How to File for Divorce in PA: Steps, Fees & Forms

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Needing a divorce is never something anyone wants. And when you’re dealing with difficulties in your personal life you never want to also have to deal with legal documents, forms, and lawyers. In this article you’ll find a guide for how to file for divorce in PA. Below you’ll find six steps to filing a divorce in PA, including what types of divorce you can choose from, how much you’ll have to pay, and the different forms you’ll have to fill out. We’ll also provide useful links for those forms.

This article will take the mystery and hopefully at least some of the stress out of the process. By following the steps below you’ll be able to complete the process leaving no stone unturned.

Steps to File a Divorce in PA

As we mentioned, there are six steps to filing a divorce in PA. One thing to keep in mind is that PA does not offer a simplified or summary divorce. It offers a no-fault or a fault divorce. In Pennsylvania alimony can be awarded. Note that this is an equitable distribution state, equitable distribution referring to the division of marital property. Equitable means fair, not equal.    

1. Meet the Residency Requirement

For the residency requirements, either spouse has to have lived in PA for at least six months before you can file a divorce complaint. If you’re the plaintiff, you can file in the county where either one of the spouses lives. Or, it can be recorded in the county where both spouses agree it can be filed.        

2. Choose a Fault-Based or No-Fault Divorce

In PA, there are two types of divorces, a fault-based divorce or a no-fault divorce. The difference is the basis for the divorce. Explanations of each are as follows:

Fault-Based Divorce in PA

A fault-based divorce it would need to involve something like adultery, desertion, imprisonment for at least two years, endangerment, or indignities. It means that one spouse is responsible for the ending of the marriage. These divorces are often contested and may take a lot longer to resolve.

They also cost more because of increased legal fees and additional court costs. The divorce will be finalized 90 days after it’s filed, also after both spouses sign the Affidavit of Consent.

Then the plaintiff will send a notice of a Waiver of Notice to the defendant. After that, the plaintiff will file a Praecipe to Transmit Record and the Final Decree of Divorce. The judge will sign after the papers are reviewed. Then the divorce is final.

No-Fault Divorce in PA

There are two kinds of no-fault divorce in PA. One is under mutual consent, when the spouses have agreed that the marriage is irretrievably broken, and neither takes the blame. 90 days need to have elapsed since the papers were filed.

It’s a good idea to work out a settlement during this period of time, or else litigation may be needed. The second type of no-fault divorce is a two-year separation, which requires consent from one spouse, and is the only option if the other doesn’t agree to a divorce. Both parties live apart and separate for at least two years, after which the divorce is finalized.

3. File Complaint to Begin Divorce Proceedings

The third step is filing the Divorce Complaint is filed with the court. This is a legal document, and will start commencement of the divorce proceedings. You will need six forms to fill out for this first step in PA.

You will need a Notice to Defend form, which is a standard form for any time a document is filed in the court system in PA.

Next, you will need a Counseling Notice form, which acknowledges that you are aware of the legal counseling options when filing for divorce.

Then you will need a Complaint in Divorce form, which is the actual request, so your divorce is on record with the court. A Verification Form confirms that all your information is correct and that you are filing for a divorce.

Finally, you’ll need a Family Court Cover Sheet and a copy of the Marriage Certificate.

4. Serve Your Spouse

You will need to have your spouse served the paperwork for the divorce. The form for this is the Form of Acceptance, and it will indicate that the defendant acknowledges they have been served all necessary forms. They also have been made aware that the complaint of divorce has been filed.   

The Defendant Answers the Complaint

In this step, the defendant receives a summons and complaint from you. Then they complete an Affidavit of Service which will identify the recipient, time, address and the manner of service.       

Finalize the Divorce

After the 90-day waiting period is over, the final forms can be filed. You apply for the divorce decree that states you are officially divorced.

PA Divorce Forms

Each county has its own variation of forms which are needed to file a divorce. Any forms you may need can be found by county and the type of divorce which is filed. Other factors that contribute to which forms you may need include whether the divorce has been contested or not contested.

In a contested divorce, the two people in the relationship aren’t able to reach an agreement, whether that’s about one issue or more. That’s when they’ll need to involve the courts to resolve the dispute. In an uncontested divorce, the spouses agree on the settlement, or it’s possible that one of them doesn’t appear in the divorce action.

During this process spouses will have to split property and debts. It’s likely that both spouses will keep “nonmarital property,” which was acquired before they were married. Nonmarital property can also mean it was acquired by inheritance, from a lawsuit, or in the time between the date of separation and date of divorce.

Everything else is considered marital property, and if you can’t come to an agreement, a judge will divide it. The factors they may consider include how long the marriage was, if either spouse had a previous marriage, the source of income, the couple’s standard of living while they were married, whether or not any children are involved, among other factors.

Common PA Divorce Questions Answered

When filing for a divorce, you may have some unanswered questions in mind. Below are some of those questions, as well as useful answers you may need.

How Much Does It Cost to File for Divorce in Pennsylvania?

Every county has its own set of fees for a divorce complaint. For example, Bucks County has a $363.75 filing fee. But if a child is involved, it can cost an additional $79.50 to file a complaint about visitation or custody. If injunctive relief is submitted, it will be another $72.75. If a complaint needs to be filed for equitable distribution, then another $72.25 fee is charged. Costs can have a variety of ranges depending on how many services and documentation are needed.

Can You Get a Divorce Online in PA?

There are some states which will permit you to file for divorce online. There are specific requirements to file online for a divorce, so check the court site in your state to see if it allows for e-filing for divorce. Most divorce requirements will differ from county to county so some may allow e-filing, and some may not.

Even if you file online for a divorce, it’s better to have an attorney to read all of the fine print and make sure that you have filed correctly. For example, if you sign or your spouse sign your paperwork before the 90-day waiting period, then that part will have to be refiled.

How Long Does it take to get a Divorce in Pennsylvania?

The average time to get a divorce is about 16 months from start to finish, but it can also range between 6 months to 2 years. This depends if you get a no-fault divorce and both of you agree, then the time is shorter. If you file a no-fault divorce and your spouse doesn’t agree, it can take about two years. If you file a regular divorce, it can take the more extended period of time also.

Is there a waiting period?

There is a waiting period for your divorce in the state of PA of 90 days before you can file.

Divorce is never easy, but this step by step guide should take some of the stress out of the process.