How to File for Divorce

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There’s Nothing Easy About Divorce

A divorce is never easy, from emotional pain to physical and legal requirements. Even if the divorce is amicable and there is a mutual agreement, the process of filing for divorce could get overwhelming. Therefore, understanding how to file for divorce properly from the get-go is better to avoid a mix-up or future complications.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

Typically, a divorce could either be contested or uncontested. When your divorce is contested, you and your soon-to-be ex don’t agree on some or all of the dissolution terms or there are matters involving children. It usually requires a judge to settle the matter via divorce proceedings in a family court. Both parties can call witnesses and would usually have attorneys representing them.

Contrary to contested divorces, uncontested divorces are much simpler and take less time since the parties have already agreed on the terms of the dissolution. In this scenario, you and your spouse draw up a marital settlement agreement, which is a written copy of your divorce agreement. These agreements usually deal with financial matters, property division, and, if necessary, spousal support or alimony.

You can go through an uncontested divorce process without the help of a lawyer, but hiring an attorney offering divorce services may be advantageous. They can help you define terms more clearly and include terms you may not have thought of to avoid future hassles. Divorce typically revolves around the mother’s rights and father’s rights after separation. A family lawyer can help you secure your parental rights after separation.

While filing a divorce is the same regardless of the type, a contested divorce will require evidence, more money, time, logistics, and so on.

Filing for an Uncontested Divorce

These are the steps to follow if you and your partner agree on all the divorce terms.

Fill Out Forms

The primary forms you’ll need to fill out are the petition and summons forms. A petition form is a preliminary form that spells out what you are applying for. You will fill in details about your residency to check if you meet the requirements. The residency requirements vary by state. 

The petition must also contain basic contact information and general information about you and your marriage. Be sure to fill it with information based on what you and your spouse have agreed on.

A court clerk can advise you on whether there are additional forms that must be filled out. Even though the process may seem straightforward, Family Court Direct is always available to assist with document preparation services through its independent legal professionals.

File the Divorce Papers

Forms must be filed with the court, and a filing fee must be paid. The filing fee varies by area. If you cannot afford the fee, you may be able to request a waiver from the court.

You will need to give the court clerk the original forms after making two copies – one will belong to you, and the other will be served on your spouse.

Serve the Papers and Await a Response

When the divorce petition is filed, your spouse will receive a summons, which will specify how the court can hear your spouse and how long they have to respond.

The spouse who files for divorce is referred to as the petitioner or plaintiff, while the other spouse is the respondent. The respondent does not need to respond if they agree with the documents received. If this is the case, you, as the petitioner, can apply for a default divorce. Alternatively, your spouse can file a response agreeing with the petition’s content.

Filing for a Contested Divorce

As with an uncontested divorce, filing papers in a contested divorce is generally the same, though your spouse may disagree with some of the content. Instead of having a court trial, you can try to resolve the crucial issues concerning your divorce through mediation or negotiation.

You can come up with a mutually beneficial settlement through mediation with the assistance of a  family law attorney.

Motion for Temporary Orders

If the court must make rulings on issues such as property sharing, child custody, some other financial disagreements, and so on, you can apply for a motion for temporary orders. This means that the court will make quick interim decisions concerning contested vital issues while the divorce proceedings are ongoing and until there is a permanent judgement.

Most states require a waiting period before a divorce comes into effect after the final judgement; it could be about six months. During this period, a child or dependent spouse may suffer hardship if temporary court orders do not define the interim arrangement.

Settlement

The parties in a divorce case can decide to settle out of court at any point, and you can present your agreement to the judge instead. In some states, the family court may mandate you and your spouse to go for court-ordered mediation.

If this happens, your divorce goes from a contested to an uncontested one, and you can wrap it up much faster.

Summary Dissolution 

Some states offer the option of an expedited divorce process to couples that meet specific criteria. It could be the way to go if both parties agree to it and meet all the requirements, for example, the couple has no minor children, or they have not been married for more than a few years, etc. A summary divorce usually requires much less paperwork and time than a regular divorce, even if it is uncontested.

Whether or not your divorce is contested, support from an experienced professional can hugely benefit you. Get an evaluation from Family Court Direct today to connect with quality and affordable legal services.