The Cost of Divorce in Pennsylvania

The Cost of Divorce in Pennsylvania

Cost Range Median Cost
Uncontested Divorce $1,500 – $3,000 $2,000
Contested Divorce $10,000 – $20,000 $15,000
High-Asset Divorce $20,000 – $50,000+ $30,000

The Basics of Divorce in Pennsylvania

  • You or your spouse must have lived in Pennsylvania for at least six months before filing for divorce.
  • The court may grant a divorce after 90 days have passed from when the complaint was served on the other spouse if both parties consent to the divorce.
  • If one party contests the grounds for divorce, it can take longer to finalize.

Before you file for divorce in Pennsylvania, it’s important to understand how property division works. In general, marital property (property acquired during the marriage) is divided equitably between spouses upon divorce. However, equitable doesn’t always mean equal and various factors like income and earning capacity may be considered by courts when making decisions about property division.

Grounds for Divorce

  • No-Fault Grounds: The most common ground for divorce in Pennsylvania is irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This means that the marriage is broken beyond repair, and neither party can fix it.
  • Fault-Based Grounds: In Pennsylvania, you can also file for divorce based on one or more specific faults committed by your spouse during the marriage. These include:
    1. Adultery
    2. Cruelty (mental or physical)
    3. Bigamy
    4. Imprisonment (for two or more years)
    5. Desertion (for at least one year)

    If you choose to pursue a fault-based divorce, you must provide evidence of the wrongdoing in court. Additionally, filing under fault-based grounds may impact issues like property division and alimony.

    Residency Requirements

    If you meet this requirement, you can file a complaint for divorce with the court of common pleas in the county where either spouse lives. If your spouse has moved out of state or cannot be located, special rules may apply. It’s best to consult with an experienced family law attorney if you’re unsure about how to proceed.

    Filing for Divorce

    To start the divorce process in Pennsylvania, you need to file a complaint for divorce with the court of common pleas. Here’s what you need to know:

    • You or your attorney will complete and file a complaint for divorce with the appropriate court.
    • The complaint must include information about both spouses, including their names, addresses, and dates of birth.
    • You’ll also need to state whether you’re seeking a no-fault or fault-based divorce.
    • If there are issues related to child custody, support, alimony or property division that you want resolved by the court as part of your divorce case, then those should be included in your initial filing too.

    After you’ve filed your complaint for divorce and served it on your spouse (or they have waived service), the next step is typically discovery – where both sides exchange information relevant to their positions before trial – followed by negotiation toward settlement through alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation or arbitration. If these approaches fail resolve all outstanding issues between parties involved in this litigation process then finally matter is taken up for hearing/trial before judge/court.

    Legal Separation vs. Divorce

    • Spouses who opt for legal separation may still face many of the same challenges as those who divorce when it comes to dividing assets and debts or negotiating custody arrangements.
    • If you choose to remain legally separated for an extended period of time without pursuing a divorce proceeding in Pennsylvania courts (which requires filing paperwork), you may forfeit some important rights related to property division if your spouse passes away before you finalize your divorce.

    The Cost of Divorce in Pennsylvania

    If you’re concerned about the cost of divorce but still want legal representation, some attorneys offer unbundled services where they only provide specific services instead of handling your entire case. Additionally, if you meet certain financial requirements, you may qualify for free legal help from Legal Aid organizations in Pennsylvania.

    Attorney Fees

    If you’re worried about paying attorney fees upfront, some lawyers may offer payment plans or sliding-scale fees based on your income level. Additionally, some spouses may be ordered by the court to pay part or all of their ex-partner’s attorney fees as part of a divorce settlement.

    Hourly Rates vs. Flat Fees

    When choosing an attorney to represent you in your divorce, it’s important to understand how they charge for their services. There are two common fee structures that attorneys use: hourly rates and flat fees.

    • Hourly Rates: With this structure, the attorney charges a set rate per hour of work on your case. This can vary widely depending on the lawyer’s experience and location. Hourly rates may be preferable if your case is complex or likely to take a long time to resolve.
    • Flat Fees: Some lawyers will charge a flat fee for handling certain aspects of the divorce, like filing paperwork or representing you at court hearings. Flat fees can provide more predictability about how much you’ll pay upfront, but may not cover all aspects of your case.

    In addition to these fee structures, many lawyers require clients to pay retainers up front before beginning work on a case. These retainers act as a deposit against future legal fees and costs.

    Retainers and Payment Plans

    Retainers and payment plans are important considerations when hiring a divorce lawyer in Pennsylvania. Many lawyers require an initial retainer fee, which is an upfront payment for their services. The amount of the retainer can vary widely depending on the complexity of your case and the experience of your attorney.

    In addition to the retainer fee, you’ll also need to consider how you’ll pay for ongoing legal services. Some lawyers charge by the hour, while others may offer flat-fee arrangements or payment plans. It’s important to discuss these options with your attorney before signing any agreements.

    • Hourly rates: Lawyers who charge hourly fees typically bill clients for each hour they work on their case. Hourly rates can vary widely depending on factors like location and experience level.
    • Flat fees: Some lawyers offer flat-fee arrangements for certain types of cases or services (e.g., uncontested divorces). Flat fees can provide more cost certainty than hourly billing but may not be available in all situations.
    • Payment plans: If you’re unable to afford a large retainer upfront, some lawyers may be willing to work out a payment plan with you. Payment plans allow you to spread out your payments over time rather than paying everything at once.

    Court Costs

    When you file for divorce in Pennsylvania, you will need to pay certain court costs and fees. These can vary depending on the county where you file and other factors like whether or not your case is contested.

    Some common court costs associated with a Pennsylvania divorce include:

    • Filing fee: The cost of filing a complaint for divorce varies by county but is typically around $400-$500.
    • Counseling fees: If children are involved in the divorce, both parties may be required to attend parenting classes or counseling sessions. Fees for these services can range from $25-$100 per session.
    • Service of process fees: You may need to pay to have your spouse served with the complaint if they cannot be located or refuse to accept service voluntarily. This can cost between $50-$100 depending on the method used (e.g., certified mail, sheriff’s deputy).

    Filing Fees

    When filing for divorce in Pennsylvania, there are several fees you’ll need to consider. Here’s an overview of the most common expenses:

    • Court Filing Fee: The current fee to file a divorce complaint in Pennsylvania is $394. This includes a $5 administrative fee and a $15 Act 101 Domestic Relations Section Assessment.
    • Service Fees: If you hire a process server or sheriff’s deputy to deliver your complaint to your spouse, you’ll likely pay additional fees for this service. These costs vary depending on the provider and location.
    • Attorney Fees: If you choose to work with an attorney, their fees will depend on their hourly rate and the complexity of your case. Most attorneys require an upfront retainer fee that can range from several hundred dollars up to thousands of dollars.

    If you’re concerned about affording these costs, it may be possible to request that they be waived or reduced based on financial hardship. However, this decision is up to the discretion of the court and should not be relied upon as guaranteed relief from payment obligations.

    Service Fees

    When filing for divorce in Pennsylvania, you’ll need to pay certain fees associated with the legal process. These fees may include:

    • Court Filing Fee: This is a fee paid at the time of filing your complaint for divorce.
    • Service Fees: If you’re unable to serve your spouse with a copy of the complaint yourself, you may need to hire someone else or use an alternate method like certified mail. These options come with additional service fees.
    • Attorney Fees: Depending on your situation, you may choose to hire an attorney to represent you during the divorce proceedings. Attorney fees can vary depending on factors like experience and hourly rate.

    If paying these fees presents a financial hardship, you can request that they be waived by submitting an Application for Waiver of Court Costs along with documentation that supports your inability to pay.

    Other Court Costs

    The total cost of a divorce will vary depending on the complexity of the case and whether it is contested or uncontested. Contested divorces generally cost more because they require more time and effort from attorneys.

    If you’re concerned about the cost of divorce, it’s important to discuss fee arrangements with your attorney upfront. Many attorneys offer payment plans or flat-fee arrangements for certain types of cases.

    Mediation and Arbitration Costs

    Mediation and arbitration are two methods of alternative dispute resolution that can help couples resolve their divorce issues outside of court. In Pennsylvania, mediation is required for certain custody disputes before the court will hear the case.

    Both mediation and arbitration can be less expensive than going to trial, but they still come with costs. Here are some things to keep in mind:

    • The cost of a mediator or arbitrator varies depending on their experience and location
    • You may need multiple sessions with a mediator, which can add up quickly
    • If you hire an attorney to represent you during mediation or arbitration, you’ll have additional legal fees

    If cost is a concern for you, it’s important to discuss this upfront with your mediator or arbitrator so they can provide transparency around pricing.

    Financial Considerations

    Divorce can have significant financial implications for both parties involved. Here are some key financial considerations to keep in mind:

    • Property Division: In Pennsylvania, marital property is divided equitably between spouses upon divorce. This means that assets and debts acquired during the marriage will be distributed fairly but not necessarily equally.
    • Alimony: Spousal support (known as alimony in Pennsylvania) may be awarded to one party if there’s a large income gap or if one spouse has significantly more earning power than the other. The amount and duration of alimony depend on several factors, including each spouse’s income and earning capacity, length of the marriage, and standard of living during the marriage.
    • Child Support: If you have children together, child support will likely need to be paid by one parent to the other after divorce. The amount depends on various factors like each parent’s income and how much time each spends with the children.

    Property Division

  • Separate Property: Separate property refers to any assets owned by either spouse prior to the marriage or acquired through gift or inheritance during the marriage. In general, separate property isn’t subject to division upon divorce.

If you’re going through a divorce in Pennsylvania, it’s important to work with an experienced family law attorney who can help ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process.

Spousal Support

  1. Temporary alimony: This is paid while divorce proceedings are ongoing and ends once the final decree is issued.
  2. Rehabilitative alimony: This type of payment helps a dependent spouse get back on their feet financially through job training or educational programs.
  3. Lifetime alimony: In some cases where one party has significantly less earning potential than their former partner due to age or other reasons like disability, lifetime alimony may be granted.

If you’re concerned about your ability to pay or receive spousal support following a divorce in Pennsylvania, it’s recommended that you seek legal advice from an experienced family law attorney who can help guide you through this process.

Child Support

In Pennsylvania, both parents have a legal obligation to financially support their child until the child reaches 18 years of age or graduates from high school, whichever comes later. If you’re going through a divorce and have children, it’s important to understand how child support works in Pennsylvania.

  • The amount of child support is determined based on guidelines set forth by state law.
  • Factors that may be considered when calculating child support include each parent’s income, number of children involved, and any special needs the children may have.
  • If one parent has primary physical custody of the child (meaning they provide housing for the majority of the time), then the other parent will typically pay child support to help cover expenses like food, clothing and shelter.

Tax Implications

Divorce can have significant tax implications, and it’s important to consider these before finalizing a divorce agreement. Here are some key things to keep in mind:

  • Spousal support (also known as alimony) is usually taxable income for the receiving spouse and tax-deductible for the paying spouse.
  • If you sell your home as part of the divorce settlement, you may be subject to capital gains taxes on any profit over $250,000 if you’re single or $500,000 if you’re married and filing jointly.
  • If you have children and will be sharing custody after the divorce, make sure you understand how claiming them as dependents on your tax returns will work.

To ensure that all tax implications are considered during a Pennsylvania divorce proceeding, it’s often wise to consult with an experienced family law attorney or a certified public accountant who specializes in divorce taxation issues.

Other Expenses

  • Court filing fees: The current fee for filing a divorce complaint in Pennsylvania is $401.50.
  • Service of process: If you hire a professional to serve your spouse with divorce papers, this can cost anywhere from $20-$100 or more.
  • Expert fees: Depending on the complexity of your case, you may need to hire experts like appraisers or accountants to assist with property valuation and division.

In addition to these costs, if children are involved in the divorce process, additional expenses may include child support payments and legal fees related to child custody disputes. It’s important to keep these costs in mind when budgeting for your divorce proceedings.

Counseling and Therapy

If you choose to pursue a no-fault divorce based on irretrievable breakdown, you may be required to attend counseling with your spouse during the 90-day waiting period after filing. This requirement can be waived if both parties agree in writing or if certain circumstances apply (such as domestic violence).

Even if you’re not required by law to attend counseling, seeking therapy or mediation can be beneficial for many couples going through a divorce. It can help you communicate more effectively, reach agreements on important issues like child custody and support, and move forward with your lives in a healthy way.

Moving Costs

If you have children, there may be additional costs associated with moving. For example:

  • You may need to hire a babysitter or child care provider during the move.
  • Your children’s schools may charge fees for transferring records or enrolling them in new schools.
  • If you’re moving far away from your ex-spouse, there may be travel costs associated with arranging visitation schedules.

Name Change Fees

  • If you’re changing your own name, there is typically a fee associated with filing a petition for a name change with the court. This fee varies by county but is generally around $150.
  • If you’re requesting a name change for your child as part of the divorce proceedings, there may be an additional fee. However, if both parents agree on the child’s new last name and sign off on it during the divorce proceedings, there may not be an extra charge beyond any standard fees associated with filing for divorce.

It’s important to note that these fees can also vary depending on whether or not you hire an attorney to assist with your case. An experienced family law attorney can provide guidance and help ensure that all necessary paperwork is filed correctly and in accordance with Pennsylvania law.

Strategies for Reducing the Cost of Divorce

Divorce can be a costly process, but there are ways to reduce the financial burden. Here are some strategies for minimizing the cost of your divorce:

  • Choose mediation or collaborative divorce if possible: These options allow you and your spouse to work together with a neutral third party to come up with an agreement on key issues like property division and child custody. This can save you money on legal fees.
  • Avoid litigation: Going to court can be expensive, so try to resolve as many issues outside of court as possible. If you do have to go to court, consider using unbundled legal services (paying for only specific tasks) or representing yourself (pro se) if appropriate.
  • Be organized: Keep track of all important documents related to your divorce, including financial records, tax returns, and communications between you and your spouse. Having everything in one place can help streamline the process and prevent unnecessary expenses.

Mediation and Collaborative Divorce

In addition to traditional litigation, couples going through a divorce in Pennsylvania may have the option of using alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation and collaborative divorce. These processes can be less adversarial and time-consuming than traditional court proceedings.

  • Mediation: In mediation, a neutral third-party mediator helps facilitate negotiations between you and your spouse. The goal is to come up with a mutually acceptable agreement on issues like property division, child custody, and support. Mediation is often less expensive than going to court.
  • Collaborative Divorce: Collaborative divorce involves working with lawyers who are specially trained in non-adversarial techniques. Each party has their own attorney but all four work together to resolve issues outside of court. If an agreement cannot be reached through collaboration, the parties will need to hire new attorneys if they wish to go forward with litigation.

Uncontested Divorce

Here are some benefits of pursuing an uncontested divorce:

  • Lower costs: An uncontested divorce is typically less expensive because there’s no need for court appearances or litigation.
  • Faster resolution: Because there are no contested issues that require a judge’s decision, an uncontested divorce can usually be finalized more quickly than a traditional one.
  • Less stress: The process is generally easier on both parties since they’re working together instead of against each other.

If you’re considering an uncontested divorce in Pennsylvania, it’s important to work with an experienced family law attorney who can help ensure that your interests are protected throughout the process. Even if you and your spouse agree on most things upfront, there may still be legal technicalities that need to be addressed before finalizing the split.


If you do choose to represent yourself, keep in mind that you will need to follow all court rules and procedures carefully. You’ll also need to understand Pennsylvania divorce law and how it applies to your specific situation. It’s important to note that courts may hold self-represented individuals to the same standard as attorneys when it comes to understanding these rules.

Planning and Budgeting

In addition to these expenses, it’s also important to think about how your finances will change after divorce. You may need to update your budget based on new living arrangements or changes in income. It’s also wise to take stock of any joint assets and debts that will need to be divided during the divorce process.

Conclusion: Is Divorce Worth the Cost?

Here are some factors to consider:

  • Financial Costs: Divorce can be expensive, especially if there is significant property or debt to divide or if custody battles ensue. However, staying in an unhappy marriage may also come with its own financial costs.
  • Mental Health Costs: The stress and emotions that come with divorce can take a toll on mental health. It’s important to prioritize self-care during this time.
  • Potential Benefits: Ending an unhealthy relationship can lead to personal growth, improved relationships with children and other loved ones, and a brighter future overall.

If you’re considering divorce in Pennsylvania, consulting with an experienced family law attorney is key to understanding your rights and options under state law.

FAQ on ‘The Cost of Divorce in Pennsylvania’

Are there any additional costs associated with divorce in Pennsylvania?

Yes, there may be additional costs such as court fees, mediation fees, and attorney fees. These can vary depending on the complexity of the case.

Can I file for divorce in Pennsylvania without an attorney?

Yes, it is possible to file for divorce in Pennsylvania without an attorney. However, it is recommended that you seek legal advice to ensure that your rights are protected.

How long does it take to get a divorce in Pennsylvania?

The length of time it takes to get a divorce in Pennsylvania depends on several factors including the complexity of the case and whether or not both parties agree on all issues. On average, it takes about six months to a year to finalize a divorce.

Is there any way to reduce the cost of divorce in Pennsylvania?

Yes, one way to reduce the cost of divorce in Pennsylvania is to try and reach an agreement with your spouse on all issues such as property division and child custody before going to court. This can help save time and money on legal fees.