Filing a petition for divorce is the first step in starting your divorce. Your lawyer will file the Original Petition for Divorce with your local court clerk in your county. An original petition for divorce is a request that the court grant a divorce and list any asets and relief the party filing for divorce feels they are deserve.
The individual filing for the divorce is called the “petitioner” by the courts while the other party to the divorce is referred to as the “respondent” or “defendant.” The petition identifies both parties to the divorce and any children they may have. The petition requires that the party filing for divorce will have to state a reason as part of the petition or letter. Most states use a no-fault law which will mean the petitioner will state “irreconcilable differences” or “incompatibility” as their reason for the divorce. The petition also sets automatic restraining orders on the spouses and helps establish the date of separation. At this point, the spouses are not permitted to take any children out of state, sell any property, borrow against property, and borrow or sell insurance held for the other spouse.
The petition (or the divorce papers) must be served to the other spouse. Normally a member of the local sheriffs office serves the petition. This phase of the process is called “service of process.” This can be waived if both spouses agree to the divorce,which will allow the other spouse to sign an acknowledgement of the receipt of service without being formally served.Once the completiion of the service process is done this will start the clock running on your state’s waiting period. In many states this is 60 days or more. This is done to allow both parties time to cool off and possibly reconcile. Once the time on the clock runs down the divorce can proceed.
Although it’s not required, the respondent can file a response to the petition saying he or she agrees. Filing a response shows both parties agree to the divorce. This makes it is more likely the case will proceed without a court hearing, which could delay the process and cost more. If a response is not filed within 30 days, the petitioner can request that a default be entered by the court. The responding spouse can also use the response to disagree with information presented in the petition.
Both spouses are required to disclose information regarding their assets, liabilities, income and expenses. If the divorce is uncontested and the spouses can agree on the terms of the divorce, there is only a bit more paperwork to file. Once the court enters the judgment, the divorce is final. However, the marriage is not formally dissolved and the spouses cannot remarry until the end of the state’s waiting period. If there are disputes that cannot be resolved, court hearings and maybe even a trial will be required.