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How do I File for Divorce?

Article Details
  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 08 January 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2019
    Conjecture Corporation
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In order to file for divorce, you will first need to understand and follow the legal process established for divorce in your area. In many places, this process includes determining the jurisdiction in which you should file your divorce petition, ensuring that you have legitimate grounds for divorce, and filling out the appropriate paperwork and filing it with the court. Then you must serve your spouse with notice of the divorce, negotiate a settlement, and appear in court to ask a judge to grant the divorce. While it is generally advisable to have an attorney represent you, in some places it is possible to file for divorce on your own.

Whether you choose to file your own divorce or to ask an attorney to do it for you, it is generally a good idea to at least speak to a lawyer who can advise you of your legal rights and the likely outcome of your case given your current circumstances. A lawyer can also inform you as to the jurisdiction in which you need to file your divorce. In the United States, residents typically must file for divorce at the courthouse serving the county in which they or their spouse live. The legal forms to file for divorce are typically available at the courthouse, but may also be available online through the courthouse's website or through an online divorce service.

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Typically, divorce forms require that you state your reasons for divorce so that the court can determine whether you actually have legal grounds to do so. In addition, you may be required to fill out a proposed financial settlement and, if you have children, a child custody and visitation agreement. Once this is completed, you must usually file the forms in court and then arrange to have the forms legally served to your spouse. The process of legal service varies considerably by jurisdiction, so it is a good idea to check the law in your area. In some cases, it is legal to serve someone with papers through registered mail, while in other cases, only a law-enforcement official can legally serve papers.

Your spouse may have the right to legally respond to your request for a divorce and your divorce settlement. If your spouse challenges any aspect of the divorce, the court may order you both into mediation or may schedule a trial in which your disagreements will be settled by a judge. As this can become both costly and time-consuming, it is generally a good idea to get these matters settled before you file for divorce. Once you and your spouse are in agreement or the judge has decided the particulars of your case for you, the court can then grant your divorce.

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