As a social concept, divorce isn’t something we strive for. The preference, supported by the laws of Pennsylvania and other states, is to see individuals succeed when they marry. Indeed, some family laws on the books serve as hurdles to divorce, especially if the dissolution involves children.
The motive for those laws is well intentioned. Most experts still agree on the principle that children do better in households where the family unit remains intact. In light of that, laws controlling divorce have historically required that spouses go through long periods of separation before finalizing their split. This has been true even in cases where a no-fault divorce was sought.
As of the end of 2016, however, Pennsylvania law changed regarding unilateral no-fault divorces. These are cases in which one spouse has decided he or she wants out of the relationship but the other one has not.
It used to be that couples were required to go through a three-year separation. Lawmakers reduced that to two years in 1988. Last October, the governor signed the law scaling separation time to one year. Anyone filing for divorce since the new law took effect in December now must complete just a one-year separation.
Proponents of long separation periods argued they would give couples time to reconcile. However, advocates of the shorter time say experience shows that doesn’t work. If anything, the longer separations were often used to drag out proceedings, something wound up hurting the couple, the children, everyone. They say that speeding things up is cost effective and allows for quicker resolution of property division, child support and parenting time issues, favoring the well-being of the children.
Other changes are sure to be made in time. Perhaps someday the legislature will require pre-marriage education as a way to reduce the chances of divorce. At least one psychologist says there’s sufficient research to support that. In the meantime, the focus of any divorcing couples should be on ensuring their rights under the law as it now stands.
For more information, contact Louis Wm Martini, P.C.