To move forward with a no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania, the parties need only allege an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage” and either consent to the divorce after a 90-day period or establish 2-year separation. A no-fault divorce can also be obtained if one of the spouses is institutionalized for a period of 18 months provided they will likely still be institutionalized 18 months following the commencement of the divorce. No-fault divorce became available in Pennsylvania in 1980 when the Divorce Code was revised. Originally, a separation period of three years was required but that has since been reduced to the two year separation period currently required. Recently, there was a legislative push to further reduce the separation period to only one year.
Last November the House voted for the passage of Bill 380 which 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. At this point, Pennsylvania has one of the longer waiting periods for divorce on the basis of separation. 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 (PBA) played a significant role in pushing for the passage of the bill. According to the PBA, there has actually been a decrease in divorce since many neighboring states have allowed divorce after only a minimum period of separation. Additionally, 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. Unfortunately, the bill died in the Senate this summer such that a two-year separation period stands for Pennsylvania.