There has been a Major Change in Pennsylvania Divorce Law

You may now be granted a divorce after just one, rather than two years, even if your spouse refuses to cooperate.

Pennsylvania has two “no-fault” grounds for divorce: Mutual Consent, and Irretrievable Breakdown. Mutual Consent requires the cooperation of the spouses. If the parties choose, a divorce can be fmalized after ninety days has passed from the date of separation. If, however, one of the parties refuses to cooperate, a divorce cannot go forward until the one year statutory period of separation has passed to establish an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Divorce is still not automatic after the one year has passed. In most cases, this change means that one spouse’s refusal to consent to divorce stops being a barrier against moving forward toward closure after one rather than two years.

The most obvious effect of this change is shortening the period in which one spouse may be obligated to provide support to his/her spouse before entry of a final decree. One party can file for divorce, but the other has no obligation to sign the consent forms that would let the divorce process move forward under Mutual Consent. Once the court requires one spouse to pay support to the other each month, there is often no motivation for the individual receiving support to cooperate with the divorce process. Many people stretch their advantage until their spouse can move things forward under the Irretrievable Breakdown ground. Prior to this change, a spouse receiving support and dependant upon it could refuse to execute the paperwork necessary to finalize a divorce and continue to collect for at least two years. That period is now cut in half.

For people paying spousal support, the reduced waiting period is good news. If, on the other hand, you are a Pennsylvania spouse who receives support, you now will have a much smaller period oftime before you can be compelled to actively participate in the process of working your way toward the economic resolution of your marriage.

Criminal Records Are Now Automatically Sealed After Ten Years

Both the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Senate have passed and Governor Wolf has signed legislation to seal low-level criminal records of people who go ten years without another arrest. This is great news for anyone who has been unfortunate to have had a minor brush with the law and had that one event create problems in seeking jobs, housing or any number of other areas for years afterward.

The Courts and Commonwealth will now automatically seal from the public the records of second and third degree misdemeanor convictions after ten years so long as that individual has remained arrest free during that period.

Pennsylvania’s current “clean slate” law allows for sealing of low-level records, but only if a petition is filed by the individual whose record is to be sealed and granted by the Court.

This new law does not apply to violent offenses related to endangering a person, firearms, sexual offenses, cruelty to animals, and corruption of minors, even if graded as a misdemeanor.

As we know, people who have a criminal conviction can face all sorts of problems due to an isolated incident that took place years before. With the Commonwealth now sealing from public view minor criminal convictions from over ten years ago, many of our friends and family can have the opportunity to move on with their lives and not be stigmatized by an incident from long ago that is out of character for the person they are today.