Divorce Based on One-Year Separation?
Earlier this year a bill was introduced to the Pennsylvania General Assembly which would affect the Divorce Code. House Bill 380 proposes amending Section 3301(d) of the Divorce Code to allow divorce on the basis of separation for a one year period as opposed to the current law which requires a two year separation period. Representative Tara Toohil proposed the bill and cites several reasons for the change. First, reducing the duration for divorce will reduce the turmoil for minor children. There is consensus in the psychological field that continued conflict of the parents is the primary influence on the well-being, or lack thereof, of the children. Second, longer divorces allow for additional litigation and prolonged emotional strain. The third reason offered in support of the bill is the lack of any economic benefit by continuing with a two year separation period. For example, any alimony award will generally be reduced by the period of support received while the divorce was pending such that there is no benefit to a longer separation period.
Finally, Representative Toohil points out that all surrounding jurisdictions already allow for divorce on a shorter time frame. Specifically, New York, Ohio, and Maryland require only one year of separation. New Jersey and Delaware only require six (6) months of separation. The Pennsylvania Bar Association recently submitted a brief to the House Judiciary Committee in support of the bill. The brief also discusses that there has actually been a decrease in divorce since many neighboring states have allowed divorce after only a minimum period of separation. The final assertion is that there is absolutely no benefit to requiring a longer separation period. Instead, a shorter separation period will allow the parties to move on with their lives quicker with less emotional and financial strain as well as promote the best interests of minor children in decreasing the period of uncertainty.