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Amendments to PA Rules of Civil Procedure for Divorce

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Next week, on October 1, 2019, an order amending Chapter 1920 (Actions of Divorce or For Annulment of Marriage) of the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure will go into effect (49 Pa.B. 3059; June 15, 2019).

The Domestic Relations Procedural Rules Committee recommended revisions to Rules 1920.14, 1920.42, 1920.45, 1920.46, 1920.51, 1920.53, 1920.72, 1920.73 and 1920.74,  primarily to implement changes to the Divorce Code due to the enactment of Act 24 of 2016. This Act amended 23 Pa.C.S. § 3301(c) by creating a new Section 3301(c)(2), which addresses the presumption of consent in divorce cases where a party is the victim of a personal injury crime (as defined in 23 Pa.C.S. § 3103) committed by that party’s spouse.

The most substantial changes are found in Rule 1920.42, which was rescinded and replaced to both incorporate Section 3301(c)(2) and to more clearly delineate the processes for obtaining a divorce decree under Section 3301(c)(1), Section 3301(c)(2), and Section 3301(d), respectively. To effectuate Section 3301(c)(2), for example, the Rules Committee crafted new forms and procedures regarding the presumption of consent, modeled after the affidavit/counter-affidavit procedure currently used in Section 3301(d) divorces.

Another significant change to Rule 1920.42 requires that both the Affidavit under 3301(d) and the new Affidavit to Establish Presumption of Consent under Section 3301(c)(2) be served in a way that is consistent with original process.

Other revisions to Rule 1920.42 were written to unify practices across the state for obtaining approval of grounds for divorce when there are unresolved ancillary claims.

The Explanatory Note in the newly enacted Rule 1920.42 explains that while “the rule's length has expanded extensively, the detailed procedure alleviates confusion on when and how to obtain a divorce decree and further assists unrepresented parties to maneuver through a complicated procedure” (49 Pa.B. 3064).   

Amendments to other rules for Actions of Divorce include modifications regarding counseling, the appointment of - or hearing by - a master, and the revision or replacement of several forms.

The rules were previously published for comment in the Pennsylvania Bulletin at 46 Pa.B. 6113 (October 1, 2016), 47 Pa.B. 7424 (December 9, 2017), and 48 Pa.B. 1814 (March 31, 2018).

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