October 26, 2016
By: Mary Cushing Doherty and Chandel Boozer
On Oct. 4, 2016, Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law Act 102, formerly known as HB380. Act 102 will reduce the waiting period for no-fault divorce from two years to one. Reducing the waiting period allows a spouse to attain a divorce without getting consent from the other spouse after waiting for a one-year period.
The Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) Family Law Section restarted its efforts to reduce the years required for separation in a no-fault divorce approximately three years ago. High Swartz partner Mary Cushing Doherty was one of two spokespersons for the PBA. As a former PBA Family Law Section Chair, and being a family law attorney for 35 years, Mary has extensive knowledge about the toll the two-year waiting period takes on separating families.
Mary addressed the House Judiciary Committee Meeting in Harrisburg on behalf of the Pennsylvania Bar Association regarding HB380 one year ago. HB380 first passed in the House on Nov. 9, 2015. It later passed the Senate on Sept. 26, 2016, on an overwhelming vote of 43 to 2.
The signing of Act 102 will significantly impact children, spouses, and families across Pennsylvania. Reducing the amount of time required quickens the process of finalizing financial arrangements, custody arrangements, and division of marital assets. The two-year waiting period was intended to provide time for spouses to reconcile. However, the extended waiting period normally produced more tension between spouses, and children ultimately bore the brunt of the negative effects.
The purpose of Act 102 is not to encourage divorce. Act 102 discourages manipulation, delay tactics, and obstructionism and enables the court system to function more efficiently.
A shorter waiting period combats spouses who drag out the divorce process to hurt their spouse and reduces the financial burden on separating couples. The economic burden of hiring attorneys and using their services during the divorce process can be substantial. Minimizing the wait time will have a positive impact on the stabilization of the family because each spouse can begin the healing process and move on.
Act 102 goes into effect on Dec. 4, 2016, 60 days after the bill was signed The divorce code presumes that separation is no later than the date of the served divorce. Act 102 is not retroactive, so all divorce cases already filed will proceed under the two-year waiting period specified under the existing law.
Without the efforts of key legislators, several dedicated attorneys and the Pennsylvania Bar Association, it is highly unlikely that legislation reducing the wait time for no-fault divorce would have passed anytime soon.
The information above is general: we recommend that you consult an attorney regarding your specific circumstances. The content of this information is not meant to be considered as legal advice or a substitute for legal representation.