Getting a divorce in Philadelphia

Things to consider, things to know

April 28, 2011

By Mike Hinshaw

Pennsylvania has its own laws regulating divorce, some that differ not only from other states but also may be other than “common perception”–what you believe to be true may in fact not be the case.

However, the legal aspects are not the only consideration. Divorce also involves intense emotional and psychological factors. So your first contact, instead of a divorce attorney, maybe should be a qualified marriage counselor or family therapist. Ideally, your spouse will participate in counseling. But, if not, don’t let that stop you from attending. Plus, you can start “shopping around” for a compatible, knowledgeable attorney while undergoing counseling.

If you have explored all alternatives and realize the only option remaining is to file for divorce, then it’s time to interview several candidates. Be aware: Be sure to get advice from a trained, experienced attorney before making any major life changes such as, for example, moving out, forcing your spouse to move, or “raiding the bank account.”

Pennsylvania law makes no provision for “legal separation,” so either party’s leaving the home may have subsequent legal ramifications–especially in a contested divorce. Furthermore, there are ways to be considered separated, even if both parties remain under the same roof. This is one example of the necessity to have legal counsel. Doing anything “sneaky” or malicious could turn an uncontested divorce into a contested divorce (about which, more to follow).

Residency requirements; where to file

According to the Philadelphia courts’ Web page on divorce, the residency requirements necessary for filing are as follows:

You may file for divorce in Philadelphia County if you or your spouse lived in Pennsylvania for the 6 months immediately preceding the filing of the divorce complaint, and either party currently resides in Philadelphia or you agree to divorce in Philadelphia. There is no required length of residency in the county where the divorce complaint is filed. In Philadelphia, a divorce complaint is filed with the Clerk of Family Court at 1133 Chestnut Street.

Costs of filing; unable to afford the cost

The usual filing fee is $316.98; however, if you can’t afford that, you may file a pauper’s petition  (In Forma Pauperis [IFP] )–bring supporting documentation, such as Welfare ID or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) receipts.

Types of divorce

Pennsylvania law provides for two major categories: contested, in which the parties can not agree on the terms of the divorce–or whether to divorce at all–and uncontested, in which both agree to the terms. If at first the parties disagree, mediation might effect compromise and turn a contested action into an uncontested proceeding. Obviously, an uncontested divorce is the quickest, cheapest, and often least painful alternative.

We”ll get into more detail in the next installment, “Divorce in Pennsylvania.”


And that’s where our Web site comes in–If you’re ready to begin the search for a compatible, well trained, experienced divorce attorney, you can start with our free case evaluation (see below). If you need more information, please browse our site, using the tabs at the top of the page.