How To File For Divorce in Pennsylvania

How to file divorce in Pennsylvania

A Guide to Filing for Divorce in Pennsylvania

Filing for divorce in Pennsylvania can be a complicated and highly emotional experience. To reduce the amount of anxiety you’ll experience, it’s important to do your homework and to try and understand as many of the rules, regulations and procedures as possible so that you can ease your mind a bit.

In Pennsylvania, divorce procedures can vary from county to county and you will need to do some research that will depend on where you live. However, while every divorce is unique, there are many things about filing in Pennsylvania that are common to all divorces.

At some point, to find information for your particular county, you will want to go to this page maintained by the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania as part of your efforts.

Here are some of the most important things to pay attention to when filing for divorce in Pennsylvania:

Gather important information

important information

You can set the tone for how your divorce will proceed from the outset if you approach the task of gathering information the right way. Doing so can save you time, money and stress in the long haul.

You’ll also give yourself the best possible chance at the most favorable outcome if your documents and information are in order. Starting early and being organized are keys to successfully completing this task.

We’ve simplified the process for you by creating a Divorce Information Checklist you can check out in our article The Ultimate Divorce Checklist: The Information You Need to Prepare for Divorce.

Decide how you will proceed with your divorce

Which Divorce Procedure to Use

Once you or your spouse has made the decision to get a divorce, you need to decide how to get divorced. You have several options, driven in part by your relationship with your spouse and how well you can work together to reach a resolution.

Here are the most common types of divorce:

  • Litigation
  • Mediation
  • Collaborative divorce
  • Do-it-yourself

So, which option is right for you? To answer that, you really need to weigh the pros and cons and think about your goals for the process.

We put together a great guide on The Types of Divorce that dives deep into each one of these options (and more). Be sure to check it out if you’re trying to decide which path is best for you.

Fill Out the Necessary Forms to Start the Process

Forms to Prepare

After you decide what kind of divorce you will pursue, you will need to fill out several forms and submit them to start your divorce.

If you are working with an attorney, they will guide you through this process. Although it will cost you more when you use an attorney, you will save time and stress in working with a professional who understands the system and who will ensure that your paperwork is filled out correctly.

If you decide to represent yourself in a divorce, you will be responsible for understanding and following Pennsylvania’s statewide and Local Rules of Court.

You must also follow all rules regarding confidential information as it relates to documents and court filings. You can view the policy here.

In Pennsylvania, the forms you need to file will depend on the circumstances of your particular divorce. Regardless of which forms you choose, you will need to print each form and take it to the designated office in your county courthouse.

For no-fault and mutual consent divorces

If you and your spouse agree to a no-fault and mutual consent divorce, use the following forms for a 3301c divorce:

  • Self-Represented Party Entry of Appearance
  • Form 1 Notice to Defend and Divorce Complaint
  • Form 4 Praecipe to Reinstate the Complaint Instructions
  • Form 5a Affidavit of Consent of Plaintiff
  • Form 5b Affidavit of Consent of Defendant
  • Form 6a Waiver of Notice for Plaintiff
  • Form 6b Waiver of Notice for Defendant
  • Form 7 Notice of Intention to Request Entry of Section 3301(c) Divorce Decree and Counter-Affidavit under 3301(c)
  • Form 10 Affidavit of Non-Military Service
  • Form 11 Certificate of Service
  • Form 12 Final Praecipe to Transmit Record
  • Form 13 Divorce Decree
  • Form 15 Notice of Intention to Resume Prior Surname

No-fault and applicable time of separation

If the period of separation from your spouse began on or after December 5, 2016 you will need to live apart from your spouse for at least one year before filing your divorce complaint. If your period of separation began before December 5, 2016, you need to have lived apart from your spouse for a minimum of two years prior to filing a complaint.

Use the following forms for a 3301d divorce:

  • Self-Represented Party Entry of Appearance
  • Form 1 Notice to Defend and Divorce Complaint
  • Form 4 Praecipe to Reinstate the Complaint Instructions
  • Form 6a Waiver of Notice for Plaintiff
  • Form 8 Affidavit under Section 3301(d) of the Divorce Code
  • Form 9 Notice of Intention to Request Entry of Section 3301(d) Divorce Decree and Counter-Affidavit
  • Form 10 Affidavit of Non-Military Service
  • Form 11 Certificate of Service
  • Form 12 Final Praecipe to Transmit Record
  • Form 13 Divorce Decree
  • Form 15 Notice of Intention to Resume Prior Surname

File Your Divorce Forms with the Court

File Your Forms for a Divorce

If you are working with an attorney, they will make sure all the forms are correct and they will file them for you at the appropriate court.

The process starts by filing the Notice to Defend, Complaint and Verification, also known as Form 1.

When you file your Complaint with the court, you must also attach a Notice to Defend and Claim Rights on the top of your forms and a Verification must be attached to the bottom. The Complaint is filed where legal pleadings are filed in your county. You will need to pay fees when you file unless you have been granted a waiver.

When the forms are filed, a caption will be attached at the top of all forms that will include the county’s name, your name, your spouse’s name, and the docket number you have been given by the office where you filed the complaint. This caption must be identical on all documents filed in your case.

Serving Your Spouse With Divorce Papers

After you file your forms with the court, you must also serve your spouse with copies of the Form 1 paperwork so that they are officially notified and have a chance to respond.

In Pennsylvania, court papers can be served by mail as long as you follow specific rules and procedures. Court papers may also be served by personal service, but you or a person related to you cannot complete this task.

Once papers have been served, Proof of Service must be documented by completing an Affidavit of Service or Certificate of Service which explains how and when the papers were delivered to the other party.

Use one of the following affidavits of service for the method of delivery:

  • Form 3a Acceptance of Service
  • Form 3b Affidavit of Service of Original Process by Mail
  • Form 3c Affidavit of Personal Service
  • Form 3d Certificate of Service of Legal Papers Other Than Original Process

If you are not sure which form to use, ask court personnel or consult with an attorney to make sure you follow this procedure correctly.

If you were unable to successfully serve the other party within 30 days (or within 90 days if the other party does not live in Pennsylvania), then you must complete and file the Praecipe to Reinstate the Complaint, Form 4. The date you file this Praecipe re-starts the clock for service, and you will have another 30 days to serve the other party (or 90 days if the other party does not live in Pennsylvania).

If you continue to have problems completing service, it is recommended that you speak to an attorney. You may not proceed until proper service has been made.

Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure require that parties in a divorce wait 90 days from the service of the Complaint before filing 3301c Affidavit of Consents.

After all forms have been filing and the waiting period is over, a Divorce Decree will be mailed to both parties, assuming there are no mistakes. If corrections are needed, a final divorce decree will not be entered until the court has the corrected paperwork. Some courts may contact you if corrections need to be made, and some courts will not.

Prior to the final decree being issued, provide the office where legal pleadings are filed with two stamped envelopes. One will have your address on it and the other will have your spouse’s current address. These envelopes will be used to mail copies of your final Divorce Decree to you once it has been granted.

Frequently Asked Questions About Filing for Divorce in Pennsylvania

How much does it cost to file for a divorce in Pennsylvania?

How much does it cost

This is not an easy question to answer, because each county in Pennsylvania can charge different amounts for the same services or processes. For example, Philadelphia, Delaware and Bucks counties have relatively high filing fees.

  • To file in Delaware County, the costs is approximately $280.
  • In Bucks County, the cost is about $363.

By comparison, other counties have much lower fees, such as in Cameron County, where the filing fee was only $86 in 2016.

Keep in mind, these are just court-related costs. Fees for hiring attorneys, mediators, arbitrators or for other services can be expensive and vary widely as well.

Can divorce fees be waived in Pennsylvania?

Costs will vary on the type of documents you need to file to begin your divorce case. Some of these fees may run into the hundreds of dollars.

If you are not able to pay these fees, you can submit a form called In Forma Pauperis. As part of this submission, you will need to provide your income and expense statements and you may be required to appear in front of a judge who will decide if you must pay fees or not.

Can I file for a divorce online in Pennsylvania?

divorce online

You sure can. In fact, filing for divorce online in Pennsylvania can be a great way to save time and money.

Online divorce isn’t right for everyone. It only works if you have an uncontested divorce (you and your spouse are able to reach agreements without going to court).

If you have a dispute over child custody or particularly complicated finances, you should consult with a lawyer. You don’t want to be pennywise and pound foolish.

But if you have an amicable divorce, you might be able to do it yourself. Navigating the legal process and figuring out how to fill out the divorce forms is anything but straightforward.

Fortunately, there are tools that can help.

3 Step Divorce is an affordable online divorce service that makes it easy to complete your divorce papers and gives you step-by-step instructions for filing your forms with the court.

All you have to do is answer the questions online (don’t worry, there’s simple plain-English explanations). It shouldn’t take more than an hour from start to finish.

3 Step Divorce stands out because:

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online divorce Pennsylvania

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Unfortunately, you aren’t able to file your divorce papers electronically in Pennsylvania. You will need to print the forms and take them to the court in your county.

How long does it take to get a divorce in Pennsylvania?

How long does it take

For a no-fault and uncontested divorce, after divorce papers have been filed and served there is a minimum 90-day waiting period before final paperwork can be submitted and a divorce can be finalized by the courts. In some cases, this could take longer if there is a backlog in the county where you file.

In cases where a divorce is contested, both sides will need to work to resolve outstanding issues such as child custody, child support, alimony and division of assets before a divorce can be presented to the courts for consideration. When spouses cannot come to an agreement, they may need to proceed to a trial which could add several months to the process before a divorce is finalized.

What are the residency requirements to file for a divorce in Pennsylvania?

A person who wants to initiate a divorce in Pennsylvania must establish residency in the state for at least six months prior to initiating the action. After you file for divorce, you do not need to keep living in the state.

Can I file for divorce in Pennsylvania without using a lawyer?

file for divorce without a lawyer

Yes, and the process is relatively easy. You start by drawing up a complaint for divorce and filing a form you get from the court on online. You must cite “mutual consent” as the reason for the divorce. Be sure to only cite this reason if you are reasonably sure you and your spouse can reach a settlement without using the court.

File an original complaint and two copies with the court of common pleas in the county where you or your spouse live. If you live in Philadelphia County, you will also need to file a civil court cover letter which you can get from the prothonotary’s office when you file.

Serve your spouse with the complaint within 30 days which you can do by certified mail if you so choose. Once your spouse has been served, the two of you must meet and decide how your assets, debts, child custody, support and other issues will be resolved.

You must wait 90 days before you can file your remaining paperwork with the court. The court will review your documents and if all is in order, you will be granted a divorce.

Can I get a divorce in Pennsylvania if I am pregnant?


Unlike some other states that requires a baby to be born before a divorce is granted, pregnancy is
Not a relevant factor in Pennsylvania. A divorce can be finalized at any time.

How is my divorce affected if I am a member of the military in Pennsylvania?


You or your spouse must be either live in Pennsylvania or be stationed in the state to meet residence requirements under the laws governing military personnel who are seeking a divorce.

The grounds for a military divorce are the same as they are for a civilian divorce. You can either end a marriage through mutual consent because it is irretrievably broken, or you can cite more specific faults for seeking a divorce.

Once paperwork has been filed to begin a divorce, copies must be served on a spouse to give him or her a chance to respond. When that spouse is in the military, they have certain protections afforded to them by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This allows them to postpone the divorce while they are overseas or otherwise not able to adequately respond to the petition due to military service commitments.

A divorce proceeding may be postponed for the entire the time active duty member is serving and for up to 60 days following discharge, which is typically the case when a service member is deployed in a war. This eases many legal and financial burdens of military personnel and their families who face the added challenges of active duty.

A service member may also choose to waive delaying the divorce by signing off on paperwork which will then allow the divorce to proceed uncontested.

In addition to Pennsylvania property division laws, the federal government also protects military personnel through the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act that governs how military benefits are calculated when a divorce takes place. Federal laws will not allow a military members retirement to be distributed to a spouse unless the couple has been married for 10 years or more while the service member was on active duty.

Child support and spousal support are determined by state guidelines, but federal law dictates that child and spousal support awards may not exceed 60% of a servicemember’s pay and allowances if they are single. Normal Pennsylvania child support guidelines are used to determine the appropriate amount of child support that should be paid.

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