10 Steps to Filing a Divorce
Divorce laws vary from one region to another. Legal process is needed in a divorce for settling common issues such as alimony, child support, child custody, division of debt, and distribution of property.
The Procedures to Follow on Filing a Divorce
A divorce can be a long and complicated process if one does not know the right guidelines to follow and the rules that should be followed. Here is a detailed outline of the steps to go through on divorce petition:
- Determine whether you want to retain legal counsel.
Divorce cases can be pushed through on your own provided you have all the right documents or through the help of a legal counsel or a licensed process server.
- Determine the various types of divorce and where your failing marriage fits in. Comply with the requirements needed.
- No-Fault Divorce: No one is at fault and divorce is being filed due to irreconcilable differences or plain incompatibility. No further explanation or proof will be asked.
- Uncontested Divorce: Both spouses come to a mutual agreement on ending the marriage, as well as, division of all assets.
- Simplified Divorce: The quickest form as it is usually granted within 30 days of filing in some states. This is a combination of no-fault and uncontested divorce that happens when there is so little at stake – short marriage, no children, and very few assets.
- Fault-Based Divorce: This is the really messy type where spouses have to show proofs of the faults made by the spouse at fault.
Here is a quick overview on the different types of divorce for you to have an idea on which category you fall. This will give you better understanding on the steps after.
- Preparation of paperwork.
The main document required to in filing a divorce is the petition or complaint for divorce. This contains all the marriage facts along with the reasons for wanting to end the marriage. Lawyers and legal process servers can get this form for you and can guide you on filling it up.
However, if you are doing it alone, a standard form petition or complaint can be obtained from the clerk of court.
- Marital Settlement/Financial Statement Form.
This is an optional written document that states all the divorce agreements regarding children, property, and support. The form should be signed by both spouses and notarized.
This is usually done in no-fault divorces where all issues are solved by spouses only and the judge will have no say regarding the settlement.
- Completion of Petition or Complaint
This is to be accomplished along with the appearance, consent, and waiver form. Upon completion, the form should be taken to the respective clerk or court of the county the spouse is currently residing. A filing fee is to be paid. This varies from courts across the country. However, the fee can be waived given proof of financial hardship.
The “petitioner” refers to the spouse requesting the divorce. The “respondent” is the spouse responding to the petition.
- Child Custody Jurisdiction Form
This is optional should there be children involved.
- Petition or Complaint Serving
- Acceptance of Service
- First Class Mail, with acknowledgement
- Certified Mail, return receipt requested
- Personal Service by Sheriff or a Process Server
Upon filing of all the divorce papers, it is necessary to serve the spouse of the divorce petition. This is to let the spouse know that the process is already being started at the court. However, for the divorce process to fully proceed, the court will need proof that the spouse has been served.
If a legal counsel is taking care of your divorce, he/she will be taking care of this. If you are doing the works yourself, here are ways on how to serve the divorce petition:
Among these options, the best known efficient way is through personal service by a process server. The mail options are risky and can sometimes be a waste of time.
- Responding to the Petition
The respondent is typically given 30 days to respond to the petition with all the required information or face contempt of court charges. Mediation also occurs during this stage should there be possibility of any.
- Divorce Settlement/Trial
Divorce settlement is the better option than having to go through the trial to reach an agreement.
- Mandatory Waiting Period
This differs from one state to another. This is the length of time a couple must wait after filing for divorce petition and the time the court issues a final decree.
Filing for a divorce petition can be a tiring, emotionally and financially draining process. This is especially time consuming for someone who works full time but does not want to hire a legal counsel on the first few steps of the divorce process. A process server can be of great help to these people as they will be the ones filing court papers, document retrieval, and serving of petition along with other needed services.