Chester County Divorce Rules and Forms
Action of Divorce or Annulment of Marriage
Rule 1920.16.A. Severance of Actions and Claims. Bifurcation.
(a) Upon petition of either party/or upon consent of the parties and after a record proceeding, the Master may recommend bifurcation of the divorce proceedings and issuance of a divorce decree, prior to a determination of other matters raised by written report in accordance with Pa.R.C.P. 1920.53. The court shall permit bifurcation for good cause shown. In such event, this decree shall be indexed in the judgment docket to give notice of the divorced spouse’s equitable interest in the property of the other.
(b) The decree of divorce in such circumstances shall be substantially in the form as prescribed by Pa.R.C.P. 1920.76.
(c) A copy of the Petition for Bifurcation shall be served upon the appointed Master.
(d) (1) Requests for Interim Distribution where equitable distribution has been raised by the pleadings and grounds have been met shall
be referred to the appointed Master for disposition.
(2) Clams for Interim Distribution shall be raised by the filing of a verified petition with a rule returnable. No hearing will be assigned at the time of filing.(3) In those cases where a master has not been appointed, the moving party shall motion for the appointment of an equitable distribution master and pay the appropriate fee.
(4) The assigned master shall schedule a preliminary conference and ultimately a hearing, if necessary. At the conclusion of the hearing, a report shall issue.
(5) Objections to a recommendation for Interim Distribution shall be made by the filing of exceptions.
Comment: Grounds for divorce pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S.§3301 shall have been met prior to the hearing on the petition raising the request for Interim Distribution.
Exceptions to the recommendation for Interim Distribution are deemed to be interlocutory. Oral argument, as necessary, will be scheduled when the final report and recommendation is filed.
Rule 1920.18.A. [Rescinded].
Rule 1920.22.A. [Rescinded].
Comment: The rule relating to discovery in domestic relations matters is C.C.R.C.P. 1930.5.A.
Rule 1920.31.A. Joinder of Related Claims. Child and Spousal Support. Alimony. Alimony Pendente Lite. Counsel Fees. Expense. Registration of Alimony. Registration of Foreign Decrees.
(a) (1) Any party to an alimony order/award may register the order/award upon payment of the required fee to the domestic relations
office. Upon registration, and notice to the opposing side, the order/award shall be enforced in the same manner as other support
(b) (1) Petitions to register, adopt and enforce foreign decrees as provided in Section 3705 of the Divorce Code shall be filed with the
(2) All orders for alimony may be subject to automatic wage attachment consistent with Pa.R.C.P. 1910.21..
Prothonotary and shall contain the following:
(2) Upon filing of the petition, the Family Court Administrator is authorized to issue, per curiam, a Rule to Show Cause why the prayer of the said petition should not be granted, returnable in not less than twenty (20) days. Each such rule shall notify respondents that well pled facts of the petitions will be admitted unless an answer specifically denying the same is filed by the close of court on the return date of the rule.
(i) identification of parties and their respective residences;
(ii) a certified copy of the decree and any subsequent modifications; and
(iii) a reference to laws of the issuing state which impact on enforcement of such decree
(3) The petitions shall be served in the same manner as in original process for divorce.
Comment: All requests for registration of an alimony or alimony pendent lite order/award must comply with C.C.R.C.P. 1910.17.A.(e).
(4) All well pled factual averments in the petition shall be deemed admitted unless an answer specifically denying the same is filed on the return date of the rule. The requirements of Pa.R.C.P. 1029 shall apply.
(5) An answer to the petition for registration shall contain all defenses to the requested relief including those based upon jurisdiction and the law of the issuing state. Any statutes or applicable law upon which the respondent-bases his defense shall be cited, and in the case of foreign statutes, a copy of the applicable statute shall be attached.
(6) If no answer has been timely filed, the petitioning party, five (5) days after the return date, may move to have the rule made absolute, granting the prayer of the petition.
(7) When an answer has been timely filed and any issue(s) raised by the petition and answer is (are) ripe for consideration, subject to the provisions of Pa.R.C.P. 206.7, any party may file a praecipe for determination in the form prescribed in C.C.R.C.P. 206.6, with a supporting brief. Responsive briefs shall be filed within fifteen (15) days of the filing of the praecipe for determination.
(8) A decree granting registration and adoption of a foreign decree with respect to alimony or alimony pendente lite may be registered with the Domestic Relations Office in the same manner as provided in C.C.R.C.P. 1920.31.A.
Rule 1920.32.A. Joinder of Related Claims. Custody. Hearing by Court. Joinder of Custody Claim.
If a custody claim is asserted in a divorce complaint, a duplicate copy of the complaint shall be filed with the Prothonotary and it shall receive a docket number separate from the divorce action. Such filing shall contain the information required by Pa.R.C.P. 1915.3(a), 1915.15(a) and C.C.R.C.P. 1915.3.A. An additional filing fee may be required for this duplicate complaint. A copy of the duplicate, with the separate court number, shall be served on the defendant.
Rule 1920.42.A. Affidavit and Decree Under §3301(c) or §3301(d)(1) of the Divorce Code. Notice of Intention to Request Entry of Divorce Decree in §3301(c) and §3301(d)(1)(i) Divorces. Counter-Affidavit. Praecipe to Transmit Record. Incorporation of Agreement in Divorce Decree.
(a) Withdrawal of Claims – Prior to the filing of the praecipe to transmit the record, any ancillary claim that has not been resolved by an agreement to be incorporated into the decree shall be withdrawn by praecipe of the party who raised the claim. All praecipes to withdraw ancillary claims shall include a certification that opposing counsel, any unrepresented party and the Master, if appointed, have been served with a copy of said praecipe and notice of intention to file same at least twenty (20) days prior to the date of its filing. The notice of intention to file the withdrawal of ancillary claims may be waived. Waivers shall be in writing and signed by counsel of record, or the parties and filed of record.
Note: The required notice of intention to file a praecipe to withdraw ancillary claims may be given at the same time as the notice of intention to file a praecipe to transmit the record. The praecipe to withdraw ancillary claims may then be filed immediately prior to the filing of the praecipe to transmit the record.
(b) In those cases where a Master has been appointed, at the time of filing the Notice of Intention to file the Praecipe to Transmit the Record or the Waiver of Notice of Intent with the Prothonotary, the filing party shall notify the Master, in writing, that the action has been settled and file a certification of said notice with the Prothonotary.
(c) Within eight (8) days of the Master’s receipt of a notice of intention to file a praecipe to transmit record, the master shall return the court file to the Prothonotary of Chester County.
(d) If the parties conclude a written agreement as to any or all ancillary matters and desire to have such agreement incorporated in the divorce decree, the agreement to be so incorporated must be filed of record. The Praecipe to Transmit the Record should request incorporation and a written stipulation agreeing to same, executed by the parties and/or their respective counsel, must be filed of record. Should incorporation be included in the agreement, the Praecipe to Transmit the Record shall refer to the paragraph and page number(s) of the agreement at which the terms providing for incorporation may be found.
Rule 1920.43.A. Special Relief.
(a) All petitions for special relief shall be in the form prescribed by C.C.R.C.P. 206.2 and 1930.1.A.(6).
(b) A rule to show cause assigned a return date not sooner than twenty (20) days after the date of filing shall be issued per curiam when presented to the deputy court administrator, family court.
(c) Any petitioner seeking a return date sooner than twenty (20) days of filing, or seeking a rule which stays proceedings or which by its terms grants substantive relief, shall present the petition, proposed order and rule to the signing judge of the Family Court. The court will not enter a stay or grant more immediate relief ex parte unless:
(1) Notice – It appears from the petition or motion that reasonable notice, under the circumstances, of the date, time and place of the presentation of the petition has been given to all counsel and unrepresented parties;
(2) Stipulation – It appears from the petition or motion that there is an agreement by all counsel and unrepresented parties; or
(3) Exigency – The court in its discretion shall determine that there are extraordinary circumstances justifying a stay or more immediate relief.
(d) Immediately after filing documents with the Prothonotary, each party shall serve upon all other counsel and unrepresented parties complete copies of such documents. Within five (5) days of such filing, the moving party shall file with the Prothonotary a separate document certifying such service in the form prescribed by C.C.R.C.P. 206.3.
Rule 1920.46.A. Military Service.
(a) If the defendant has not appeared and the plaintiff avers in the affidavit regarding military service that the defendant is in the military service or that the plaintiff cannot determine whether or not the defendant is in the military service, then the plaintiff shall file with the affidavit a motion and order for the appointment of an attorney to represent the defendant and shall deposit with the Prothonotary four hundred ($400.00) dollars to cover the attorney’s fees.
(b) The attorney appointed to represent the defendant shall promptly perform the following duties:
(1) The attorney shall make diligent inquiry to ascertain the whereabouts of the defendant.
(2) If the attorney ascertains that the defendant is in the military service, the attorney shall inform the defendant of the action pending and ascertain whether the defendant wishes to appear and be heard, shall attend all hearings before the Master, and shall take any action proper to protect the interests of the defendant.
(3) If the defendant is in the military service and wishes to appear and be heard, or if in the opinion of the attorney the defendant is prejudiced by said military service, the attorney shall state this in an interim report filed with the Prothonotary, copies of which shall immediately be served upon the attorney for the plaintiff and the Master, if appointed. In such event all proceedings shall be stayed until further order of the court.
(4) If the attorney cannot ascertain the whereabouts of the defendant or whether or not the defendant is in the military service, the attorney shall, within ninety (90) days from the date of the appointment, file with the Prothonotary an interim report stating what information has been ascertained and what steps were taken to ascertain such information, copies of which report shall immediately be served upon the attorney for the plaintiff and the Master, if appointed. The attorney shall attend all hearings before the Master and taken any action proper to protect the interest of the defendant.
(5) Within ten (10) days after the hearings before the master have closed, the attorney shall file with the Master a final report stating whether or not the defendant’s whereabouts have been ascertained, and if the defendant is in the military service, whether or not the defendant is prejudiced by said military service. This final report shall be attached to and made a part of the report of the Master.
(6) Upon the filing of an interim report resulting in the staying of all proceedings until further order of the court, or upon the filing of a final report, the attorney shall be entitled to receive the two hundred ($200.00) dollars previously filed with the Prothonotary.
Rule 1920.51.A. Hearing by the Court. Appointment of Master. Interim Distribution. Notice of Hearing. Applicable Masters' Fees.
(a) In actions where ancillary claims have been raised and are at issue, or a petition for Interim Distribution has been filed, on the motion of either party, a Master shall be appointed by the court to hear testimony and prepare a report and recommendation.
(b) Motion for Appointment of a Master – A motion for the appointment of a Master may be filed at any time after the filing of a complaint in divorce and shall state specifically what claims are at issue, what claims have been settled by agreement and whether any such agreement is to be entered as a court order. The moving party must be in compliance with Pa.R.C.P. 1920.31 and 1920.33. The motion shall include a certification that the completed inventory has been filed and served on the other party. The motion and order shall be in the form prescribed by Pa.R.C.P. 1920.74(a), (b).
(1) Certification of Service – The movant shall file, along with the motion for appointment of a Master, a certification that opposing counsel or any unrepresented party has been served with a copy of the motion and all other documents required pursuant to subsection (b) hereof.
(2) The motion for the appointment of a Master shall aver whether any acting Master is disqualified from acting as a Master in the action and the basis for the disqualification.
(c) Objections to the Motion for the Appointment of Master shall be filed within ten (10) days of the filing of the motion and shall be in accordance with C.C.R.C.P. 206.2 and 206.6. except that no brief shall be required.
(d) Cover Sheet – Any motion for appointment of a Master shall be filed in the office of the Prothonotary and shall be accompanied by a cover sheet, available at the office of the Prothonotary.
(e) Appointment of Master – Upon filing of the motion for the appointment of a Master, in the form prescribed by Pa.R.C.P. 1920.74, the required cover sheet and the posting of the required fee, the Office of the Prothonotary shall forward the motion to the Masters’ Unit for the scheduling of a preliminary conference. When a party files a motion for the appointment of a Master, the moving party shall pay to the Prothonotary the applicable fee pursuant to this Rule. No Master shall be appointed without such payment.
(f) Applicable Fee – The party filing for the appointment of a Master shall specify on the cover sheet the matters sought to be heard by the Master, which shall determine the applicable fee. In addition to posting the requisite fee, the moving party shall pay ten dollars and thirty-five cents ($10.35) for filing fee with the Prothonotary.¹
(1) The fee for the appointment of a Master to hear only marital dissolution issues shall be $130.
(2) The fee for the appointment of a Master to hear interim issues of alimony pendente lite, counsel fees and/or litigation expenses shall be $100. The party moving for the appointment of a Master to hear a claim for alimony pendent elite shall file a time-stamped copy of the motion filed with the Prothonotary pursuant to subsection (1) hereof and a copy of the receipt or payment of the requisite fee, in the Domestic Relations Office of Chester County. The Domestic Relations Office shall then schedule a conference in accordance with Pa.R.C.P. 1910.12 and C.C.R.C.P. 1910.12.A.
(3) Whenever a party moves for the appointment of a Master to hear equitable distribution of marital property, whether or not there are other claims to be heard by the Master, the moving party shall deposit $500 for the Master’s fee plus ten dollars and thirty-five cents ($10.35) for filing with the Prothonotary.
(g) The above fees are non-refundable.
Comment: All fees are subject to change consistent with the Prothonotary’s published fee schedule which may be found at www.chesco.org.
Rule 1920.51.B. Regular Masters. [Rescinded]
Rule 1920.51.C. Special Masters. [Rescinded]
Rule 1920.51.D. Disqualification of Master. [Rescinded]
Comment: C.C.R.C.P. 1920.51.E. has been moved in its entirety and renumbered as C.C.R.C.P. 1920.51.A.(d)-(g).
Rule 1920.53.A. Hearing by Master. Master's Report.
(a) Master’s Duty To Determine Jurisdiction – the Master shall examine the formal sufficiency and regularity of the proceedings and the question of jurisdiction on the face of the pleading. If defective, but curable by amendment, the Master shall notify counsel and suspend further action until the necessary amendment is made. When the Master is satisfied of the formal sufficiency and regularity of the proceeding and the existence of jurisdiction, the hearing shall proceed as follows:
¹ The filing fee with the Prothonotary is subject to change.
(b) Divorce and Annulment Cases – (Not Involving Equitable Distribution)
(1) Counsel or any unrepresented party shall be provided with written notice of the hearing at least ten (10) days prior thereto.
(2) The plaintiff shall, prior to the hearing, submit to the master a written “Plaintiff’s Record of Testimony” bearing the case caption, and consisting of the following:
(i) The plaintiff’s testimony, in question and answer form, signed and verified by the plaintiff,
(ii) Any exhibits specifically identified in the plaintiff’s evidence, and
(iii) The testimony of each of the plaintiff’s witnesses, in question-and-answer form, signed and verified by the witnesses.
(c) (1) The Master’s hearing in uncontested cases shall be conducted as follows:
(i) At the time of hearing, the plaintiff and all witnesses whose Record of Testimony has been prepared in advance shall be present and shall affirm their prerecorded evidence, under oath or affirmation, in the Master’s presence.
(ii) The Master may examine the plaintiff and the witnesses regarding the prerecorded evidence to evaluate their credibility, and may interrogate them as to any relevant matter whether or not included in the prepared record of testimony.
(iii) The Master, upon being satisfied that the plaintiff’s record of testimony is credible, shall accept it and include it in the Master’s report in lieu of findings on the merits, provided, however, that in the report the Master certifies that:
(a) At the hearing and in the Master’s presence the plaintiff and witnesses offering prerecorded testimony were placed under oath and were examined and that they, by credible evidence, substantiated the facts set forth in the plaintiff’s record of testimony, and
(b) No witness who was sworn or affirmed presented testimony or evidence contrary to the facts set forth in such record testimony,
(c) A report and recommendation of the Master shall issue at some time after the hearing.
(d) The Master’s hearing, in contested divorce and annulment cases, shall be conducted as follows:
(1) The parties shall appear and present evidence, with a Court Reporter present.
(2) The master may inquire of the parties under oath.
Rule 1920.54.A. Hearing by Master. Report. Related Claims.
(a) Preliminary Conference –
(1) A Master shall hold a preliminary conference within thirty (30) days after being appointed to determine the scope of the ancillary issues raised. No stenographic record shall be made of this conference unless requested by a party, and approved by the Master, in which case that party shall engage and bear the cost of the stenographer.
(2) A master may recommend to the court the entry of orders for alimony pendente lite, child support, counsel fees, expenses or costs following the preliminary conference.
(b) Discovery –
(1) Counsel may prepare and submit to the assigned Master and opposing counsel a list of requested discovery at the preliminary conference.
(2) A Master may recommend to the court the entry of orders for discovery, including but not limited to, the filing of an inventory, an income and expense statement and affidavit of vital statistics. Said discovery orders may include discovery deadlines upon the request of either party or at the direction of the Master.
(3) In any divorce matter in which a Master has been appointed, all discovery motions, which do not involve a non-party, filed pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 1930.5 and Pa.R.C.P. 4001 et seq. shall be heard by the Master.
(4) An argument, if requested by either party, shall be scheduled before the Master. At the conclusion of the argument or within a reasonable time, the Master may make a recommendation and advise the parties they have ten (10) days in which to request an argument before the Court. At the conclusion of the ten (10) days, if no objections have been filed, the recommendation shall become an order of the Court. In the event objections are filed, the matter shall be listed, in the normal course of business for argument before the Court. Argument shall be limited to the issues raised by the pleadings.
(5) All Objections shall be in writing and filed within ten (10) calendar days of the recommendation. A copy shall be served upon the Family Court Administrator who shall schedule the case for argument and promptly notify all counsel and unrepresented parties in the case.
(c) Settlement Conference – The Master shall conduct a settlement conference at which both parties shall submit a statement, which:
(1) Gives biographical information of each party, including but not limited to, age, education, occupation, income, health and children;
(2) Contains any updates on valuation of property at issue;
(3) Identifies any and all legal or factual disputes or issues; and
(4) Contains a proposed specific schedule of distribution of all property including the percent of distribution to each party.
(d) Certification of Trial Readiness –
(1) At the conclusion of the settlement conference, if all discovery has been completed, the deadline for discovery has passed, the case has not settled and divorce grounds have been established, the parties may file a Certification of Trial Readiness.
(2) A time-stamped copy of the completed Certification of Trial Readiness shall be served upon the assigned Master and proof thereof, shall be filed with the Prothonotary. Any certificate that fails to include an estimated time of trial will be rejected by the Master and not placed on the Master’s trial list.
(3) Upon receipt of the Certification of Trial Readiness by the Master, the matter shall be placed on the assigned Master’s trial list in accordance with the filing date as indicated by the Prothonotary’s time-stamp.
(4) All certifications of trial readiness shall be filed on blue paper with the Office of the Prothonotary.
Comment: The form certificate has been moved to C.C.R.C.P. 1920.74.A. to be consistent with Pa.R.C.P. 1920.71, et seq.
Note: This form of certification of trial readiness amends the prior form originally published in 1993.
(e) Hearing –
(1) The Master shall hold a formal record hearing for the determination of all matters at issue. Each party shall file a pre-trial statement in conformance with Pa.R.C.P. 1920.33(b) not less than 10 calendar days prior to the scheduled Master’s hearing.
(2) Failure to comply with the above rule may result in the imposition of sanctions recommended by the Master and will, in addition, permit the drawing of adverse inferences by the Master and the court.
(3) A copy of the pre-trial statement shall be served upon the Master and opposing counsel or any unrepresented party. Proof of service shall be filed with the Prothonotary.
(4) The time and place of such hearing shall be designated by the court. Court reporters shall be made available to the Masters. Once a hearing begins, it shall proceed to its conclusion within the limits of the estimated trial time. Thereafter, scheduling shall be consistent with the schedule of the Master.
(5) The Master shall file a report in accordance with Pa.R.C.P. 1920.53, 1920.54 and 1920.55-2(a)(1), (2).
Comment: Exhibits not attached and intended to be used as rebuttal or on cross-examination are still subject to relevancy standards by the finder of fact.
Comment: See generally, Pa.R.C.P. 1920.33.
Rule 1920.53.A. [Rescinded].
Rule 1920.55-2A. Master's Report. Notice. Exceptions. Final Decree.
(a) Dismissal – Exceptions shall be dismissed in any case in which the notes of testimony have not been ordered, and paid for if required, within thirty (30) days of the filing of the exceptions.
(b) Briefs –
(1) No less than three (3) weeks before the date set for oral argument, the excepting party or parties shall file a brief with the Prothonotary, shall serve copies of the brief upon all counsel, unrepresented parties and the judge assigned to hear the exceptions, and shall file a certification that service has been made.
(2) No less than one (1) week before the day set for oral argument, the responding party shall file a brief and certification of service in the manner prescribed in (1) above.
(3) In the event that both parties file exceptions, each party shall be treated as an excepting party for the purposes of the briefing schedule as set forth above.
(c) Argument – If a non-excepting party fails to file a brief within the time prescribed by these rules, or within the time as extended, he will not be heard at oral argument except by permission of the court.
(d) A time-stamped copy of any exceptions filed shall be served upon the assigned Master.
Comment: In order to preserve the issue for review, Exceptions filed to a recommendation for Interim Distribution, Alimony Pendente Lite, Interim Counsel Fees and Date of Separation shall be filed within 20 days of the filing of the Report and Recommendation of the Master. However, oral argument shall be deferred until the filing of the Final Report and Recommendation of the Master.
Rule 1920.72.A. Form of Complain. Affidavit. Affidavit Under §3301(c) or §3301(d) of the Divorce Code. Counter-affidavit. Waiver of Notice of Intention to Request Decree Under §3301(c) and §3301(d). Form of Continuance.
(a) All requests for continuance for any proceeding under these rules shall be in the form prescribed by C.C.R.C.P. 1930.1.A.
(b) All requests for continuance shall be by original motion. No facsimile requests will be accepted.
Rule 1920.74.A. Form of Motion for Appointment of Master. Order. Form of Certification of Trial Readiness-Divorce.
(a) All certifications of trial readiness shall be filed on blue paper with the Office of the Prothonotary. Upon the filing of the certificate, a copy shall be served upon the appointed Master.
(b) The certification of trial readiness shall be substantially in the following form:
Certification of Trial Readiness Divorce
Rule 19301.A. Form of Pleading. Form of Caption. Form of Continuance Request and Order. Form of Rule Returnable.
(a) The form of request for continuance, of matters listed before a Judge, as required by C.C.R.C.P. 1920.72.A.(a) shall be substantially in the following form:
Motion for Continuance - Judge
(2) Motions for continuance/objections may be faxed. Faxes shall be directed to the appropriate department for consideration.
(c) The form of Rule to Show Cause as required by PA.R.C.P.206.6. in Family Matters shall be substantially in the following form:
Rule to Show Cause - Family
Rule 1930.3.A. Testimony by Electronic Means.
(a) The procedure for requesting testimony by electronic means shall be in accordance with C.C.R.C.P. 206.1.A.(1).
(b) Should the court grant a request for testimony by electronic means, the requesting party shall be responsible for all costs by either the initiation of the telephone call or by use of a credit card for payment.
Comment: The court requires no less than 48 hours notice to arrange for the use of specialized equipment.
See generally Pa.R.C.P. 1920.3.
Rule 1930.5.A. Discovery in Domestic Matters. Sanctions.
If a party does not comply with a discovery order, the master may either:
(a) Proceed, nevertheless, to consider the evidence presented by the parties and, in his or her closing report, recommend sanctions against the non-complying party, including deemed admissions on the matters involved; or
(b) Make an immediate recommendation to the court that sanctions of a specified nature be imposed.
Comment: PaR.C.P. 1920.33(a) requires the filing of an inventory by each party within ninety (90) days after service of a pleading or petition containing a claim for determination and distribution of property under Section 3502 of the Divorce Code. Any party who has complied with these Rules may, where appropriate, apply to the court for sanctions pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 4019 if the opposing party has failed to answer interrogatories and/or failed to file a required document. In the event of a successful Application pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 4019, the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County may grant a broad order requiring, inter alia: timely answers to interrogatories; timely production of all relevant documents requested; and, when appropriate, deposition of the uncooperative party. Failure to comply with a court order requiring compliance with mandatory or other discovery will result in the imposition of appropriate sanctions, which may include, inter alia, an award of counsel fees and/or costs.
Comment: Requests for Discovery shall be made in accordance with C.C.R.C.P. 206.1.A.(1).