Like any legal process, there are steps that are required before a divorce can be finalized. So, 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 generally an adversarial action, pitting spouse against spouse, attorneys are available for helping individuals navigate the process as smoothly as possible. Divorces require legal documents, typically, both spouses are from the same county and state. 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 service members from civil lawsuits.
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.
Divorce forms can be completed on one’s 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.
Once the divorce papers have been filed 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. The fee is usually changes depending on the state you live in.
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, consider hiring an attorney. 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.
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.