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Filing for divorce is a legal process. If you don’t follow the proper procedure, your case may be delayed or ultimately dismissed. Here’s a rundown of what you’ll need to do to file for divorce correctly.
Here is a step-by-step breakdown of how to file for divorce:
You’ll need to file for divorce in the state and the county where you or your spouse live. Visit your local county clerk’s office’s website or in-person to determine your state’s minimum residency requirement and if you have a mandatory separation period.
When the time comes, you’ll need to file for divorce with your local county clerk or through an online divorce service.
While online divorce requirements vary by state, many couples can file for divorce online if they have an uncontested divorce. Instead of navigating the waters yourself, online divorce services guide you through the divorce process from beginning to end, including what forms to fill out and how to file them with the local court.
To file for an online divorce, you’ll need to:
If your state has a separation period, you’ll need to live apart before you file. You might consider a written separation agreement to submit it as evidence that you’ve fulfilled the separation period requirement.
Some states can grant a divorce if the couple has lived under the terms of a separation agreement for a specific time period.
Gather all the documents and information you’ll need to file divorce papers. Although requirements vary from state to state, you’ll generally need:
Your state may allow you to file the divorce petition electronically. Some states only accept notarized paper submissions. Check with your local county clerk for your state’s filing process.
You’ll generally need to make three copies of the divorce papers: one for yourself, one for your spouse, and the original for filing. The county clerk will stamp all three copies.
In your divorce petition, you can ask the court to enact temporary orders regarding family and financial issues. A few temporary orders include:
Each state has a specific procedure for serving legal documents. If your divorce petition isn’t delivered legally, you’ll run into issues later.
Depending on where you live, you may serve your spouse divorce papers by:
Submit your proof of service to the court clerk, such as the Acceptance of Service, Acknowledgment or Affidavit of Service document. If you did served by publication, you’ll need to show the court a copy of the notice and submit a statement from the newspaper verifying the ad.
The amount of time your spouse gets to file a response to your petition varies by state.
Most states allow a spouse 20 to 30 days to respond to a divorce petition. If your spouse doesn’t respond within the time frame, you can request a default divorce. The court will review and most likely approve the terms you outlined in your original divorce petition.
If your spouse doesn’t contest the divorce, you’ll go straight into writing a divorce settlement and typically have a faster divorce. You’ll submit all documents and set a date for your divorce hearing. At your hearing, a judge may ask you a few questions and issue your final divorce decree.
On the other hand, if your partner contests the divorce, both parties will prepare for the preliminary declaration of disclosure, where you’ll present all of your assets or property. If you can’t negotiate a settlement, you’ll go to trial, present your cases and the court will enter the final judgment of your divorce.
An uncontested divorce is easier to navigate than a contested divorce. And you can probably skip the time-consuming and costly trial. Or you may even be eligible to do the entire process online.
Be sure to check your state’s divorce laws by contacting your local county clerk’s office. For more information on divorce, start by reading our divorce guide.
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