Mandatory Waiting Period for Divorce

Many states require some waiting period between when a divorce complaint is filed and when a divorce will be granted. In Pennsylvania, a no-fault divorce may be granted after a waiting period of 90 days provided both parties consent to the divorce at the conclusion of the waiting period. This waiting period is often referred to as a cooling-off period. It is arguably utilized in many states to give the parties an opportunity to reflect on the severity of the decision to get a divorce and/or seek marital counseling to see if the relationship can be saved. At this point, almost half of the states have some waiting period between when you file and when you can be divorced.

It is unclear if there is any correlation between longer waiting periods and fewer divorces. New Jersey has one of the longer waiting periods for a no-fault divorce at 18 months and also has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country. On the other hand, Arkansas also imposes an 18-month waiting period and has one of the highest divorce rates. Perhaps the key to determining the impact of the waiting periods would be a study into how many couples do end up reconciling during the waiting period if reconciliation is the ultimate goal behind the divorce laws. Pennsylvania does specifically indicate its policy is to “encourage and effect reconciliation and settlement of differences between spouses” as the “protection and preservation of the family is of paramount concern.” 23 Pa. C.S. 3102.

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