a Court Reporter. The Master will listen to the testimony of both parties and any witnesses, rule on evidence and make a decision within 30 days after the hearing. If either party is not satisfied with the outcome, the next step is for that party to file exceptions (an appeal) to the Master’s report. The review by the Court of Common Pleas Judge is on the record that was made in front of the Master at trial. There is no additional evidence heard by the Court. Either party may request oral argument. The Judge will enter an Order deciding the issues raised on exceptions to the trial record.