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How to get a divorce in Pennsylvania

You or your spouse needs to have lived in the Keystone State for at least 6 months to qualify.

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If you or your spouse has been a resident of Pennsylvania for at least a half a year, then you’re eligible to file for divorce. You have four different grounds to choose from — including fault and no-fault options. Filing the papers yourself or through an online divorce service is typically the fastest and cheapest option, though it requires a bit more work on your part. Alternatively, you can hire a lawyer to help you through the process — for a hefty charge.

Requirements to get divorced in Pennsylvania

There’s only one requirement to get divorced in Pennsylvania: You or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months.

If you meet this residency requirement, you can take the first step of the divorce process by filing a divorce complaint form.

What are the grounds for divorce in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania has four main grounds for divorce:

  • Fault. The court may grant a divorce if your spouse is guilty of marital wrongdoing, such as adultery, cruelty, desertion, or prison sentence for a minimum of two years.
  • Institutionalization. Your spouse has been confined to a mental institution for at least 18 months and won’t be released for another 18 months.
  • Mutual consent. A type of no-fault divorce where neither spouse is to blame and both agree to the divorce. You’ll need to wait 90 days from filing before the court will finalize your divorce.
  • Irretrievable breakdown. Pennsylvania’s other type of no-fault divorce. A court may grant a divorce as long as you and your spouse have lived separately for at least one year.

Quick facts about divorce in Pennsylvania

  • Equitable distribution state
  • Divorce filings are public record
  • Takes a minimum of 90 days from filing to finalize your divorce and the decree is issued

Average cost of divorce in Pennsylvania

Depending on what county you live in, you’ll pay between $65 and $365 to file your divorce petition with the Pennsylvania courts. This doesn’t include fees for photocopies, process serving services, filing additional documents or postage.

How much you ultimately pay will also depend on whether you choose to hire a lawyer, go the DIY route or use an online service for help.

Using online divorce services

You should plan to spend anywhere from $150 to $1,500 for an online divorce service. However, some deluxe companies charge between $3,000 and $6,000 for white-glove service to handle your entire divorce case for you — including filing your papers with the courts and serving your spouse. Your final cost will generally depend on how much assistance you need.

Hiring lawyers

The average cost for a divorce in Pennsylvania when you hire an attorney is between $9,500 and $11,500, according to a study by Martindale-Nolo Research.

If your divorce is relatively simple, the cost will be around a few thousand dollars at a minimum. For complicated divorces, like those involving child custody disputes, the cost could be as high as $20,000.

Typically, divorce lawyers bill clients hourly — with the average rate ranging from $230 to $280 an hour in Pennsylvania. If you choose to hire divorce lawyers, consider negotiating a flat fee for your divorce to avoid a large bill at the end.

Doing it yourself

You’ll only be responsible for the court fees — between $65 and $365 in Pennsylvania — if you choose to go the DIY route and assemble and file your divorce packet yourself. While this is the cheapest option out there, it’s also the most labor intensive — you’ll need to research which forms you need to submit and carefully navigate the legal jargon to fill them out yourself.

Other costs you might encounter with a DIY divorce in Pennsylvania include:

  • Copies of court documents: $1 per page
  • Certified court documents: $8 for the first page, $1 for each page after
  • Petition to change your name: $170
  • Child custody evaluation: Amount set by court

What if I can’t afford the filing fee for a divorce in Pennsylvania?

If the filing fee would cause extreme financial hardship, you can apply for a fee waiver by filling out the In Forma Pauperis form. You’ll need to include information about your assets and attach income and expense statements.

Once you complete the form, take it to the records office at your county courthouse. A judge will review the application and decide whether to drop the filing fee.

How long does it take to get a divorce in Pennsylvania

By law, it takes at least 90 days before a divorce is finalized. The clock starts when you file your divorce complaint with the court.

According to a study by Martindale Nolo Research, the average divorce takes 12 months to complete with divorce attorneys. But if a judge thinks there’s a reasonable chance to save the marriage, the court may delay your hearing and order marriage counseling for 90 to 120 days.

A divorce may take longer if your case is complex or if you and your spouse can’t agree on one or more of the divorce settlement issues. On the other hand, couples that can resolve these disagreements on their own generally settle the divorce relatively quickly.

Can I get a divorce in Pennsylvania without going to court?

Yes, you can get a divorce in Pennsylvania without a public court trial — regardless of whether you’re going through a contested or uncontested divorce.

With uncontested divorces — where you and your spouse agree to the divorce terms — you have the option of using an online divorce service, filling out the papers yourself or hiring lawyers to help. Each method helps keep your case out of court.

But even with a contested divorce, you and your spouse can try to resolve your issues outside the courtroom through mediation, arbitration or collaborative divorce.

A court trial is typically the last resort when all other avenues have been exhausted, and you and your spouse still can’t see eye to eye.

Compare online divorce services

Since online divorce providers are a dime a dozen, compare a few options to find the one that best fits your needs.

Name Product Cost Includes filing papers with court? File without spouse Legal assistance available Customer service
3 Step Divorce
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No - you must file and pay court fees
Yes
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LegalZoom online divorce
$499
No - you must file and pay court fees
Yes
Yes
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File for an uncontested divorce online or find legal resources to help guide you through the divorce process.
OnlineDivorce.com
$139
No - you must file and pay court fees
Yes
No
Phone, Email
Ready-to-file divorce forms for one flat fee. Step-by-step directions to help simplify uncontested divorces.
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Compare up to 4 providers

How to get a divorce online in Pennsylvania

To file for a divorce online in Pennsylvania, you and your spouse need to agree on four main issues: division of assets, alimony, child support and parental responsibilities if you have children. You also must meet Pennsylvania’s six-month residency requirement.

Once you qualify, you’ll answer questions about your marriage and the terms of your divorce through the online divorce service’s website. The service will populate the pertinent fields of the legal forms based on your responses, so all you have to do is sign, notarize and file them at your local courthouse.

Since some providers offer additional services, such as having your documents reviewed by a lawyer and serving your spouse the papers, compare a few different online divorce options before signing up to find the one that best fits your needs.

Bottom line

Uncontested divorces are usually cheaper and faster than contested cases. If you and your spouse can agree to the divorce terms, your most affordable options are to prepare your legal papers yourself or use an online divorce service, which does a lot of the legwork for you.

For more information about the divorce process, take a look at our step-by-step divorce guide.

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