The phylogenetic structure of ferns (= monilophytes) is explored here, with a special focus on the early divergences among leptosporangiate lineages. Despite considerable progress in our understanding of fern relationships, a rigorous and comprehensive analysis of the early leptosporangiate divergences was lacking. Therefore, a data set was designed here to include critical taxa that were not included in earlier studies. More than 5000 bp from the plastid (rbcL, atpB, rps4) and the nuclear (18S rDNA) genomes were sequenced for 62 taxa. Phylogenetic analyses of these data (1) confirm that Osmundaceae are sister to the rest of the leptosporangiates, (2) resolve a diverse set of ferns formerly thought to be a subsequent grade as possibly monophyletic (((Dipteridaceae, Matoniaceae), Gleicheniaceae), Hymenophyllaceae), and (3) place schizaeoid ferns as sister to a large clade of "core leptosporangiates" that includes heterosporous ferns, tree ferns, and polypods. Divergence time estimates for ferns are reported from penalized likelihood analyses of our molecular data, with constraints from a reassessment of the fossil record.