how to file for a divorce

How to File for a Divorce

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Divorce is a difficult time, and it can be made even difficult because you might not know where to start. It’s a tough, chaotic time, but we hope this article will be able to help you through the trying process of filing for a divorce.

The first thing to do is look up the divorce procedures in your home city or county (depending on if you live in the US or not). Doing a little google searching can go a long way.

  • Figure out any minimum residency requirements. Some US states require you live in a place for six month or longer in order to file for divorce. However, your spouse might not have to live there for you to file.
  • Most likely, you will have to file in the area where you live, not in the state where you got married (if they’re different). Sometimes, couples marry in other states for legal reasons, such as same sex couples. If this is the case, exceptions are sometimes made to accommodate the couple.

Consider how children, pets, and other assets will be split.

Divorce can be messy and  feelings hurt and sometimes, one or both party may not be particularly easy to negotiate with when it comes to division of assets.  Together, decide on custody and child support arrangements for children and who gets what property. A divorce mission statement more clearly outline what each of you wants and expects to come from the separation. Remember to try to consider the best interest of the others involved (ie pets and children), and avoid using your family as pawns in a conflict with your ex spouse.

Decide on the right divorce lawyer. Or if you even need a lawyer at all.

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spouse don’t have children and don’t contest any property right, then you could instead try to find an experienced divorce mediator. That way, you have an unbiased third-party that can help you and your spouse decide how to split your assets.

  • However, if you do decide to get a divorce lawyer, find one that’s local, in your price range, and is willing to work with your case.

Should you decide to hire a lawyer, acquire financial information before meeting with them. Document your assets like real estate, bank account, and personal property information, but also any debt, such as mortgages and any outstanding joint credit card debt you may have.

Meet with your lawyer and discuss any questions you may have. You should each present the ideal outcome for, provide necessary documentation or assets and debts, and prepare questions specific to your divorce to ask your lawyer. Don’t feel silly asking questions, divorce is a legal process and you have employed this person to help you through it. Even if you want to represent yourself, talking to a lawyer can clear up and preliminary confusion you have and help you get started on the divorce process.

Fill out your court forms. Either visit the courthouse in person or obtain the right documents online. The spouse filing the divorce is called the “Petitioner” and the person receiving the petition is the “Respondent.” In a no-fault divorce, you’ll be filing because of “irreconcilable differences.” For anything else specific to your situation, fill out the information completely and to the best of your abilities. When in doubt, contact your divorce lawyer for clarification. To ensure a smooth process, make sure to correctly complete your forms and again, if unsure, consult with your lawyer.

“Serve” the papers to your spouse. This is notifying your spouse that you filed the divorce petitions. Until your spouse has the papers, the court can’t move forward with processing the divorce. If you need it, you can find a “server” to give your spouse the papers. Legally, you can’t serve the forms yourself. However, any person over 18 years old can serve them as well as professionals or a member of law enforcement. The forms must be delivered physically in person, but some cases allow mail if that was agreed upon with you and your spouse. Once delivered, the server should fill out a Proof of Service form, which you should copy and file with the courts.

After filing the petition, Disclose Finances to the Court. Both parties must disclose financial information so the the court can move ahead. In some cases, a formal document  called a Declaration of Disclosure is necessary, especially in cases where there are a lot of assets or one major bread winner in the household. Otherwise a more simple financial statement may be sufficient. You lawyer will be able to advise on which option which one would be right for you. In either case, though, you’ll have to attach your  tax information.

Once more, you must serve your spouse the financial disclosure forms. Your spouse should serve the final disclosure forms to you too, to show that you’ve agreed on which assets to split/how to split them. Make a copy of these forms (both sets), as the court won’t retain these in their files.  These are just for your records should a property or asset dispute come up in the future.

Create an agreement with your spouse. Your lawyer can help you write up a statement regarding how which assets are split.  Ensure to notarize this document to make it legally binding.. If your spouse avoided filling out your Declaration of Disclosure or responding to your petition after thirty days, you will have to fill out your final forms without first writing up the agreement.

With that, fill out the final forms. These forms regard child custody and child support, assets and debts, and other specifics of your situation, as to custody of pets etc. Your lawyer can double check these forms to make sure they’re accurate and complete. As always, copy  and file these with the court.

After the long divorce process, with lots of forms and filing, all you’ll have to do now is wait to receive your judgment. The court will notify you of any final steps, if any you need to take to make your divorce legal. If you and your spouse are happy with the decision, that will be it. In the difficult situation where the divorce in contested, a court hearing may be required.

Divorce can be emotionally and mentally draining, as well as confusing. Not only do you have to start rebuilding your life, but you can get caught up in administrative details, keeping you constrained in an unhappy situation. We hope this cleared up any confusion and that you now feel better prepared for the divorce process.

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