How to Divorce in Pennsylvania without Lawyers
Did you know it's possible to manage your own divorce proceedings in Pennsylvania without hiring a divorce lawyer? This route is not for everyone, but if you're willing to learn the ropes and take charge, it can be an empowering and cost-effective choice.
Uncontested divorce requires no lawyers in Pennsylvania
An uncontested divorce case in Pennsylvania is one in which both parties agree on how their marital estate and affairs should be split between them. This includes the division of assets and debts as well as important child custody and spousal support arrangements.
The lawyer-free option is ideal for couples who can amicably agree on all the terms of their divorce and are willing to work together to finalize the process. However, it's important to remember that while this process can be cost-effective, it requires a thorough understanding of the legal procedures and paperwork involved. If at any point you find it too complex, seeking legal advice would be a wise move.
Basic steps of uncontested divorce in Pennsylvania
Step 1: Filing and serving
The initial step in an uncontested divorce in Pennsylvania involves filing a divorce petition at your local county courthouse.
This document serves to notify the court and your spouse that you wish to end your marriage. To complete the form, you'll need information such as your spouse's full legal name, your marriage date, and any minor children's names and birthdates.
Once filed, you'll receive a stamped copy of the complaint which you must then serve to your spouse, officially notifying them of the divorce proceedings.
Even in an uncontested divorce where both parties agree on all issues, serving your spouse is a legal requirement in Pennsylvania. This act ensures that all parties have been officially notified of the legal proceedings. The served person has the right to respond to the divorce petition. It's crucial to follow your county's particular rules for service, which may include personal service by a third party or service by certified mail. Remember to keep proof of service, as you will need this for subsequent processes in the divorce proceedings.
Step 2: Negotiation with spouse
Once your spouse has been served, you will enter a negotiation phase. In an uncontested divorce, this involves agreeing on all critical issues such as property division, child custody, alimony, and child support.
For the best results, keep open communication lines, be willing to compromise, and focus on the bigger picture during negotiation. You will need to draw up a marital settlement agreement detailing the agreed-upon terms. It's recommended to have this document reviewed by a legal professional to make sure it's fair and enforceable.
In an uncontested divorce, it is a prerequisite that both parties agree on all key issues. That said, it's not uncommon for disagreements to arise during the negotiation phase. If this happens, it does not necessarily mean the end of your uncontested divorce path. One option is to hire a mediator, a neutral third party who can help facilitate discussions and aid in finding common ground.
In situations where mediation fails, it may be necessary to transition to a contested divorce. In this case, legal representation and a court trial may be needed to settle your unresolved issues. Most divorcing couples don’t want this; they want to make an agreement with as little conflict as possible. Hence, the importance of maintaining open communication and willingness to compromise during the negotiation phase of any divorce … even an uncontested one.
Got Kids? Check out our free downloadable Co-Parenting Plan Worksheet.
Step 3: Finalizing the uncontested divorce
After the negotiation phase, you must submit the marital settlement agreement to the court. The court will review it, and if everything is in order, they will issue a divorce decree, effectively ending your marriage.
In Pennsylvania, there is a mandatory waiting period that could potentially delay the timeline of your uncontested divorce. This waiting period begins when the divorce complaint is served to the other spouse. The waiting period is 90 days. This means that 90 days must pass from the date of service before the court can grant the divorce.
The waiting period also offers a crucial time for reflection. It allows both parties to thoroughly consider their decisions, and if necessary, to seek guidance from counselors or legal professionals.
To avoid further delay, any outstanding disagreements about property, custody, or support should ideally be resolved within this waiting period.
“Mutual consent” divorce in Pennsylvania
A "mutual consent" divorce is a type of uncontested divorce in Pennsylvania where both spouses agree to the divorce and can finalize it without waiting for a mandatory separation period. This process typically takes about 90 days from the time the complaint is served. However, it requires cooperation from both parties and an agreement on all divorce-related issues.
FAQ about divorce in Pennsylvania
Do I have to live in Pennsylvania before filing for divorce?
You or your soon-to-be ex must have lived in Pennsylvania for a minimum of six months prior to filing for divorce. This residency requirement ensures that the court has jurisdiction over your case.
If neither you nor your spouse lived in Pennsylvania for six months, you may need to wait or consider filing in a different state.
How much does it cost to get divorced in Pennsylvania?
The cost of a divorce in Pennsylvania varies depending on the complexity of the case and whether you hire an attorney. The filing fee for a divorce complaint in Pennsylvania is around $400. If you hire an attorney, you can expect additional legal fees.
Do I have to take a parenting class?
In Pennsylvania, parents with minor children who are divorcing may be required to attend a parenting class. These classes are designed to help parents understand the impact of divorce on children and provide strategies for helping children cope with the changes.
Suggested: Why Do I Have to Take a Parenting Class?
At Hello Divorce, we’re familiar with Pennsylvania divorce law. We can help you reach your ultimate goals, which likely include a fair divorce settlement agreement and sure footing as you turn the page and start the next exciting chapter of your life. We offer online divorce plans, legal advice without hefty attorney fees, and a host of other supports to help you get through this. You can do it. We can help.