How to File for Divorce

Filing for divorce is a legal process, and as such, it often involves a lot of paperwork to document that all relevant laws were followed during the divorce proceedings. For this reason, divorce attorneys are helpful because they are familiar with the laws surrounding divorce, particularly involving issues like division of property and child custody, as well as having experience with the different documents and paperwork needed during the process, and they can help you understand how to file for divorce.

Part of the process of filing for divorce is for the filing spouse to determine if it is a fault or no-fault divorce. Many states offer no-fault divorces, where the explanation for the dissolution of the marriage is something to the effect of “irreconcilable differences”. But plenty of states also offer the option for a fault divorce as well, wherein one spouse would accuse the other spouse of something that caused the breakdown of their marriage. Such fault reasons include adultery, abandonment, and addiction, but there are other reasons as well that are more specific, and each state has different laws regarding fault and no-fault divorces, though often these laws are similar. One of the first legal steps involving documentation when filing for divorce is the petition of complaint, which must be filed with the court. The petition can be filed by either spouse, but in fault divorces, the filing spouse is often the injured party.

Custody during the divorce process is also something that is documented with the courts. A temporary custody arrangement is made and the spouses file papers to attest to the details of the arrangement. One thing to take note of during the divorce proceedings is that the non-filing spouse will be served with divorce papers, and depending on the circumstances of the divorce—i.e. whether the divorce decision was mutual or whether it may come as a surprise to the non-filing spouse—the filing spouse may want to be courteous by notifying the non-filing spouse or requesting that the papers be served in a less public fashion.

During the divorce, a marital settlement agreement is created. This agreement outlines various aspects of the divorce and conveys the decisions that the two parties, or in some cases, the courts, have come to regarding issues like property distribution, child or spousal support, custody arrangements, and assignment of debts that were acquired during the marriage. Once all the terms of the agreement have been settled, the document has to be signed by each spouse, and because it is an official legal document, the signatures must be witnessed by a notary.

Some of the other documents involved in the divorce proceedings are: a petition of complaint, a financial statement, a child custody jurisdiction form if the marriage resulted in children, and a final judgment. All of these documents are legally binding and must be signed by the divorcing spouses, and a notary must witness their signatures. Filing these documents with the county clerk’s office may be done by the spouses, or by the lawyers, if the lawyers are involved.

Filing for divorce can be a long process, but keeping the paperwork in order can go a long way to relieving some of the stress that a process like that can cause. Using attorneys in a divorce can be helpful if only to exact more certitude about how to file for divorce as it pertains to the proper documentation involved and to be sure that the papers are filed correctly.