Pennsylvania Victims of Domestic Violence May Have Easier Road to Divorce Under New Law

On April 21, 2016, Governor Wolf signed into law a bill which essentially simplifies the process for victims of domestic violence to obtain a divorce. Currently, under the Divorce Code, even in the case of domestic violence, if a spouse refuses to consent to the divorce after 90 days, the divorce cannot proceed until there has been a two-year separation. In the new law that takes effect in sixty days (around June 22, 2016), a victim of domestic abuse can file for divorce and the law presumes consent of a party if they have been convicted of committing a personal injury crime against the other party.

Additionally, the new law allows the victim to object to court-mandated divorce counseling if they have a protection from abuse order. The victim can also object to court-mandated counseling if they were a victim of a personal injury crime for which the other spouse has been convicted or is in an accelerated rehabilitation disposition program as a result of conduct for which the other party was a victim.

For purposes of presuming consent to a divorce under this new law, the party has to have been convicted, meaning having been found guilty, having entered a plea of guilty or nolo contendere or having been accepted into an accelerated rehabilitative disposition program. A personal injury crime under this new law is defined as an act that constitutes either a misdemeanor or felony or criminal attempt, solicitation, or conspiracy to commit any of the following: criminal homicide, assault, kidnapping, human trafficking, sexual offenses, arson and related offenses, robbery, victim and witness intimidation, homicide by vehicle, or accidents involving death or personal injury.