DIY Divorce Guide

Pennsylvania Uncontested Divorce Information

Complete divorce guide with state requirements and laws.
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Pennsylvania Divorce: Basics and Overview

This is a quick and easy guide to the basics of the uncontested divorce process in Pennsylvania. Learn more about online divorce in Pennsylvania and how to file for divorce in Pennsylvania.

  • Pennsylvania’s residency requirement for divorce: Before you’re allowed to file for divorce in Pennsylvania, either you or your spouse must’ve been a state resident for at least six months just before the filing date. (23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3104(b) (2022).)
  • No-fault grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania: You may get a “no-fault” divorce in Pennsylvania (meaning that you don’t have to prove your spouse caused the divorce through misconduct) based on “mutual consent” if you and your spouse both file affidavits consenting to the divorce and stating that your marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Without those mutual consent affidavits, you may still file for a no-fault divorce based on the breakdown of your marriage, but you’ll have to file a different affidavit confirming that you and your spouse have lived “separate and apart” for at least a year. Also, if your spouse denies that your marriage has broken down irretrievably, a judge will have to hold a hearing and find no reasonable chance that the two of you will get back together. (23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3301 (2022).)
  • Requirements for uncontested divorce: In order to get an uncontested divorce by mutual consent in Pennsylvania, you and your spouse must have signed a marital settlement agreement (sometimes called a property settlement agreement). The agreement must cover all of the issues in your divorce, including how you’ll divide up your property, whether one of you will pay alimony (and, if so, how much and for how long), and—if you have minor children with your spouse—custody, visitation, and child support (more on those issues below). You’ll also have to meet the state’s residency requirements and file affidavits of consent.
  • Timeline for uncontested divorce in Pennsylvania: After you’ve filed for a divorce by mutual consent, Pennsylvania law requires a minimum 90-day waiting period before the judge may sign your final divorce decree. (23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3301(c) (2022).) However, you have to wait at least 90 days after you “served” your spouse with the divorce complaint (more on that below) before you may file the affidavits of consent and other documents needed to request your final decree. After that, you’ll have to wait until a judge is available to review your paperwork. With all of those steps, it typically takes anywhere from four to six months to get your final uncontested divorce in Pennsylvania.
  • Separation requirements for divorce in Pennsylvania? If your spouse won’t sign an affidavit of consent, Pennsylvania requires a one-year separation period to get a no-fault divorce. But you and your spouse don’t have to be separated for any period of time before you can file for an uncontested divorce by mutual consent. The same is true for a divorce based on Pennsylvania’s “fault” grounds. (But you should be aware that it can take a long time to get a fault-based divorce, because you’ll have to prove your claims of misconduct in court.)
  • Legal terms used in Pennsylvania divorce cases: On the Pennsylvania divorce forms, the spouse who starts the divorce proceedings by filing the initial complaint is the “plaintiff.” The other spouse is the “defendant.”
  • Where to file for divorce: Pennsylvania law has specific rules for where to file for divorce. The general rule is that you should file with the Prothonotary for the Court of Common Pleas in the county where your spouse lives. However, you’re allowed to file in the county where you live if:
    • your spouse agrees to that
    • your spouse now lives out of state
    • you and your spouse have been permanently separated for more than six months, or
    • you’ve continued to live in the same county where the two of you lived as a married couple.
    (23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3104(e) (2022).)
  • Main divorce papers to file in Pennsylvania: To start the divorce process, the main forms will be the Divorce Complaint, Notice to Defend and Claim Rights, and Entry of Appearance for Self-Represented Party (if you aren’t hiring a lawyer for your divorce). You’ll have to file other forms later in the process, including an Affidavit of Consent and Waiver of Notice (from both spouses), a proposed Divorce Decree, and a Final Praecipe to Transmit Record. The courts in some Pennsylvania counties require their own additional forms.
  • Requirements for serving a spouse with divorce papers: Soon after you’ve filed for an uncontested divorce in Pennsylvania (usually within 30 days), you must “serve” (formally deliver) the Divorce Complaint and Notice to Defend. The easiest way to do this is to have your spouse agree to receive the documents directly from you and sign an Acceptance of Service form. Otherwise, you’ll have to mail copies of the papers (both by regular mail and by certified mail with return receipt requested) or arrange to have them hand-delivered by another authorized person (usually a sheriff or any responsible adult who’s not your relative, employee, or coworker). You’ll need to file the Acceptance of Service or other proof of service with the court. (Pa. Rules Civ. Proc., rules 401, 1930.4 (2022).)
  • Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines: Like all U.S. states, Pennsylvania has guidelines for calculating the amount of child support that parents should pay. Whether the parents have agreed on the amount of child support or a judge makes a decision on the issue, the level of support may not differ from what it would be under the guidelines unless the judge has found (and explains why) ordering the guideline amount would be “unjust or inappropriate” under the circumstances, after considering the child’s best interests and other factors. (23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 4322; Pa. Rules Civ. Proc., rule 1910.16-5 (2022).) The state’s Child Support Program has an online Child Support Estimator tool for calculating support under the guidelines.
  • Pennsylvania rules on child custody: Whether child custody orders in a divorce judgment were based on the parents’ agreement or a judge’s decision after trial, Pennsylvania’s child custody laws require that the custody arrangements serve the children’s best interests. (23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5323 (2022).) When you’ve filed for an uncontested divorce, the judge will review your marital settlement agreement to make sure the parenting plan will be good for your kids.
  • Pennsylvania rules on property division: Like most states, Pennsylvania follows the “equitable distribution” rule for dividing marital property and allocating marital debts between the spouses in a divorce. This won’t necessarily lead to an even 50-50 split (as in “community property” states like California). Instead, the judge will decide based on what’s fair under the circumstances of your case, after considering factors spelled out in the law. (23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3502 (2022).) However, you and your spouse can always decide how you want to divide your property and debts, as long as the two of you can reach an agreement.
  • Parenting class requirements: The courts in many Pennsylvania require divorcing parents to take a class on the effects of divorce on children. After you’ve filed for divorce, the court will let you know whether you need to take a class, which might be offered online. The cost varies, depending on the provider.
  • Financial disclosure requirements in Pennsylvania: If you want your divorce decree to deal with the division of your property, you and your spouse must exchange an inventory of all of your assets and debts. You also must file the inventory with the court. (23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3505; Pa. Rules Civ. Proc., rules 1920.33, 1920.75 (2022).)
  • Hearing requirements to finalize divorce in Pennsylvania: As long as you’ve filed affidavits of consent, waivers of notice, and the other forms required to finalize your uncontested divorce, you usually won’t have to attend a court hearing to get your final divorce in Pennsylvania. Instead, a judge will review all of your paperwork and, if everything is in order, will sign your divorce decree. The court will mail you and your spouse copies of the decree in the self-addressed, stamped envelopes that you’ve provided.
  • Default divorce in Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania doesn’t allow default divorces. (Pa. Rules Civ. Proc., rule 1920.41 (2022).) That means that if your spouse hasn’t signed an affidavit of consent and hasn’t responded to the divorce complaint or appeared in court within the time limits, a judge won’t grant your divorce based solely on what you claimed and requested in the complaint.
  • Pennsylvania laws and rules on divorce: Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, title 23, §§ 3101-3904 (divorce in general), 4101-4106 (property), 4321-4326 (child support), and 5321-5340 (child custody); Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure, rules 1920.1-1920.92 (divorce), 1930.1-1931 (domestic relations cases in general). Other civil procedure rules and local court rules may also apply to some aspects of divorce cases.
  • Divorce records: If you want to get a copy of your divorce record in Pennsylvania, you’ll need to contact the prothonotary’s office in the county where your divorce was finalized.

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