Your Life: New divorce law in Pa.

Thursday, December 1, 2016
VIDEO: New divorce law
In this week's Your Life, we're talking about divorce.

In this week's Your Life, we're talking about divorce.

More than half of marriages end in divorce, but although the splitting of spouses has become commonplace, the process of separating hasn't become any easier.

But now, in Pennsylvania, there is new law that intends to alleviate some of the stress associated with divorce, especially if there are children involved.

"A unilateral, no fault divorce is when one party says the marriage is over and the other one says I can't consent. So what do you have to do? The old law said you have to wait two years after separation begins," Mary Cushing Doherty, Esq. of High Swartz said.

But on October 4, Governor Tom Wolf signed a bill into law reducing the waiting period from two years to one.

"That delay was hurting families, it was hurting the clients, it was hurting the children, and it was really bogging down the legal system," Doherty said.

Not to mention, the enormous legal fees that can accumulate over 24 months.

The original philosophy behind the two year waiting period was that a longer separation would give the couple a chance to reconcile.

"Reconciliation does not happen because of this delay," Doherty said.

In fact, research has shown just the opposite occurred.

Licensed marriage counselor Ellen Schirer says a decision to separate likely comes after years of conflict inside the home.

"If you factor in maybe two years prior, if it was a high conflict situation and then another two years for separation, that's a really long time to be in that tense, stressful state," Schirer said.

Prolonging that tension and stress has been shown to have a detrimental effect on children who were often left waiting years for courts to decide custody and living arrangements.

"In my work with other psychologists, what we are taught is that a child's development is suspended while their custody case is in limbo," Doherty said.

Opponents of the new law believed this was a way to advocate for divorce and devalue marriage, but Schirer says divorce is usually the last resort and making the process longer only causes the entire family to suffer.

The new law goes into effect on December 5th, but is not retroactive.

Head to my Facebook page where I've included some advice from the counselor on how to talk to children about divorce.