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How much does a divorce cost in PA?

How much does a divorce cost in Pennsylvania? Read on for everything to know about filing fees, court costs, and what impacts the cost of divorce in PA.

evident Editorial Team
April 2, 2024
Philadelphia skyline

Going through a divorce in Pennsylvania can be challenging. In addition to dealing with a complicated legal process, it can be overwhelming and emotionally challenging as well. 

Adding to the anxiety are concerns about the cost of divorce in Pennsylvania, leading many individuals to wonder about the expenses involved. They often ask, "How much does a divorce cost in PA?"

Although it’s difficult to accurately predict the cost of a Pennsylvania divorce, there are several common factors that influence how expensive it could be. Gaining an understanding of these factors can help alleviate some of the stress and uncertainty that come with the divorce process.

In this article, we will:

  • Explore the key elements that impact the cost of divorce in PA 
  • Share the average cost of divorce in PA 
  • Highlight resources available for those seeking lower-cost divorce options

Let’s begin by looking at the average cost of a divorce in Pennsylvania.

Key Takeaways

Average Cost of Divorce in Pennsylvania

According to USA Today, the average cost of divorce in PA is reported to be $14,300 for cases without children and $21,500 for divorces involving children. However, it's important to note that these figures represent averages, and many divorces cost far less or more depending on the circumstances.

Each divorce is unique and there are several factors that can influence the actual cost. For instance, as reflected in those averages, divorces involving minor children are often more expensive because couples have to sort through issues like child support and child custody arrangements.

It's crucial to understand what factors impact the total costs in order to get a sense of the potential cost of your divorce in Pennsylvania.

What affects Pennsylvania divorce costs?

So, how much is a divorce in Pennsylvania? The answer to that question depends on several key factors.

Costs associated with most divorce cases in PA include filing fees, other court costs, and attorneys’ fees. Knowing the relevant filing fees and average hourly rates for Pennsylvania divorce attorneys is helpful given their direct impact on PA divorce costs. 

But other factors that also have a huge impact on the cost of any given divorce include how complicated the divorce is and how contentious the divorce is. Complicated or contentious court battles are typically much more expensive than simple or amicable divorce cases, so we’ll discuss these factors in greater detail below.

PA Divorce Filing Fees and Court Costs

The filing fee for divorce in Pennsylvania is typically between $300 and $400, but it can vary depending on what county your case is in and the details of your case. 

For instance, the filing fee to initiate a divorce proceeding in Philadelphia County is $333.73. Allegheny County, meanwhile, has a base filing fee for divorce of $190.75. But there may be additional fees for other “counts,” such as child custody (which adds an additional $163.00 fee in Allegheny County). 

Depending on how your divorce case unfolds, there may be other fees for filing additional motions or divorce paperwork with the court. Note that those court fees can also vary by county, and you should confirm the filing fees and court costs with the court clerk in your county.

Fee waivers in Pennsylvania

If you cannot afford to pay the PA divorce filing fee, you may be able to get a fee waiver. You need to file a Petition to Proceed in Forma Pauperis.

Note that you will have to provide information about your financial situation to demonstrate that a fee waiver is appropriate. 

How much does a divorce lawyer cost in PA?

So, how much is a divorce in PA? For many divorces, attorney fees end up being one of the biggest components of the total cost. 

Attorneys’ Fee Structures

Divorce lawyers in Pennsylvania generally use two primary fee structures: hourly rates or flat fees. Some attorneys may also require a retainer fee, which is an upfront payment from which they’ll deduct their legal fees and expenses.

If the attorney charges an hourly rate, you will be billed based on the time spent on your case. On the other hand, a flat fee involves a predetermined set fee for the scope of their engagement.

Attorney billing methods

The choice between hourly rates and flat fees depends on the nature of your divorce. For uncontested divorces where the workload can be predicted, a flat fee may be more suitable. For contested divorces with unpredictable time requirements, hourly rates are commonly used.

Average Divorce Lawyer Rates in Pennsylvania

So, how much is a divorce lawyer in PA? The average hourly rate for Family Law attorneys in Pennsylvania is $281 per hour. (Note that divorce falls under the broader legal practice area of Family Law). 

But again, this is just an average, and actual hourly rates may differ based on factors such as the divorce lawyer's experience and prevailing market rates in your area. For instance, major metro areas like Philadelphia tend to have higher average costs compared to other parts of Pennsylvania.

While knowing the hourly rates is helpful, the total fees are also influenced by the amount of time the lawyer spends working on your case. (I.e. the $272 hourly rate has less impact on the cost of divorce in PA than whether an attorney spends 5 hours or 50 hours working on a case).

This brings us to two crucial factors affecting the cost of divorce in Pennsylvania: the complexity and contentiousness of the divorce.

How Complicated Your Pennsylvania Divorce Is

Generally, the more complex the divorce, the higher the potential cost. A threshold distinction to consider is whether your divorce is uncontested or contested, which has significant implications for the process.

Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce in PA

In an uncontested divorce, both spouses agree on all issues related to the divorce, including alimony, child custody, child support, and property division. Uncontested divorces are typically faster, simpler, and less expensive compared to contested ones. 

The cost of an uncontested divorce in Pennsylvania may primarily involve court costs and filing fees, greatly reducing the overall expense of the process.

Contested divorces, meanwhile, are typically far more expensive. A contested divorce occurs when the parties cannot agree on one or more divorce-related issues. 

Contested divorces encompass a wide range of possibilities, though. The number of unresolved issues, and the intensity of disputes surrounding them, significantly impact the overall cost of contested divorce in PA.

(Another distinction is whether you file a fault or no-fault divorce, though the majority of divorces in Pennsylvania are no-fault divorces).

What makes a PA divorce more complicated?

Several factors can make a Pennsylvania divorce more complicated, leading to increased costs. 

Divorces involving children introduce additional complexity as child custody arrangements and child support must be resolved. 

Alimony is another complicating factor that does not have to be resolved in all divorces but introduces one more issue to calculate–or fight over–in divorces where it does come up.

The size and complexity of the marital estate can also have a big impact. Complicated marital property, such as ownership interests in a company or partnership, may require appraisals and make property division more complicated. This is generally true of larger marital estates as well, as it is easier to divide a small cash account than it is to divide multi-million dollar estates.

So these factors can each contribute to a more complicated process and can increase the overall cost of divorce in PA. Additionally, each of these potentially complicating issues can introduce an area for disagreement, which brings us to our next factor: how amicable or not your divorce case is.

How Contentious Your Pennsylvania Divorce Is

pointing, accusation, accuse

Another critical factor that impacts the total cost of divorce in PA is how amicable or adversarial your divorce is. Generally, contentious divorces cost more than amicable ones, and it is the hard-fought court battles that can rack up attorneys’ fees and get expensive. 

While an uncontested divorce may not be feasible in every case, adopting a collaborative approach with your ex-spouse can still have significant benefits in reducing the time and cost associated with a Pennsylvania divorce. Even when disagreements arise, striving to find common ground and working cooperatively can lead to more efficient and cost-effective outcomes.

Divorce mediation and other collaborative divorce processes can be instrumental in resolving disputes and reaching agreements outside of the courtroom. These alternative methods can help reduce lawyer fees and overall court costs, providing a more streamlined and amicable process.

While achieving a completely amicable resolution may not always be possible, sincere efforts to find common ground and maintain open lines of communication can save you time, money, and emotional strain throughout an already challenging process. 

Lower-Cost Options for Divorce in Pennsylvania

pennies, coin, coins

If you're concerned about the cost of divorce in Pennsylvania, there are resources and lower-cost alternatives available to help reduce your legal expenses. 

If hiring a divorce attorney to represent you for the entirety of your case would be too expensive, limited-scope representation is an option. With a limited-scope agreement, a divorce attorney can assist you with specific, limited tasks (such as reviewing your marital settlement agreement or participating in divorce mediation). This allows you to benefit from professional guidance for the specific areas where you need it most without incurring the full cost of comprehensive legal representation.

Legal Aid organizations in Pennsylvania can also be a valuable resource, offering free or low-cost legal services based on your income level and legal issue. Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network is one such organization that helps individuals find available resources. 

And remember, fee waivers may be available if you're unable to afford the filing fees associated with a Pennsylvania divorce. 

FAQs About the Cost of Divorce in PA

How much is a divorce in PA if both parties agree?

When both parties in a Pennsylvania divorce can reach an agreement, the cost of the divorce can be significantly lower compared to contested cases. 

In such cases, the cost of an uncontested divorce in Pennsylvania may primarily involve court costs and filing fees, including the fees for filing the necessary documents and obtaining the final divorce decree. These expenses can vary depending on the county and specific circumstances of the case.

If you don't have any attorneys' fees, uncontested divorce costs could be under $1,000, including the $300 -$400 divorce filing fee. However, if you choose to have legal representation, the cost may increase. 

If you do hire a divorce attorney, it's important to discuss the potential fees and charges with the attorney because they can provide a more accurate estimate based on your specific situation.

How long does a divorce take in PA?

The timeline of a Pennsylvania divorce can vary depending on several factors, including the complexity of the case, the cooperation between the parties, and the court's schedule.

Uncontested divorces can be resolved relatively quickly. Typically, an uncontested divorce in Pennsylvania can be finalized within a few months.

On the other hand, contested divorces that involve disputes and require court intervention can take significantly longer, often up to a year or more. The duration of a contested divorce in Pennsylvania can vary depending on the complexity of the issues, the court's caseload, and the level of cooperation between the parties.

But remember, every divorce case is unique, and the timeline can be influenced by numerous circumstances. 

The Final Word on the Cost of Divorce in Pennsylvania

So, how much is a divorce in PA? Let’s recap the key takeaways. 

While the average cost of divorce in PA is reportedly $14,300 without children and $21,500 with children, it's important to remember that individual circumstances can lead to costs that are significantly higher or lower than those averages.

Factors that influence the cost of a divorce in PA include concrete inputs such as the applicable filing fees, other court costs, and attorneys' fees. Thematic factors, such as the complexity of your divorce and the level of conflict involved, also have a huge impact on total costs. These factors can vary greatly from case to case.

For people concerned about the cost of hiring a Pennsylvania divorce lawyer, limited-scope representation and seeking assistance from organizations like Legal Aid can provide cost-effective alternatives.

If you have further questions about the cost of divorce in Pennsylvania, it's advisable to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer. During the initial consultation, don't hesitate to ask these key questions to make sure you find the right divorce lawyer for your needs.