Beginning on June 21, 2016, changes to the divorce law will go into effect in Pennsylvania, allowing the Courts to consider convictions for some crimes of violence in deciding when a divorce decree may be issued. Governor Wolf has signed Amendments to the divorce code into law.
The statute already allows spouses to enter a divorce by consent when ninety (90) days have passed after the filing of a divorce complaint alleging the marriage is irretrievably broken. Soon the Court will be able to assume that a spouse has consented if they have been convicted of certain crimes against the other spouse. In effect, it appears that one spouse will be able to submit a proposal for a divorce decree under the theory of “mutual consent,” and the Court can assume that the spouse who has been convicted of a crime of personal injury against the other spouse also consents to the divorce. Crimes of “personal injury” include homicide, assault, kidnapping, human trafficking, and others, although it is hard to predict how homicide against a spouse will affect the Court’s ability to grant a divorce. For purposes of this divorce law, “convicted” means “having been found guilty, having entered a plea of guilty, nolo contendere (no contest) or having been accepted into Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program.
The law will also change to prohibit the Court from requiring the parties to attend counseling if a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order has been entered against one of the parties and the protected spouse objects to counseling. Divorce counseling will not be ordered if a party is convicted of a crime of personal injury against the other spouse. These “convictions” and crimes of “personal injury” are defined in the same way as the ones related to consent for a divorce, as described above.
If your marriage is irretrievably broken, or if you have questions about the changes to Pennsylvania divorce law, contact the Mazza Law Group to consult with a family law attorney experienced in matters of divorce and custody.