Having a divorce is not as easy as breaking up with a partner. There are a lot of things to consider and legal processes to go through. In this article we’ll cover the basics of how to file for divorce.

So how do you file for a divorce if you and your partner have decided that it is time to go your separate ways?

Here are the steps that you need to follow when you are so sure about filing a divorce. 

How To File For Divorce

1. Find Where To File The Divorce

When filing for a divorce, you must do it in your or your partner’s state and county. As for where exactly, visit your local county clerk’s office’s website (or in-person) to find out about the state’s minimum residency requirement. 

You’ll also want to find out if there is a minimum separation period. (More on this in a minute.)

The state’s residency requirement is the required period of how long you have been living in that state. Usually, you must have lived in that state for six months to a year. However, some states have a longer minimum residency requirement. 

Exceptions can be made for particular instances, as well. For instance, if the reason for divorce happened in that state, you may be able to file for a divorce regardless of how long you have been a resident there. 

2. Check If The State Has A Separation Period

If your state has a separation period, you need to live apart before you file for a divorce. A written separation agreement can be submitted as evidence if you have fulfilled the separation period requirement. In some states, they use this document to grant a divorce. 

3. File A Divorce Petition

In order to file a divorce petition, there are many documents you’ll need. Documents required for filing a divorce petition vary from state to state. But here are the general records that you will need to bring when filing a divorce petition:

  • Your and your partner’s name and address 
  • Date and place of your marriage
  • Information about any minor children of the marriage
  • Grounds for divorce
  • A document that proves that you’ve lived in the state for the minimum required amount of time
  • Declarations about how you want to handle property, debt, custody, child support, and visitation

Once you get the needed documents, your state may allow you to file the divorce petition electronically. However, specific states only accept notarized paper submissions. 

You will need three copies of the divorce papers, including one copy for yourself, one copy for your partner, and the original copy for filing. 

4. Ask For Temporary Orders

In your divorce petition, you can ask the court to enact temporary orders. This can usually happen if you have family or financial issues. Such orders may include:

  • Who will be the primary custodial parent for the children
  • Visitation schedule for the noncustodial parent 
  • Child support payments
  • Spousal support payments
  • Waiting period waiver if there is family violence

5. Serve The Divorce Petition To Your Partner

There are various ways to serve your partner the divorce petition. Again, exactly how will vary from state to state. You can do it through the following:

  • Hand delivery – your partner has to sign the Acceptance of Service document.
  • First-Class Mail – your partner has to sign the Acknowledgment form and mail it back to you.
  • Third-Party – You can either have someone, either a friend, relative, or authority, serve the petition to your partner. The third-party has to sign and mail an Affidavit of Service.
  • Publication – this becomes necessary if your partner cannot be located and you have the judge’s permission. 

6. File Proof Of Service And Wait For Your Partner’s Response

Submit your proof of service to the court clerk. The evidence of service is the documents stated in step 5: the Acceptance of Service, Acknowledgment form, Affidavit of Service, or a statement coming from the newspaper if it is done through publication. 

In most states, the law allows up to 30 days for your partner to respond to your divorce petition. If your spouse did not respond within the given time frame, you could file for a default divorce. During a default divorce, the court will review and most likely approve the terms in your original divorce petition. 

If your partner does not contest the petition, you will go directly to the writing of a divorce settlement. However, suppose your partner contests the petition. In that case, both parties will prepare for the preliminary declaration of disclosure and present all of your assets and property.

If this seems a bit overwhelming, it is. This is one reason why many people hire a divorce attorney to help guide them through the process.

How To File For Divorce – By State

Each state has its own rules and law when it comes to how to file for a divorce. Below are links to articles that cover the specifics for each state.

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