How to File for a Divorce in Pennsylvania

No one ever thinks about divorce on their wedding day. But the sad reality is that between 40 and 50% of Americans end up getting divorced. Many of these couples are unsure about how to go about the divorce process. When it comes to getting divorced, most states have similar sets of rules, but there can be some differences. For example, you might pay more for filing fees in some states than in others.

If you live in Pennsylvania and would like to get a divorce, this article will help guide you through the divorce process by sharing all the information you need to know. This easy step to step guide will help you get your divorce on the road in no time.


You will need to meet the residency requirements

As with most states, to meet the residency requirements, you and your spouse will have had to have lived in Pennsylvania for at least 6 months. You can file for your divorce in the county in which you reside.

You will need to choose a contested or uncontested divorce (fault or no-fault)

In Pennsylvania, like with most states, you will have to choose between a fault or no-fault divorce.

No-Fault divorce

There are two types of no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania, mutual consent and the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

  • Mutual consent is where either couple decides that their marriage is over, and they will not be able to make it work. In this case, they will end their marriage amicably. Neither spouse blames the other for what went wrong. When using this ground, it is required that 90 days pass from the date of the commencement of the divorce action before the divorce can be granted.
  • Irretrievable Breakdown is when a marriage cannot be fixed and both spouses have been living separate and apart for at least 2 years.

Fault-based divorce

A fault-based divorce is when one spouse has caused the marriage to end. Pennsylvania has six fault-based grounds for divorce. They include:

  • Adultery
  • Desertion without reasonable cause for one year or more
  • Cruel or barbarous treatment
  • Imprisonment for 2 or more years
  • Offering indignities
  • Entering into marriage while still married to another

A fault-based divorce is often a contested divorce. Therefore, couples might have to go to court to battle it out. These divorce proceedings are usually lengthy and expensive.

You will need to file your complaint

Once you have decided which type of divorce you will be having, you can file your complaint at the court. In all, six different documents must be filed with the court for the commencement of your divorce proceeding. They are as follows:

  • A Notice to Defend Form – This is a common form that is filed in the court system in Pennsylvania.
  • Counseling notice form – This states that you are aware of the legal counseling options that are available to you when you file for your divorce.
  • A Complaint for Divorce form – This is the document which states your actual request to end your marriage.
  • Family court cover sheet
  • Marriage certificate

You will need to serve your spouse

You will need a Form of Acceptance for this part. This form will show that the defendant acknowledges that they have been served all the necessary paperwork for their divorce and that a complaint of divorce has been filed at court. You are not allowed to personally deliver the divorce papers to your spouse yourself. To serve the divorce papers to your spouse, you can either hire a professional server or rely on someone older than the age of 18.

 The defendant needs to answer the complaint

Once the defendant has been served the divorce papers, they will need to fill out an Affidavit of Service. This will show that they have received the documentation. The affidavit must include their name, address, and the date and manner in which they were served the papers.

Finalize your divorce

After the 90 day waiting period has passed, you can apply for your divorce decree. Your divorce is final on the day the court signs the decree.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the cost of divorce in Pennsylvania?

The cost of divorce in Pennsylvania mainly depends on whether the case is contested or not, as well as whether you are going to seek legal assistance or proceed on your own. At a very minimum, the cost of a DIY divorce will consist of the court filing fee. Court filing fees in Pennsylvania vary by county but usually start at around $363. If an attorney is hired, they typically charge an hourly fee which can significantly increase the total cost of divorce. Other additional costs may include mediation, parenting classes, appraiser’s fees, as well as any other service fees that may be required.

How long does a divorce in Pennsylvania take?

Exactly how long it will take to get divorced in Pennsylvania is impossible to predict. There are too many factors that can affect the length of the divorce process. Contested divorces usually take much longer than uncontested divorces. Hiring an attorney and going through a trial usually takes much longer than a do-it-yourself divorce. On average, it can take about 16 months for a divorce to be finalized. Some cases can take between 6 months and 2 years. This all depends on the complexity of the divorce proceeding.

Can I get a divorce without an attorney?

Yes, you can apply for an online divorce in Pennsylvania. With most online divorce cases, you will not need to use an attorney. If your divorce is uncomplicated and you and your spouse agree to an uncontested divorce, then you won’t need an attorney. Online divorce services are much cheaper than going the traditional route. You can get a divorce for as little as $300. Another way in which you can get a divorce without an attorney is a DIY divorce. This is also really affordable. You can do this by going to the local family court yourself and following the above steps.

On a final note

Divorce can be really complicated and heartbreaking. Luckily though, if you follow this simple step by step guide on the divorce procedure in Pennsylvania, getting a divorce can be a little bit easier.

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