Representing Yourself

The judicial system of Pennsylvania embraces the idea that access to the Courts is a fundamental right of all Pennsylvanians.

Through its long history, the judicial system in Pennsylvania has been, and continues to be, committed to dispensing justice for all Pennsylvanians. Some litigants, for any number of reasons, may find it necessary to represent themselves pro se before the Court. 

Nothing on these pages should be construed as legal advice, and should not be cited as legal authority.

I can't afford to pay the filing fees

Costs to record, or “file” documents such as the complaint, vary from the type of document, or pleading, to the county in which you begin your case. Some court filing costs may be in the hundreds of dollars. If you cannot afford to pay these fees to the court, you will need to complete the form below entitled, In Forma Pauperis, a Latin term, referring to someone who cannot pay. You will be asked for your income and expense statements. The court may require that you appear in person for a hearing or a judge may decide based upon the information you provide on the In Forma Pauperis form. Instructions are included in the form. Once completed, take the IFP form to the appropriate records office in your county courthouse. This office is called the Prothonotary or Office of Judicial Records.

WARNING ABOUT YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS

Stopsign Self-represented litigants are held to the same standards as attorneys admitted to the bar of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Representing yourself does not exempt you from understanding and following statewide and local Rules of Court.

For your protection, be sure to verify you have met all up-to-date requirements by contacting your local county court administration.

How to File Confidential Information and Documents with the Court

All litigants must handle confidential information and documents as required by the Case Records Public Access Policy of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania

Confidential information is defined as: social security numbers; financial account numbers, except an active financial account number may be identified by the last four digits when the financial account is the subject of the case and cannot otherwise be identified; driver’s license numbers; state identification (SID) numbers; minors’ names and dates of birth except when a minor is charged as a defendant in a criminal matter (see 42 Pa.C.S. § 6535); and abuse victim’s address and other contact information, including employer’s name, address and work schedule, in family court actions as defined by Pa.R.C.P. No. 1931(a), except for victim’s name.

Confidential documents are defined as: financial source documents; minors’ educational records; medical and psychological records; children and youth services’ records; marital property inventory and pre-trial statements as provided in Pa.R.C.P. No. 1920.33; income and expense statements as provided in Pa.R.C.P. No. 1910.27(c); and agreements between the parties as used in 23 Pa.C.S. § 3105.

Please note, the italicized terms are explicitly defined in Section 1.0 of the Policy.

For more information about how to handle confidential information and documents in a specific court, please visit http://www.pacourts.us/public-records/public-records-policies.

The website also contains informational videos, posters, and handouts that may be helpful to you.

Self-representation information and forms

Custody

Before you initiate a custody action, make sure you know the appropriate county court to begin the action.

 

Divorce

For divorce procedings, begin by reading the Divorce Procedure to choose the correct forms for your case.

 

Protection from Abuse

Contact your county court administrator for information on how to proceed with a PFA.

 

Child Support

To file a claim for child support you will need to contact your county domestic relations office. More information is available from the Department of Public Welfare.