A seismic shift occurred for Divorce in Pennsylvania. On October 5, 2016 Governor Wolfe signed House Bill 380 into law which shortens the period a person must wait for a divorce when the other spouse does not agree. Before today, Pennsylvania's Domestic Relations lawrequired a two-year waiting period before one party could seek a divorce decree from the court without the other's consent. This change in the law brings Pennsylvania closer to the national trend of shortening the period the law forces upon divorcing couples. Many of my clients are thrilled with this change, as it opens up the possibility of completing their divorce faster and allowing for the next period in their lives to start an entire year earlier than they originally expected.
One reason the bill's primary sponsor, Rep. Tara Toohil of Luzerne County, pushed for a change, was to protect children from lengthy custody battles. When one spouse disagrees with getting a divorce, too often children are placed in the position of seeing their parents fight, or worse, being used as pawns in the divorce. By reducing the waiting period by one year, it is the hope of lawmakers to shield children from the damaging effects of a prolonged divorce. When asked for a comment, Rep Toohil responded, "Divorcing couples . . . find themselves in lengthy court battles" and that "Children end up being pawns in a divorce game and people end up going broke due to legal fees and a failure to manage mortgages and bills in a timely fashion."