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Five Steps That Show You How To File For Divorce

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The termination of a marriage through a divorce can be a complex court proceeding when there are young children or substantial assets. Custody, visitation and distribution of marital property issues usually require the assistance of an experienced family law attorney. If you and your spouse have already resolved all of the issues that might normally arise so the divorce will be uncontested, the following five steps will show you how to file for divorce.

Step 1: Prepare the paperwork

Most states have instituted uncontested divorce programs to assist people who want to handle their own uncontested divorce. The papers that you must file to begin the divorce can usually be found on the website of your state’s court system. You can also get the papers by going to the courthouse and speaking to one of the clerks that handles uncontested divorces.

The paperwork that must be filed might differ from state to state, but it usually includes the following:

.   A summons and complaint

.   Notices or affidavits regarding health insurance coverage

.   Copy of any settlement agreement between the parties

There will probably other papers to be prepared and filed, but your state’s website or the court clerk will let you know what you will need to prepare. Once all your papers are signed, notarized and ready for filing, bring them to the clerk’s office unless your state allows you to file them electronically. Regardless of how you file the papers, you must pay the filing fees charged by the court.

Step 2: Service of the papers

As the person initiating the divorce, you are referred to as the plaintiff. Once the papers have been accepted by the clerk’s office, you will be instructed on the procedures for serving them on your spouse who is referred to as the defendant.

Service of the papers on the defendant must be done according to the manner required by the laws of your state. Most people hire a process server who knows the proper method for service of the divorce papers.

Step 3: The defendant answers

The defendant may serve you with an answer to the complaint. If this happens, you should speak to an attorney to make certain that the defendant is not contesting the divorce or any of the issues related to it. Assuming that the defendant is not contesting the divorce or has not filed an answer within the time the law allows for that purpose, you can place the case on the calendar.

Step 4: Putting the divorce on the calendar

Depending upon the procedures followed in your state, you might have to file additional paperwork with the court to place the case on the court’s calendar. The clerk or the state website will instruct you on how to accomplish this and the amount of any additional filing fees that must be paid.

Step 5: The divorce becomes final

The last step in the process of how to file for divorce is the signing of the judgment of divorce by a judge. Once this happens, your divorce is official and you are no longer married.

Knowing how to file for divorce does not mean that you should handle it on your own. Before beginning the process, you should consult with an attorney for advice and guidance.


This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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