A no-fault divorce means that neither party is asserting that the other party did something wrong. Instead, the assertion is that the marriage is simply irretrievably broken. In Pennsylvania, a no-fault divorce may be granted after a waiting period of 90 days provided both parties consent to the divorce at the conclusion of the waiting period. This waiting period is often referred to as a cooling-off period. It is utilized to give the parties an opportunity to reflect on the severity of the decision to get a divorce and/or seek marital counseling to see if the relationship can be saved. The 90-day waiting period begins to run from date of service of the Complaint in Divorce.
On September 27, 2016, the House and Senate finally signed off on House Bill 380 which reduces the separation requirement for divorce in Pennsylvania from two years to one year. This version of the bill had been in the works for nearly two years with its initial introduction to the House occurring in early 2015. The House passed the bill by November 2015. The Senate finally passed the bill on September 26, 2016 after having received it for consideration last November. The bill is presently waiting for signature by Governor Tom Wolf. Once signed, the new law be effective in 60 days. Some parties contemplating divorce may want to consider waiting until the new law is effective prior to filing for divorce to be able to finalize their divorces quicker in the absence of mutual consent.
Under Section 3301(c) of the Divorce Code, one way to obtain a no-fault divorce is by mutual consent of the parties ninety (90) days after filing and service of the divorce complaint. This is often the quicker option for a no-fault divorce however it is contingent on both parties signing the consent. Case law provides that a party cannot be forced to consent. This is true even if the party previously entered an agreement indicating they would timely consent to the divorce. The court has stated "[a] person has an unqualified right to change his or her mind and refuse to consent to be divorced, at least, as here, where the consent, though signed, has not been delivered or filed." Berman v. Berman, 33 Pa. D. & C.3d 134 (1983). This position supports the Divorce Code policy of preservation of marriages wherever possible.