When you are able to find enough common ground and trust with your spouse during a divorce, you can save a lot of time, money, and anxiety.
In an uncontested divorce, compromise makes it easier to move forward, many times without an attorney, so that you can focus on the next chapter of your life.
Courts expect you to meet the same standards as attorneys if you are a self-representing litigant in a divorce. Fortunately, with some due diligence, and a real desire to put this part of your lives behind you, many couples are able to work through the process with good outcomes.
Here’s some of the key information you need to know about uncontested divorces in Pennsylvania.
- What is an Uncontested Divorce?
- Steps to an Uncontested Divorce in Pennsylvania
- How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take?
- How Much Does an Uncontested Divorce Cost?
- Do I Have to go to Court for an Uncontested Divorce?
- FAQs About Uncontested Divorce in Pennsylvania
What is an Uncontested Divorce?
An uncontested divorce is exactly what it sounds like. You and your spouse agree to work together and cooperate to resolve your differences so that you can get divorced as quickly and cheaply as possible.
You may not have all issues resolved when you first discuss divorce, but when you both agree on how your divorce should be handled, you have taken a big first step in deciding how you want the outcome to look like.
From there you can start to structure beneficial arrangements when it comes to child support and visitation, alimony, a division of assets and debts, the family home, retirement accounts, and other hot button issues.
Steps to an Uncontested Divorce in Pennsylvania
Here is a general outline of the steps you need to follow in an uncontested divorce in Pennsylvania:
Meet Residency Requirements
One or both spouses must have lived in Pennsylvania for at least the past six months before you can file for a divorce.
You may need certain supporting information to complete child support, alimony, custody, parenting plan, asset and debt division, and other related negotiations. The more thorough you are in advance, the smoother these discussions should go as you drill down to the details.
Expect to gather personal information, banking documents, income and expense information, child-related expenses, tax and real estate records, retirement account info, insurance policies, estate planning documents, and more.
For a more in-depth look at what you might want to gather, take a look at our article The Ultimate Divorce Checklist: The Information You Need to Prepare for Divorce.
Complete the Initial Divorce Forms
The forms you will need to submit to the court will vary by your circumstances and by which Pennsylvania county where you file.
For no-fault and mutual consent (uncontested) divorces, known as a 3301c divorce, you will need to complete the following
- 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
At some point, you should have one or more discussions with your spouse so there are no surprises along the way. An uncontested divorce involves a certain degree of trust, and the best way to build trust is to keep the lines of communication open.
Every divorce is different, so when you engage in a dialog will be up to you and your spouse. The important thing to understand is that this is a critical part of the process.
Your overall goal is to reach agreement at some point so that you can avoid disagreements and resolve issues before you get to court. Doing so avoids the need to bring outsiders into your divorce which will slow the process down and cost you money.
File Your Paperwork with the Court
When your paperwork is ready, you will file it with the Clerk of Court’s office. You may file in the county where either spouse lives, or where both spouses agree to file.
If you file, you are known as the plaintiff. Your spouse becomes the defendant.
Pay Your Filing Fees
When you file, you’ll also need to pay a filing fee. This will vary by county but runs around $300 in most cases. In some cases, you’ll also have to pay a fee to have your spouse served as well.
If you can’t afford to pay the filing fees, it may be possible to get them waived by petitioning the court for relief. You may be required to appear in person for a hearing or a judge may decide based upon the information you provide on the In Forma Pauperis form.
Serve Your Spouse with Divorce Papers
You must officially notify your spouse of your intent to divorce them by serving court paperwork on them within 30 days of the date they were filed. If the other party doesn’t live in Pennsylvania, the time requirement is extended to 90 days.
Service of the court paperwork must be made either by Personal Service, by Acceptance of Service, or by regular and Certified Mail return receipt requested, restricted delivery. Your local courthouse will have details on the specifics of how each of these must be completed.
Filing a Response
According to Pennsylvania law, a spouse does have the right to file a response to a divorce complaint.
This gives the spouse the right to contest portions of the divorce complaint if they disagree with what is being said. When that happens, the divorce is no longer uncontested, and all the accumulated benefits of going a simpler route will disappear.
If You Have Children
If you and your spouse have children together, you and your spouse may be required to attend a parenting class. Attendance will vary from county to county. Check with the clerk of court in the county where you file to determine if you need to attend.
More Information – What to Say (and Not to Say) to Your Children in a Divorce
Complete and Exchange Financial Disclosures
Courts want to see that there is a fair and equitable split of assets and debts in a divorce. As part of your discussions with your spouse, you should both complete and exchange financial affidavits.
This information is a complete accounting of your marital finances and will include detailed information on bank accounts, income, real property, homes, cars, business interests, retirement accounts, and so forth. You’ll also list out debts, obligations, what you consider to be separate vs marital property, and any encumbrances that will have an impact on how financial issues should be resolved.
If you attempt to hide assets and you’re caught doing so, you could wind up in big trouble. Be honest and open or be prepared to face harsh consequences.
More Information – A Guide to Divorce Financial Planning
Complete a Settlement Agreement
If you’ve kept lines of communication open, then one or both of you should be able to draft an agreement that is acceptable to both parties. When you submit an agreement to the court, either with initial paperwork or as part of a response, it indicates both of you have given thought to how you want to resolve your differences and that you both agree on an amicable path forward.
Some couples are able to do this early on. Other couples wait until later in the process after an exchange of all information and a discussion of how to resolve differences has taken place.
The key with a settlement agreement is to think cooperatively instead of approaching it with a combative mindset.
Keep the larger goal in mind and be prepared to compromise to reach your goal of an uncontested divorce.
More Information – What is a Marital Settlement Agreement?
Pennsylvania’s Mandatory Waiting Period
The Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure require both parties to wait 90 days from the service of the Complaint before filing the uncontested divorce consent forms. After 90 days, both parites can file an Affidavit of Consent, stating that they consent to the divorce.
The Affidavit of Consent must be filed within 30 days after it is signed and dated.
Each party may also choose to sign a Notice of Intention or Waiver of Notice. If both parties sign and file a Waiver of Notice, then either party may immediately file a Praecipe to Transmit Record and have the file go to a Judge.
Court Review and Approval
The court will receive all pertinent documents, review them, and if all is in order, the court will approve the final Divorce Decree. Other forms may be required depending on the county where you filed, so check to see if the county requires any other documents in order to proceed with your divorce.
How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take in Pennsylvania?
If both parties file a Mutual Consent case, there is a 90-day waiting period.
Based on court backlogs, and whether or not a judge has questions regarding the paperwork that’s been filed, it could take four or five months before a final decree is approved by the courts.
How Much Does an Uncontested Divorce Cost?
One of the biggest benefits of an uncontested divorce is that it is much cheaper to go this route.
However, there are still a few costs you’ll incur.
The filing fee is about $300 and needs to be paid when you file your case with the courts. Exact costs may vary slightly by county. Also, there will be a small additional fee if you choose to have a process server or sheriff’s deputy serve papers on your spouse. This should be less than $50 in virtually all cases.
If you want help completing forms and decide to use an online service, expect to pay anywhere from about $150 up to as much as $500, depending on the partner you choose.
More Information: 101 Financial Pitfalls of Divorce
Do I Have to go to Court for an Uncontested Divorce in Pennsylvania?
When both parties consent to a divorce in Pennsylvania, the court will review paperwork to ensure the settlement is fair, but there will be no formal hearing.
FAQs About Uncontested Divorce in Pennsylvania
What are the grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania?
You can file for divorce in Pennsylvania on one of three grounds:
- no-fault and mutual consent divorce
- divorce based on a one-year separation
- fault-based divorce
Fault-based divorces are not uncontested divorces. They must be filed based on specific grounds as allowed by Pennsylvania law. These include willful desertion, adultery, bigamy, or extreme cruelty.
Do I need a lawyer to get a divorce in Pennsylvania?
No. Many people choose to work through divorce without the services of an attorney. This is especially common in uncontested divorces where the ability to compromise removes the need for an attorney to advocate for one side’s position.
There are many resources available to help you complete the divorce process on your own, especially in an uncontested divorce.
That said, if you have questions or run into problems, be smart and get professional legal help to protect your interests, when needed
Should I file for divorce using an online service in Pennsylvania?
While many people don’t require an attorney’s services, they may be a bit unsure of the procedural steps involved in a divorce.
In cases like this, using an online divorce forms service can be a smart move.
Online services have a lot of resources and experience, and can provide answers to many questions you’ll have, while also providing valuable assistance if helping you to properly complete your forms.
Many have a court acceptance guarantee, and can also assist with other related divorce elements such as drafting child support or alimony agreements, help dividing retirement accounts, or other sensitive divorce-related issues.
In general, they are a great way to save time, money while reducing your divorce-related anxiety.
There are a lot of online services to choose from, each with advantages and disadvantages.
We’ve done a lot of the legwork to help you figure out the best ones are best to use for your situation. You can read our full review here.
If you want to save time, our top recommendation is 3 Step Divorce.
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Can I get divorced in Pennsylvania even if I was married in another state?
Yes. As long as you meet the state’s six-month residency requirement, it does not matter where you were married.
Can I get alimony in an uncontested divorce?
If you and your spouse can reach agreement on alimony in terms of amount and duration, then you can build alimony into your settlement agreement. This is one of the things the court will take a look at before finalizing your divorce.
Some of the things judges look at include:
- The earnings capacity of each spouse
- Age, physical, and mental well being
- Current or anticipated windfalls, such as inheritance
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- Contributions to the marriage by each spouse, including those as a homemaker
- If marital misconduct is present or not
- Can the party seeking alimony become self-sufficient at some point.
For More Information – Everything You Need to Know About Alimony
Can I get a divorce in Pennsylvania if I am pregnant?
Many states require a baby to be born before a divorce is granted so that paternity and custody issues can be fully fleshed out. However, pregnancy is not a relevant factor in Pennsylvania and a divorce can be finalized at any time.
What if I reconcile with my spouse?
If you work things out with your spouse and your divorce isn’t final yet. You can petition the court to dismiss the divorce complaint. At this point, the case will be dropped and you’ll remain married.
After the court has approved the divorce, it can’t be reversed. If you want to be married to the same person, you’ll have to go through an official marriage ceremony again.