How to File for Divorce

People always ask how to file for divorce, Divorce can be a simple process that you can do on your own. Believe it or not, you don’t need to hire an expensive lawyer or a big-time family matters law firm to make sure that your divorce is smooth and easy. Unfortunately, not all people going through a divorce can split up amicably. If there is any kind of dispute regarding custody of any child in your family or issues regarding the division of property, you may have no choice but to hire a specialist divorce lawyer. What are the best circumstances for a quick and easy divorce?

If you are childless and have little property shared with your spouse, then you can quickly check out online resources on how to file for divorce. Such information is simple and straightforward. In many jurisdictions, you only need to fill out some forms, and you are good to go. It is as simple as going to your local court with your filled-out divorce papers, paying the court fees, and the matter is handled efficiently. This swiftness is because both parties are not contesting anything. This process is a no contest, no-fault divorce. Most jurisdictions in the United States allow for such smooth and fully legal separations.

What if your divorce is complicated?

However, in the case of most divorces, the marriage has quite a bit of property. Maybe the couple has bought a home together. Perhaps they made joint investments. The bottom line is, the more marital properties your marriage builds up over time, the higher the chance that your divorce will involve more difficulties. This fact is not because you and your spouse disagree about getting divorced. This situation is not a question of one party being profoundly emotional. Instead, there are ministerial issues concerned when there is child custody or a significant amount of property in the conjugal estate.

How do you split up custody or determine the proper level of child support? Who will pay for it? How do you determine the value of the property that is found in most jurisdictions? How do you break up that property? Finally, there is the big issue of debt. Just as couples can build up assets conjugally, they can also accumulate liabilities. How do you share this? The answer, of course, is the divorce process. Here’s how it works.

divorce process

How divorce proceedings work

Divorce proceedings will begin with a petition initiated by one party, who will be the filing spouse. This is done by filling out a form and filing (submitting) the same in a  local court in the state where both parties are residents. Keep this in mind because there may be jurisdictional issues if a petitioner is a resident of another state. The appeal will contain all information about the marriage. This data includes necessary information such as the husband and wife’s name, children’s names, conjugal properties, and custody and support for the children. Most importantly, it will also state the grounds for divorce.

Today, there are fault grounds and no-fault grounds. Both are sufficient to get a legal divorce in the United States. Fault grounds involve one of the spouses committing a transgression that legally entitles the other spouse to file for divorce. Typically, this includes marital misconduct like adultery, but there’s also a reasonably long list stipulated by law that gives a moving party a motive for divorce. On the other hand, there are no-fault grounds like fundamental incompatibility, irreconcilable differences, or just separation. When many people ask how to file for divorce, this is what they actually mean.


What happens when the petition is filed?

The divorce petition is filed with the relevant court, and the “service or process” begins if both parties agree to the appeal. This part means that the court can now start the process of dissolving the marriage. While the spouses wait for the state to take action, a restraining order is automatically placed on both parties upon the separation date. This mandate means that you cannot visit or contact the other party within a legally specified period. Also, the children cannot be taken out of state by either of the spouses.

Similarly, neither of the spouses can dispose of or sell the marital properties. They can’t take out a loan or get into a legal liability involving the commonwealth. Finally, they can’t take out insurance on each other.


No contest divorces

If both parties don’t contest anything in the petition, the divorce will go smoothly. The terms that were laid out in the divorce papers are precisely the terms that the court will grant in its final decree. This point leads to the court issuing the divorce certificate that finalizes the marriage’s dissolution.

Contested divorces

On the other hand, if the divorce is contested and parties disagree on details in the filing papers, both parties would need to hire a divorce attorney. They need expert and specialized representation in court because ultimately, the divorce settlement will take place in the court. There will be hearings, and pre-trial motions as both parties try to propose resolutions and reach specific negotiations as far as the disputes in terms of the divorce go. If these formal discussions go nowhere and no agreement is reached, then the case will be brought up to trial in court. In the lawsuit, it is the judge who will decide child custody terms and provisions, and finally, property division matters. If either party disagrees with the lower court’s judgment regarding their divorce settlement, they can always contest the decision by filing an appeal. An appeal’s court is mandated to hear a case brought up from the lower court.


Alternatives to divorce court

As you can imagine from the description above on how to file for divorce, a divorce court can get quite expensive, especially if there are high-priced specialist lawyers involved. You can try cheaper alternatives to a divorce court. You can go for divorce mediation. When you go through this process, there’s no need to hire lawyers or even go to court. Instead, both parties hire a mediator. This person is an objective third-party whose job is to facilitate an agreed-upon resolution that both spouses can live with. This option is a lot less expensive than bringing in lawyers and attending hearings. It is no surprise then that a large percentage of divorce disputes in the United States go through divorce mediation.

Contrary to a court hearing, the mediator will not make decisions but will make both spouses agree. Think of the mediator as some sort of negotiation coach that tries to get everybody to meet somewhere in the middle or to walk away with compromises that they can be happy with. The best part of hiring a divorce mediator is that the control is in both parties’ hands. The judge or lawyer does not set the control process.

divorce mediator

How much does divorce mediation cost?

The overall divorce mediation cost of a typical dissolution will be primarily dictated by the hourly rate of your hired mediator. Bear in mind that many mediators are also lawyers. In that case, their hourly rate isn’t far off from how much they would charge clients in a legal proceeding. Some charge on the onset, and this is called the set-up fee of the case. After that, for every mediation session, both parties are charged. You can also choose a mediator in his private practice or one provided by the community at a minimal cost. There are community programs that grant free mediators.

The issues discussed during the mediation will involve the same concerns tackled by a divorce court. These issues range from taxes, retirement benefits, child support and custody, parenting time, and distribution of assets and liabilities. The goal of mediation is to avoid a costly court battle that may be contentious and anxiety-filled for both parties.

According to research by Lori Anne Shaw, an assistant director for program development at the Duncum Center for Conflict Resolution at Abilene Christian University, mediation is a beneficial alternative to litigation for divorcing couples.


Conclusion on How to file for divorce

The divorce process can be pretty straightforward as long as there is no dispute between the couple. It’s as simple as filling out and filing some forms in the local court. But if there is one, most likely due to child custody or family property sharing formula, then a bigger issue arises. It may be necessay to understand the US divorce rate first.

The contested divorce process is a little bit more complicated and although in milder cases, the couple may elect to jointly hire a divorce mediator to help them come to a compromise. But where this is not possible, then the couple go to the wire. This involves filing, appearing before the judge for proceedings, and the eventual ruling by the judge. Then culminates in the issuance of a divorce certificate.

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Deborah Kelly

Deborah Kelly

As a proud single mom who has seen it all, I encourage others by sharing my experiences & curating content on divorce, adoption, child & spousal support. My passion also includes spending quality time with my kids and giving back to my community.


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