The Process of Filing for Divorce


Depending on your situation and your relationship with your spouse, the process of divorce can be simple or complicated. Divorce laws vary by state, but the initial process of filing looks fairly similar across various jurisdictions. With some slight variations, you can expect your filing process to follow roughly the same pattern.


  1. Initial Paperwork

To start the divorce process, you need to file paperwork with the court. In some jurisdictions, this is called a petition, while in others it is called a complaint. Whatever you call it, it serves the same function and has essentially the same components. You use it to outline the reasons for which you are seeking the divorce and the provisions that you want the court to grant as it relates to child custody, spousal support, and related matters.


  1. Spousal Notification

The court must serve the divorce papers to your spouse to notify him or her of your filing. Serving papers simply means delivering them by hand so that he or she cannot claim ignorance of your divorce filing. Most jurisdictions require that a third party serve the papers and do not allow you to serve them yourself.


  1. Respondent’s Answer

Once your spouse has received the divorce papers, he or she has the opportunity to issue an answer to the court. In other words, as the respondent, your spouse can tell his or her side of the story and request the provisions that he or she wants in the divorce decree. Your spouse has only a limited amount of time in which to submit an answer, often as little as 30 days. If your spouse does not respond within the time limit, the court may issue a summary judgment in your favor.


  1. Residency Requirements

Before you can file for divorce, you have to meet the residency requirements in your state. You can only file for divorce in a state where you live. However, some states require a longer residency before filing than others. For example, some states allow you to file for divorce as long as you are a resident at the time of filing. Other states will not allow you to file for divorce until you have lived there for a certain time period, usually six months to a year.


A divorce lawyer can determine whether you meet the filing requirements imposed by the state and guide you through the process of filing for divorce. Contact an attorney today to arrange a consultation to get the process started.