How to Get Divorced – Tips for Filing for Divorce
You can get a divorce in 3 ways:
- Do it yourself without help
- Hire a divorce attorney
- Use an online divorce service to complete the paperwork for you.
This is the cheapest method, but it also requires you to take the time to complete the paperwork. You may make mistakes that can delay the divorce process. In order to divorce yourself, it is best that you and your spouse agree on all issues. If you don’t, you can represent yourself in a contested divorce case, but if your spouse has an attorney, you will be at a significant disadvantage.
Divorce with a lawyer
I recommend this if you and your spouse cannot agree on the terms of the divorce or if your divorce is complex (involving many assets and/or complex child custody issues). However, if your divorce is easy and all the terms of the divorce have been agreed between you and your spouse, then you can do it yourself – with or without the help of a divorce office.
Using an online divorce service
The Divorce Office does not provide you with legal advice. Instead, you answer questions about your divorce and then the divorce office fills out the paperwork for you for a fee. This is usually much cheaper than hiring a lawyer to fill out the paperwork for you, and saves you the trouble of figuring out the paperwork yourself.
If you are not comfortable processing your divorce without legal advice, you can complete the paperwork and then arrange a consultation with an attorney. You will pay for that time. Some divorce attorneys will review the documents, get an idea of what is involved in your divorce, and then give you an opinion on whether the terms are reasonable.
Legal requirements for divorce
You file for divorce in a certain state or province. In other words, it’s not done federally.
Stay for divorce
Each state and province requires that you or your spouse have resided for a certain period of time before you are eligible to file for divorce in that state or province. Six months is common, but it can be shorter.
Most states/provinces have a waiting period from the date you file your papers to the date your divorce decree is issued. Waiting periods are usually 6 to 12 months.
Legal grounds for divorce
More states and provinces are allowing no-fault divorce. This means that you file for divorce on the basis that the marriage is permanent. The legal language is “irreconcilable differences”. This ground for divorce does not blame either party.
Some states and provinces still have guilt-based grounds, such as substance abuse, cruelty, adultery, and other grounds.
Main issues in divorce
The main problems in divorce are:
- Division of property
- Separation of debt
- Child/Spousal Support
- Child custody
Not all divorce situations will involve all of these issues. Every divorce situation is different. However, when these issues arise, they must be resolved at some point in the divorce process. This can be done early in the process by agreement between you and your spouse. Sometimes, when no agreement is reached, issues must be referred to mediation and/or court.
How to File for Divorce
Please note that this article is generally speaking. Divorce is governed by each state and province, and therefore there are specific laws for filing for divorce in each state and province.
This means that you usually file for divorce through a Petition for Divorce (it may be called something different in some jurisdictions – but it’s the same thing). One spouse completes and files the divorce petition with the court.
The petition states:
- the grounds (fault or no fault)
- key information about the parties and the marriage, such as children, place and date of marriage, names of the parties, property information, child custody information, and/or support information (child and/or spouse).
Once the petition is successfully filed in court, then the petitioning party must serve a filed copy on the other spouse, who is called the respondent or responding party.
If the divorce is uncontested, meaning that all terms have been agreed upon between the parties, then the respondent only needs to sign an acknowledgment of receipt of service of the petition. If you cannot find the other spouse to serve the petition, you may need to hire a processing server to handle the service.
It is important to file the petition according to the rules of your state or province. If the service is not done correctly, your divorce proceedings will be delayed. You may not receive your divorce decree until service is properly done.
The waiting period
Most states and provinces have a waiting period until a divorce decree (also known as a decree or order) is issued. The length of the waiting period varies by state and province. Once you properly serve the petition, the waiting period usually begins. Service of a petition is a start date because spouses cannot move children out of the jurisdiction, sell property, take out a loan against property, or sell insurance held for the other spouse until the divorce is finalized.
If you need to take a step such as moving children out of the jurisdiction, you must apply to the court for an order in accordance with what you want to do.
If the respondent contests the divorce, he can file an answer to the petition. This will trigger a legal process in the courts where you will have to participate in order to resolve the divorce issues.
If the respondent does not file an answer, then the petitioner may seek a default order within 30 days of service (or whatever time the respondent has to answer in the particular state or province).
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