Pennsylvania Marital Settlement (Divorce) Agreement

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Updated May 17, 2022

A Pennsylvania marital settlement agreement is a divorce tool that helps married couples settle on fair terms regarding the dissolution of their marriage. A settlement agreement is not a mandatory document in all divorce cases; however, if the parties are divorcing by mutual consent (i.e., an uncontested, no-fault divorce), a marital settlement agreement is required in most Pennsylvania counties. The provisions contained in this agreement include alimony, property distribution, child support, child custody, and other matters relevant to the spouses’ individual rights and responsibilities. It is common for the parties to seek mediation, or individual attorneys, in order to maintain civility and efficiency, and to ensure the agreement is beneficial to all parties, including any children of the marriage.

Table of Contents

Divorce Laws

Statutes – Title 23: Chapter 33, Chapter 35, and Chapter 37


Alimony (§ 3701) – If the court deems it necessary, the court may award either party alimony in consideration of any of the following factors:

  • Relative earnings and earning capacities of the parties
  • Age and physical, mental, and emotional condition of the parties
  • Sources of income of both parties
  • Expectancies and inheritances of the parties
  • Duration of the marriage
  • Contribution by one party to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other party
  • Extent to which the earning power, expenses, or financial obligations of a party will be affected by serving as the custodian of a minor child
  • Standard of living established during the marriage
  • Relative education of the parties and time necessary to acquire education to enable party seeking alimony to find employment
  • Relative assets and liabilities of the parties
  • Property brought to the marriage by either party
  • Contribution of a spouse as a homemaker
  • Relative needs of the parties
  • Marital misconduct
  • Tax ramifications of the alimony award
  • Whether party seeking alimony lacks sufficient property
  • Whether the party seeking alimony is incapable of self-support

Alimony Calculatorcalculators.law

Child Support (§ 4322(a)) – A statewide child support guideline has been developed to determine the amount of support a child will receive from the obligor by calculating the net incomes and earning capacities of the parties. A child support schedule has been created and set forth in Rule 1910.16-3 of the Pennsylvania Code.

Child Support CalculatorPennsylvania Department of Human Services

Division of Property (§ 3502(a)) – If either party to a divorce action requests that the property be divided by the courts, the court shall divide all marital property equitably between the parties after considering all relevant factors.

Grounds for Divorce (§ 3301) – Divorce may be ordered by the court on any of the following grounds:

No-Fault Divorce:

  • Insanity or mental disorder leaving one spouse confined to a mental institution for at least eighteen (18) months
  • Mutual consent that marriage is irretrievably broken
  • One spouse believes marriage is irretrievably broken and files an affidavit affirming that the spouses have lived separately for two (2) years

Fault Divorce:

  • Desertion of one spouse from the home without reason for at least one (1) year
  • Adultery
  • Cruel treatment or endangerment
  • Bigamy
  • Intolerable living conditions

Interim Support (§ 3702) – During an action for divorce, the court may award either party alimony pendente lite (during litigation) as well as any reasonable counsel fees and expenses.

Residency (§ 3104(b)) – At least one of the spouses must be a resident of Pennsylvania for at least six (6) months prior to filing a divorce action.

Separation (§ 3301(d)(1)) – Separation before divorce is only a requirement if the spouses are seeking a dissolution of their marriage on the grounds of an irretrievable breakdown. In this case, the spouses must have lived separate and apart for at least one (1) year prior to filing for divorce. 

How to File for Divorce in Pennsylvania

Divorce Forms

Step 1 – Marital Settlement Agreement

To file for a mutual consent or uncontested, no-fault divorce (or “simple” divorce), both spouses must either have no dependent children or mutually agree on child support and custody matters. Furthermore, the parties may wish to draft a Marital Settlement Agreement so they can establish all the important divorce issues on paper. This document covers divorce issues such as alimony, property division, and child support and custody. If none of these issues are applicable to the spouses’ situation, a marital agreement need not be completed. However, in all other situations, a marital settlement agreement must be established before filing a divorce action as the agreement must be filed at the same time as the divorce complaint form.

Step 2 – Residency Requirements

In addition to the requirements for filing an uncontested divorce mentioned in Step 1, at least one of the spouses must be a resident of Pennsylvania six (6) months prior to filing a complaint for divorce. Furthermore, the action must be filed in the correct county or the court may have the complaint thrown out. The spouse that is filing the complaint (they will be referred to as the plaintiff; the other spouse is the defendant) is given the following options for choosing the county in which to file:

  • The county in which the defendant currently resides.
  • The county in which the plaintiff resides, as long as the defendant lives outside of the state.
  • The county in which the spouses lived while married, as long as the plaintiff has continuously lived there.
  • If the spouses have been separated for less than six (6) months, and the defendant agrees to it, the plaintiff may file in the county in which they live.
  • If the spouses have been separated for more than six (6) months, the plaintiff may file in the county in which either spouse lives.

Step 3 – File Complaint

Once the plaintiff (spouse filing the paperwork) has established the county in which they can file for divorce, they must complete a Self-Represented Party Entry of Appearance (if filing without an attorney) and a Notice to Defend and Divorce Complaint. Copies should be made of each form, enough to file with the prothonotary, to maintain a copy for the plaintiff’s records, and to serve the defendant. All forms should be brought to the Court of Common Pleas, specifically the Office of the Prothonotary, in the relevant county and filed with the clerk. All forms will be time-stamped, the originals will be kept by the clerk and the copies handed back to the plaintiff.

Note: If either spouse intends on resuming their name prior to marriage, they may file a Notice of Intention to Resume Prior Surname (requires notarization). This form can be filed after filing the Complaint or after filing the Divorce Decree (Step 8).

Step 4 – Service

A copy of the Self-Represented form and Complaint form must be delivered to the defendant within thirty (30) days of filing with the clerk (ninety (90) days if the defendant resides out-of-state). Failure to serve the defendant within the aforementioned timeframe means the divorce Complaint must be reinstated by filing a Praecipe to Reinstate the Complaint. Service of the Complaint can be accomplished by using one of the following methods:

  • Acceptance of Service – The plaintiff hands the documents to the defendant who accepts service by signing an Affidavit of Acceptance of Service (Form 3a) immediately after being served the paperwork.
  • Service by Mail – The plaintiff mails the documents to the defendant by regular and certified mail with return receipt requested and then completes the Affidavit of Service by Mail (Form 3b). If the return receipt is not signed by the defendant, the plaintiff must use another service method.
  • Personal Service – The plaintiff hires an eligible individual (sheriff/deputy, process server, or reliable third party) to hand the documents to the defendant. The individual must complete the Affidavit of Personal Service (Form 3c).

Whichever method is chosen, the plaintiff will have to make a copy of the appropriate affidavit form and file the original with the court.

Step 5 – Affidavit of Consent

In uncontested divorce cases, a ninety-day (90) waiting period is implemented by the court after the date the Complaint was served on the defendant to give the parties an opportunity to contemplate their decision. Once the waiting period has expired, both parties must complete an Affidavit of Consent and file it with the court within thirty (30) days after execution.

Step 6 – Praecipe to Transmit Record

After filing the affidavits, a Praecipe to Transmit Record must be filed with the court. This document is a motion requesting the prothonotary to transfer the record of the divorce action, along with a proposed divorce decree, to the court for entry. Before a Praecipe can be filed, one of the parties must complete a Notice of Intention to File the Praecipe to Transmit Record, file it with the court, and send a copy to the other party. Alternatively, both parties may choose to file a Waiver of Notice, which releases them from completing a Notice of Intention. If a Notice of Intention was used, the party serving the Notice must wait twenty (20) days from the date it was served on the other party before filing the Praecipe to Transmit Record. Whether Waivers were signed by both parties or one party served a Notice of Intention, the next step is to complete a Praecipe to Transmit Record and a proposed Divorce Decree.

Step 7 – Divorce Decree

A Divorce Decree must be filled out, excluding the judge’s signature, and filed at the same time as the Praecipe to Transmit Record. The court may also require a copy of the Marital Settlement Agreement, and possibly additional county-specific forms, to be attached to the Divorce Decree. The obligation of filing this agreement is determined on a county-to-county basis, and the filing party should contact the prothonotary to obtain this information. Self-addressed envelopes for both spouses should be provided to the court so they can mail copies of the final divorce decree. If the paperwork is in order, a judge will sign the divorce decree and the prothonotary will mail a copy to each spouse, finalizing the divorce.

Step 8 – Name Change

Either spouse has the legal right to revert to their maiden name, and they may do so by filing a Notice of Intention to Resume Prior Surname. If this form was not filed after the Complaint, the party wishing to change their name may file the Notice of Intention after the Divorce Decree has been granted. This form requires notarization in order for it to be legally valid.

Video – What is a Pennsylvania Marital Settlement Agreement?