Reinforcing the stability of marriage while minimizing the impact of divorce should be the ultimate goal of divorce law in Pennsylvania.
That was the intention of the state's lawmakers, but sadly, that was not the result.
Under current state law, divorcing couples must wait a mandatory two-year waiting period to obtain a no-fault divorce. Instead of giving couples the time to "think it over," the law had the unintended consequence of promoting litigation and harming the well-being of children.
There is hope; after studying the process for more than 20years, legislation sponsored by Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne) would cut that waiting period from two years to one year, and now the legislation is making its way through the General Assembly.
Last month, the bill was overwhelmingly approved by the House, and now it's before the state Senate. Since the Pennsylvania Bar Association has seen first-hand the ramifications of a protracted divorce, they have made it known that they support this proposal.
How would the bill change the status quo? It would change it so the mandatory separation period goes from two years to one year in no-fault divorces filed based on irretrievable breakdown.
This means that after one year, the divorcing parties would be allowed to start dividing their assets and determining whether alimony should be awarded.
While the change may seem insignificant, it can have a huge impact, especially on families going through a contentious divorce. When divorce is delayed and the battle is prolonged, children don't advance developmentally while parents continue arguing, according to family therapists who testified at a September House Judiciary Committee hearing.
In effect, children are often caught in limbo. They're not sure what school they'll attend, where they'll live, or who they'll live with.
What's more, a bitter spouse overcome by disdain can willfully delay, for the full two years, the addressing of economic issues associated with the divorce.
As long as there is a two-year delay, there will be angry husbands and wives who continue to control their estranged spouses. The delay has proven not to help couples reconcile, as lawmakers originally hoped.
Tragically, Pennsylvania couples discovered that the two-year waiting period only prolongs the hurt for the divorcing parties and their children. A shorter waiting period will enable parents to create a stable routine for the children more quickly, and it allows financial issues to be resolved much faster.
Need a Pennsylvania no-fault divorce attorney? Contact Cairns Law Offices today!