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Proposed law would shorten waiting period for no-fault divorce

Pennsylvania is one of the few states that still categorizes divorces as either fault or no fault. An at fault divorce places blame squarely on one of the parties, while a no fault divorce places no legal blame on either party. In a no fault divorce, if both spouses agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken, a divorce complaint can be filed and after 90 days the divorce can proceed and become finalized. If one of the parties does not consent, however, the parties must be separated for a period of two years before the divorce can go through.

This waiting period can wreak emotional havoc on families. Divorce is already a painful and stressful process, but prolonging it for such a long period of time can negatively affect people's well-being, particularly if children are involved. In fact, Penn Live reports that family therapists who testified before the House Judiciary Committee indicated that delaying divorce can result in harm to a child's developmental growth.

While the intended purpose of the waiting period was to encourage reconciliation, in reality this is unlikely to occur. The family therapists also testified that marriage counseling rarely succeeds in reuniting a couple and preventing a divorce.

Consequently, the Pennsylvania Legislature is now taking steps to make the process easier. House Bill 380 proposes to reduce the waiting period for a no fault divorce from two years to one year. According to Philly.com, the bill was passed by the House in November 2015 and is expected to be introduced in the Senate for a vote.

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