Change in Separation Requirement for No-Fault Divorce

Separation Requirement

Recently, Governor Wolf signed a bill reducing the length of separation required for establishing grounds for a non-consensual, no-fault divorce from two years to one year. This change will become effective 60 days from the date the bill was signed, which will be on or about December 3, 2016.  Early indications are that whether a given case will be governed under the two year or one year separation requirement depends on when the parties separated. 

In other words, if the parties separated before the effective date of the new law, a two year period of separation will still be required.  However, if the parties separated after the effective date of the new law, a separation period of only one year will be required before a party can pursue a no-fault divorce if the other party will not consent to the divorce.

Pros and Cons

While most attorneys have a favorable opinion of the change, there are many negative aspects to the change as well. Most attorneys believe that the change is a positive one because of the fact that divorce cases will be able to be completed with more speed and efficiency due to the reduced separation requirement. 

However, this is beneficial to the spouse with a higher income while at the same time detrimental to the spouse who does not earn as much.  During the pendency of a divorce action, while the parties are separated, the lower earning spouse can potentially get spousal support or alimony pendente lite from the higher income spouse.  With the reduction in the separation period required to pursue a non-consensual, no-fault divorce, the amount of time the lower earning spouse can receive spousal support or alimony pendente lite has also been reduced. 


Furthermore, the reduction in the separation period requirement may also lead to fewer reconciliations, as it allows for less of a cooling off period before the divorce can be finalized.  Consequently, this change, though widely perceived as positive by the legal community, has many negative implications as well.

If you have a question regarding a divorce or family law issue, contact one of the experienced attorneys at Trinity Law today. Our attorneys routinely handle Pennsylvania family law matters in York, Lancaster and surrounding counties.