You’ve decided you’re ready to get divorced, but what do you need to do next? You need to learn how the process works. While divorce is generallly an adversarial action, pitting spouse against spouse, the following articles and legal resources are tailored toward helping individuals navigate the process as smoothly as possible. This section covers no fault divorces, where to file for divorce, serving and answering a divorce petition, the discovery and general family court process, divorce records and related privacy issues, child support and custody, divorce mediation, and more. You’ve come to the right place for an overview of the divorce process.
Legal Requirements to Divorce
You first need to consider where to file for divorce. Typically, this is the county and state where one or both of you live. First, determine if you meet the state’s residency requirements. If you or your spouse are in the military, you may file where currently stationed. However, there are rules to protect active duty servicemembers from civil lawsuits. For more, read the articles on residency, eligibility for divorce, and military divorces here.
Completing and Filing Divorce Petitions
To complete the divorce petition, first consider whether you want a “no fault” or “fault” divorce. Fault divorces are for things such as abuse or adultery, read more in the articles below. If you don’t have any kids or many assets, you could get a “summary” divorce. With children, there’s child custody and child support papers to complete. Find articles explaining the types of divorces, the typical timeline, and even how to change your name in this section.
You can complete divorce forms on your own, at a self-help legal clinic, or with a lawyer. As you don’t want to unnecessarily waive your marital property, spousal support, or other rights, seeking legal advice is a good idea, especially if you have many assets.
Serving Divorce Papers
Once you’ve filed your divorce papers at court, you have to “serve” them on your spouse. Generally, this means another adult must physically give the papers to your spouse. You can use professional servers or save money by having a friend serve the papers for you. If domestic violence is involved, the police in some counties will serve the papers, without charging the usual fee.
Answering a Divorce Petition
Maybe your spouse just served you with dissolution papers. You still have the opportunity to tell the court what you do and don’t want in the divorce. Take care to “answer” within the deadline set by state law. In responding, you can fill out the court forms yourself, at a legal clinic, or with the help of an experienced divorce lawyer. If there are disagreements about what to do with children or property, consideri hiring an attorney.
Mediation and Settling a Divorce Case
Many divorces settle with an agreement both parties can live with. Many states require mediation to help reach a property settlement and a parenting plan everyone can follow. Even without a formal program, you and your spouse can use a “collaborative” divorce process from the beginning or can use an “alternative dispute resolution” specialist to help you settle your divorce, read more by clicking the links below.
Trial and Appeals
If your case goes to trial, you’ll need to present evidence, possibly including testimony from witnesses, so the judge can decide a property settlement for you. It will be easier if you’re represented by an attorney at trial. It’s also possible you want to appeal or modify a divorce judgment. This section provides articles on these topics as well.