In virtually every state, if not every, there is some mandatory waiting period after spouses have separated before one spouse can get a no-fault divorce without the consent of the other. This divorce without the consent of the other party is a unilateral divorce. Pennsylvania has one of the longest separation periods required before a party can receive a unilateral divorce. In Pennsylvania, to divorce one's spouse without his or her consent, the two must have been separated for a period of at least two years. In state surrounding Pennsylvania, the periods are much shorter. In Delaware and New Jersey, the waiting period is six months. In New York, Ohio, Maryland, and West Virginia, the waiting period is one year.
The current two-year waiting period is the source of much anguish for divorcing parties. It can cause the process to drag on unnecessarily where one spouse will withhold his or her consent out of spite or to leverage for demands to settle the divorce. The prolonged period of separation without divorce can also create unnecessary uncertainty for divorcing parties' children.
For the time being, Pennsylvania remains an outlier in the separation period necessary before a unilateral divorce can be granted. Legislation is presently under consideration that will shorten that period to just one year. This would have the effect of bringing swifter resolution to divorces, as well as bring Pennsylvania more in line with surrounding states.
By: John M. Schaffranek, Esquire