The Master in Divorce is a Court-appointed attorney assigned to resolve contested divorce and annulment actions including distribution of marital property and post-divorce alimony. The Master in Divorce does not provide legal advice or assist parties in filing for divorce. Forms and instructions for filing an uncontested divorce are available at the Self-Help section of our website.
Appointment of the Master
The Master in Divorce is appointed to a case when one of the parties involved files a Motion for the Appointment of the Master with the Clerk of Courts. The Motion for Appointment must be accompanied by an Inventory as required by the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure and the appropriate filing fee as designated by Lehigh County.
What Happens Next?
After the Master is appointed he schedules a conference where the parties or their attorneys if they are represented give their overview of the case and request information from one another in order to make or defend claims made in the case. For example, one party may have been in control of paying the debts of the marriage and so the opposing party may ask for copies of relevant credit card statements to ascertain the status of the parties' debts. That type of information along with all other documents and other information relevant to the case is discussed and addressed at the time of the initial master's conference.
About two months later after the parties have exchanged all information a half-day settlement conference is held. Additional settlement conferences can be scheduled so long as both parties agree to participate in good faith in discussions to resolve the matter.
If the matter cannot be resolved after one or more settlement conferences and grounds for divorce/annulment have been established, the Master holds a formal hearing where testimony and evidence are presented. Rules of Court and Rules of Evidence apply to hearings and pro se (unrepresented) litigants must follow the same rules as attorneys follow. A particular case may require less than one day of hearing or multiple hearing dates, depending on the complexity of the case.
Once the hearing is concluded the parties must pay the fee for a transcript of the notes of testimony. The Master reviews the evidence, and prepares a Report which summarizes the proceedings and provides the Master's findings of fact, conclusions of law and recommendations for disposition of the case. If there is no challenge to the findings and recommendations, an Order is entered as to all claims raised by the parties.
What is the Cost?
The fee to file a divorce action is set yearly by the Clerk of Judicial Records. As of May 2009, the fee to file a Motion for Appointment is $250.00. If there is a hearing or hearings, each party is responsible for fifty percent of all stenographic service fees (appearance fees and transcription fees). Those fees typically range from $500.00-$1,000.00 per day of hearing, depending mainly upon the amount of testimony provided on the given date.
For More Information
The office of the Master in Divorce can provide information about court procedure, but cannot provide legal advice. For legal advice consult an attorney. For help finding an attorney contact The Bar Association of Lehigh County, Lawyer Referral Service, (610) 433-7094. To access forms and information to file an uncontested divorce click here.
The Master in Divorce is part of the Family Court Division of Lehigh County Court. Other offices in this division are the Child Custody Office and the Protection from Abuse Office. Domestic Relations which handles support for children and dependent spouses, is also part of the Family Court Division, but is located at 14 North Sixth Street, Allentown.
Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas, 455 West Hamilton Street, Allentown, PA 18101-1614 • (610) 782-3000