You’ve tried to make it work, but your marriage is just no longer a viable option. You’ve reached the point where you need to end your marriage, and you need to know exactly how to do it.
You’ve come to the right place! We’re going to show you how to file for divorce and not lose your head in the process. Unlike Las Vegas and their weddings, it’s not something that can typically be settled in thirty minutes or less, but you can still save yourself a ton of legal headaches and paperwork by doing your research.
How to File for Divorce: Should I?
Maybe you’ve gone over this in your head a million times already, and that’s fine – you can do it one more time. Are you absolutely, positively certain that you want to file for divorce? Have you had second thoughts at any point, and if so, what are they?
When finding out how to file for divorce, you will undoubtedly ask yourself what might happen to everything in your life: your children, your property, and even your job, depending on the perception of being the one who initiates a divorce proceeding.
There is no reason to panic and change your mind, but it can’t be stressed enough that you should think and think again about this decision.
Pro Se Divorce: Yes or No?
Normally, when you think of how to file for divorce, a series of images might flash through your mind: arguments in a courtroom, mountains of paperwork, and an overstressed former couple getting into shouting matches over a DVD collection.
You might be able to skip the entire litigation process with a pro se divorce. This kind of procedure involves going through the divorce without hiring any attorneys and sorting all possessions between you and your soon-to-be ex.
While this option is also reserved for people who cannot afford an attorney, a pro se divorce might be an option most, if not all of the following apply to you and your ex:
- Neither of you own any significant investments in the marketplace like stocks or bonds
- You don’t have any children
- The length of the marriage is less than ten years
- Neither you nor your spouse has ever served in the military
- You or your spouse will not be planning to seek alimony or any kind of spousal support
- You trust that your spouse has not been keeping any financial information secret
- No spousal abuse has ever taken place
If both of you can answer “yes” to all of these questions, you may have an easier time going through this type of divorce proceedings than going to the trouble of finding attorneys.
Getting Your Papers in Order
There’s no way around it – filing for divorce, pro se or not, is going to require a lot of paperwork. After you have decided whether or not you should hire a lawyer, you’ll need to go to your local court and file everything necessary.
Petition for Divorce
This major document is the one that initiates the proceedings and makes the formal declaration that you intend to end your marriage, severing the legal relationship between you and your spouse.
If you and your spouse have come to a decision involving all of your belongings and don’t wish to drag out the process in court, you can use a Settlement Agreement form to file the agreement with the county in which you were married.
Keeping track of all your financial property is an essential part of divorce proceedings. This document discloses all of your assets and possessions to the court, as well as your ex-spouse during the hearings.
Upon deciding to get a divorce, a summons acts like any other document that formally requests the presence of someone in a courtroom. In this case, the summons mandates that your spouse respond to your formal request for a divorce.
Notice of Hearing
By filing this document, you are allowing the court to decide on a date for your divorce proceeding.
The final document in the divorce proceeding. The judge will sign this form, and after, you are officially granted a divorce in the eyes of the court and your local jurisdiction.
The Divorce Process
Once you know how to get a divorce and have filed all of your necessary paperwork, you can move forward with the proceedings.
Filing with the Court
As mentioned above, you will have a stack of papers that have to be filed with the court to begin your divorce hearing. There will also be a filing fee to go with this initial transaction. While all cities and states charge different amounts, you can expect this fee to be at least $100 and it could increase by several times, depending on where you file.
If you are experiencing financial hardship, it might be possible for you to ask the court to waive any filing fees. There might even be programs set up for public assistance, allowing you to use government funding throughout the divorce proceedings.
Keeping Your Own Copies
Although you are filing directly with the court, it is still your responsibility to maintain records of each paper you file. You will keep track of your signature and information on each document, and at any time, the jurisdiction might ask for another copy, or your legal representative might need to review something once again.
Keep everything together and neat in a special folder or drawer. This should include documents, receipts, and follow-up instructions granted to you by the court.
Attending the Hearing
Once all of the paperwork is in order, the court will decide on a date for your divorce hearing. You and your attorney will review all of the pertinent information beforehand, and the process of hearings will differ depending on your state laws and court procedures. It could be that you’ll have to go through multiple court appearances, including preliminary hearings, custody decisions, and final proceedings.
Once you arrive to the court date, you’ll need to be sure you’re properly prepared for the day’s events. All of your previous paperwork should be signed and notarized by you, your attorney, and anyone else involved in the proceedings.
You might also find out that this is not a short process. In some cases, depending on the amount of property and assets involved, a full divorce proceeding could take weeks, or even months.
Since you’ll be in court, make sure to dress yourself in a professional manner. If a judge sees you looking too casual, they might think you don’t take the proceedings seriously, and rule entirely in favor of the opposing side.
At the hearing itself, you should have some idea of how the entire process will go. If you and your soon-to-be ex have come to agreements outside of the courtroom, the judge will more than likely expedite the proceedings. This counts doubly if there are no children involved in the couple’s separation. If there appears to be any ill will on the part of you or your spouse, it’s likely that the process will be dragged out further, possibly even mandating another day in court.
The Final Steps in a Divorce
After the proceedings are finished, you will receive further instructions as part of the divorce. While the hearing itself may be brief, states have different standards as to when a divorce is truly finalized. This process will take months, and in some cases, over a year to fully complete.
In the case of divorcing couples with children, you might be required to take a court-mandated class for newly divorced parents. There are even some jurisdictions that will refuse a divorce without registration for these classes.
Once the decree is available, you’ll need to obtain a certified copy of your divorce from the court office. This will be required for your future financial endeavors, from buying a new home to getting married once again. If you plan to change your name back to what it was before a marriage, the divorce decree is required to show that the previous marriage is no longer valid.
Finally, be sure to follow any mandates from the judge or the court. If you violate any of the terms, the ruling could be changed or overturned and used against you in the future.
Living Life After a Divorce
Now that you know how to file for divorce, it shouldn’t seem like such an intimidating process. It may turn out that with a few signatures and the proper paperwork filed, you don’t need to go through all the stress that is portrayed in movies. As the day of your hearing approaches, remember everything that you’ve read and researched, and tell yourself to remain calm and collected.
By the time the divorce is finalized, you’ll feel better knowing that you went into the proceedings armed with the knowledge to get you through without any major hassle. You can do this!