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.
Public Access Policy Notice
As a participant in your court case, you must follow the rules regarding confidential information, documents and filings. Please read the policy here: http://www.pacourts.us/assets/opinions/Supreme/out/477jad-attach1.pdf?cb=1
Consider watching the video that explains the policy: http://www.pacourts.us/public-records/public-records-videos
Introduction to representing yourself in Pennsylvania
Each of the documents listed below include a blank form and the instructions to fill out that form. It is important to read the attached instructions before completing each form. You must read the divorce procedure to choose the correct forms for your case.
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.
Check with your county court for applicable divorce procedures.
Divorce proceedings in Pennsylvania
You must print each form and take it to the designated office in your county courthouse. For divorce proceedings, use the forms below:
Read this document before you begin a divorce action.
The following document will help you identify the type of divorce case you want to pursue (mutual agreement on a divorce; no mutual agreement but have been separated for at least two years). There are instructions outlining which forms are necessary and in what sequential order they are to be presented, or filed, with the court records office (in many jurisdictions this office is called the Prothonotary). Additionally, the document contains detailed instructions on how to complete each individual form.
No fault and mutual consent 3301(c)
If you and your spouse agree to begin divorce proceedings, use the forms listed below for 3301c. Once you have completed these forms, contact your local courthouse administration for additional instructions. You must print each form and take it to the designated office in your county courthouse. For No Fault and Mutual Consent (3301 c) proceedings, use the forms below.
No fault and applicable time of separation 3301(d)
If the period of separation from your spouse began on or after Dec. 5, 2016 you will need to be living separate and apart from your spouse for a period of ONE YEAR, before filing your complaint in divorce.
If the period of separation from your spouse began before Dec. 5, 2016, you are required to be living separate and apart from your spouse for a period of TWO YEARS, before filing your complaint in divorce.
The previous requirement of two year separation was amended by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 2016, reducing the separation time requirement to one year after the effective date of the new law.
Once you have completed these forms, contact your local courthouse administration for additional instructions. You must print each form and take it to the designated office in your county courthouse. For No Fault and Applicable Time of Separation (3301 d) proceedings, use the forms below:
Service of Forms
Service is the delivery of court papers to a plaintiff or a defendant. Court papers may be served by mail, but you must follow very specific rules. Court papers may be served by personal service - handing a copy of the paper to the other party – but not by you or a person related to you. Proof of Service, called Affidavit of Service or Certificate of Service, is a form you must file with the court explaining how court papers were delivered to the other party. A court will not act on your case unless you have served the court papers and filed proof that you followed Rules of Court.
Pa. R.C.P. 1930.4 states the options for service of original process, the custody or divorce complaint. Pa. R.C.P. 440 states the options for service of legal papers other than original process.
Please use the appropriate affidavit of service form for the mode of service you will use. If you plan to serve copies of your legal papers by mail, please use form 1. If you use hand deliver service, perhaps by a deputy sheriff or someone else not you or related to you, use form 3a. If your situation requires you to use other means of service different from original process, use form 3d. You will need to consult with the Pennsylvania Rules of Court regarding service in your type of case to ensure you are properly following the rules.