How do I get a Divorce in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, the process of filing for a divorce may seem relatively straightforward, however, to file and finalize a divorce action is often more complicated than the paperwork alone.  According to the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure, a divorce action starts with one party to a marriage filing a Divorce Complaint with the Prothonotary of a county Court of Common Pleas.  The person who initiates the Divorce Action is named the Plaintiff on the Divorce Complaint and the other party to the marriage is named the Defendant.  The complaint may be filed in any county in which the Plaintiff or the Defendant reside, or upon which the parties have agreed.  The initial decision on where to file the divorce complaint may have consequences including filing fees, local rules that modify the Pennsylvania Rules, and travel.  The complaint itself should be comprised of numbered paragraphs according to rule 1920.12 and include:

  • The names of the plaintiff and defendant
  • The residence of plaintiff
  • The last known residence of defendant
  • An averment that the parties have resided in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the last six months
  • The date and place of marriage
  • The ground on which the action is based
  • Whether an prior actions have been filed
  • A statement as to the availability for counseling, and
  • A prayer for relief.

The form of the divorce complaint may be found in Rule 1920.72(a) and is often available at the local Court of Common Pleas library, or on the Court website.

Service of the Divorce Complaint must be accomplished according to rule 1930.4 and often represents the first complication in a Divorce matter.  In most cases it is necessary for the Defendant to receive a copy of the filed Divorce Complaint in order for the action to proceed.

After service of the Divorce Complaint has been accomplished, if the parties are in agreement and sign both an affidavit of consent  and waiver of notice of intention to request entry of a divorce decree (the forms of which are located I rule 1920.72), and ninety days have elapsed from the date of filing and service of the divorce complaint, the Plaintiff may file a Praecipe to Transmit the record to a Judge for signature on a Divorce Decree.

Unfortunately, this basic outline of the procedure necessary to obtain a divorce decree does not account for any property settlement negotiations which often are the basis for much delay in a divorce matter.  While it is possible to obtain a Divorce without a division of property, it is unusual and generally not recommended.  It is important to speak with an attorney regarding any matter that might result in Divorce litigation.  Sometimes early decisions on where to initiate a divorce action might have long term and permanent impact on how the divorce matter proceeds.  Experienced counsel is able to discuss  equitable distribution, support and alimony, and any of the legal matters which often complicate divorce.  Take advantage  of the free consultation to discuss specific questions and issues by calling us at 717-236-9391