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October 06, 2016

Pa. bill aiming to lessen 'emotional trauma' for children of divorce signed into law

Act 102 shortens the time it takes to obtain a divorce from the mandatory two-year waiting period to one year

Gov. Tom Wolf signed a new piece of legislation Wednesday that'll make it, well, a little easier to get a divorce in Pennsylvania.

Sponsored by Rep. Tarah Toohil of Luzerne County, Act 102 will reduce the amount of time it takes to obtain a no-fault divorce from the current two-year waiting period to one year.

That means that separating couples will be able to begin dividing assets and determining whether either owe any alimony much sooner.

Toohil said she spearheaded the bill to make the process less stressful for children caught in the middle of their parents' divorce.

“Divorce is always difficult, especially for the children who may be involved,” Toohil said in a statement. “By reducing the waiting period to one year, the emotional trauma is far less for children whose family situation is being decided more quickly. In addition, the shorter waiting period allows the couple’s financial situation to be resolved more quickly and at less expense, so they can tend to their children’s well-being.”

No-fault divorces are the most common types of divorce in Pennsylvania, according to the Neighborhood Legal Services Association. The three types of divorce are mutual consent, two-year separation and fault divorces.

The first two fall into the no-fault category, meaning one spouse doesn't have to prove that the other did anything specifically wrong to dissolve the marriage.

Examples of fault divorces could be if one of the spouses committed adultery or put the other's life in harm.

The Pennsylvania Bar Association supports the new law, which will take effect in 60 days.

“Divorce law should be a tool for the orderly and just dissolution of a marriage,” PBA President Sara Austin said in a news release. “The PBA Family Law Section worked closely with Representative Toohil to advance legislation that would mitigate the effects of stress on the parties involved and the children of the divorce, thereby allowing the family to begin the healing process sooner.”