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Steps for Filing for Divorce


Every state has a specific process to get a divorce.

Some states prefer to use the terms “dissolution of marriage”, rather then the word “divorce”.  Although relatively the same definition.  Below are a few steps to filing a divorce.

First Step: Communicating with your Spouse

An irate bitter divorce will only lead to a longer and more expensive one.  If you and your spouse are able to come to an agreement between the division of your marital property and the custody of any children, the divorce will be less difficult then those matters in a dispute.  Majority of couples are not fortunate enough to go into an “uncontested divorce”, and will have to go through the “contested divorce” proceedings in the courtroom.

Second Step: Discussing the Division of your Assets and Property

Each individual state will divide both parties property obtaining during their marriage.  Every state allows each party to determine how the property should be split.  If the two cannot come to an agreement, the judge will then split the property.  Most states have either “community property” or “equitable distribution” divisions.  In community property states the marital property and assets will be divided equally.  A court does not have the authority to base off of income, wealth or other contribution to the marriage.  In an equitable distribution state, a spouse is entitled to a portion of the marital property to their contribution to the marriage.  This means both financial and non-financial elements of the marriage such as raising children and taking care of the home.

Step Three:  Consult a Lawyer

State law governs multiple items related to a divorcing couple such as grounds for divorce, marital property and if a couple is legally separated for any duration of time before the divorce may be granted.

Step Four:  Know your state grounds for divorce

Some states allow a “no fault” divorce where the parties do not have to have a reason for divorce beyond irreconcilable differences.  If your state requires “fault” before the divorce can be granted, there may only be specific grounds which you are legally entitled to a divorce.  A few examples of a fault divorce are adultery, abuse etc.

Step Five: File for Legal Separation

Some states require that couples be separated for a certain amount of time before a divorce may be awarded.  Some states only require that a couple live apart from each other for a specific amount of time.  Some other states require filing a notice of the separation which the court as well.  All requirements will have to be met before a court will accept a divorce application.

Step Six: Be sure to gather all Financial Information

In a divorce the spouse’s assets and debts will be split.  When a divorce petition is filed, most states require a detailed financial data to help the judge determine child or spousal support orders if this may apply.

Step Seven: File the Petition for Divorce

If you choose to hire a lawyer, it is best you have him there representing you.  Some jurisdictions may have different forms for your divorce based on your divorce situation.  If you do not have an attorney this is the information that you most likely will be required to provide for the court:

-Present both yourself and your spouse

-Name and ages of any children that you have and current resident status

-Identify all martial property and debts and your individual income and assets.

When the petition is filed most states require the plaintiff provide three or more copies of the petition and summons.  A summons is a court requiring a party to answer a complaint and appear before the court.  The clerk will then stamp all copies and give you back two, one for yourself and one copy for you to serve on your spouse.

Step Eight: Pay the Court Costs

When a petition is filed the clerk will require that you pay the appropriate court fees.  If you are indigent you may ask the court to waive the fees, which may be included on the complaint form or may require a separate form.

Step Nine: Serve Your Spouse the Divorce Papers

The party who files a court action is responsible for serving the other parties to the lawsuit.  Serving the other party means giving them a physical copy of the petition you filed as well as the summons.  In most states you may serve the other party through the mail or by having another person serve the defendant in person.  In some jurisdictions you may pay a fee to have the Sheriff serve the opposing party for you.  Most states do not allow a plaintiff to personally serve a defendant.

Step Ten:  Provide the Court with Proof of Service

After the defendant has been served most states require the plaintiff submit a “proof of service” with the court.  In this document the person who served the defendant must attest to the service, how and when the party was served.  The proof of service may be a part of the petition or may be a separate form.

Due to divorces being complex and emotional events, most parties have an attorney represent them.  The other option would be to try a do-it-yourself divorce process.   If you decide to try this process you can begin by simply going to www.mydivorcedocuments.com and purchase your specific state down-loadable forms and kit.

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