Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have passed a bill that would shorten the required period of time a couple must have lived separately to one year for automatic grounds for divorce. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has until October 7, 2016 to sign House Bill 380 into law. The law will then go into effect in 60 days after receiving Governor Wolf’s signature.

Currently, couples can divorce if they have lived separately for two years – a condition known as no-fault divorce under Section §3301(d) of the Pennsylvania divorce code. In other words, if a couple does not agree that the marriage is “irretrievably broken,” the spouse who wants the divorce may proceed without the consent of the other party after two years of separation. House Bill 380 is an amendment that would instead require only one year of separation for this type of divorce to begin.

This type of divorce is not the only method available in Pennsylvania. A mutual consent, no-fault divorce under §3301(c) of Pennsylvania divorce code can be used when both spouses are available and willing to sign legal documents stating they agree to dissolve the marriage. In this situation, there is only a 90-day waiting period to proceed after filing the forms with the court.

For couples with one spouse who cannot agree or consent to divorce, however, House Bill 380 would allow just one year of separation as grounds for proceeding with dissolving a marriage.