Currently in Pennsylvania, a divorce action may progress when either of two conditions is met. The first occurs when both parties agree to the entry of a divorce decree and ninety (90) days have passed since the divorce action was initiated. The second occurs when either of the parties can establish that the parties have been separated for a period of two years.
Recently, a Bill was submitted to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (HB308) that seeks to reduce the period of required separation from two years to one year. In support of the proposal the Pennsylvania Bar Association submitted a detailed rationale as to why the reduction in the time period is appropriate.
The effect of HB308, if passed, would be different from county to county. In Chester County, for example, a party may file for the appointment of the Special Master in Divorce before grounds are fully established under either Section 3301(c) or 3301(d) of the Divorce Code. The impact of the reduction of the aforementioned time period would be lessened given that the parties can already proceed to and participate in court ordered settlement conferences before the period of separation under 3301(d) becomes an issue.
In Montgomery County, on the other hand, the effect of the proposed change would be more pronounced. Under Local Rules, the parties cannot move for the appointment of a Special Master in Divorce until grounds are established, and discovery is completed. In this instance, reducing the period of separation as proposed would allow litigants access to the equitable distribution process sooner. As a result the proposed change could reduce the length and cost of litigation as the PA Bar has suggested.
If you are in the middle of a divorce or are contemplating a divorce, please feel free to contact one of our experienced attorneys who can help you through this difficult process.