Petition for Divorce Form

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What Is a Petition for Divorce?

A petition for divorce, sometimes known as a dissolution petition or a petition for dissolution of marriage,  is the initial form submitted to a court to begin the divorce process. It is the first official step to pursuing a divorce. In some jurisdictions, it is also known as a complaint. This petition will be filled out by one spouse and served to the other spouse. The individual filing the divorce is known as the petitioner or complainant. The person served is known as the respondent or defendant. Depending on the number of assets, amount of debt, the presence of minor children, whether both spouses want the divorce, and whether the spouses are willing to settle, the divorce process can take quite a bit of time. Every state has a certain minimum amount of time that a divorce will take, depending on whether there are minors involved.

The petition for divorce, colloquially known as divorce papers, must  include information about each spouse as well as minor any children they have together, when and where the two parties were married, an acknowledgement that the petitioner is a resident of the county where the divorce was filed and how long they’ve lived in the county, the reason for the divorce (including whether it is a no-fault divorce), and how the petitioner would like to split up the assets and debts, who will control the marital home and any vehicles, division of other property (which may depend on whether the state is a community property or separate property state and when the property was initially received, child custody and / or visitation of any minor (also known as parenting time), and other issues that often come up as a result of the divorce. The contact information for each party should also be listed. This will be needed in order to serve the spouse. You may or may not need to provide the phone number of the spouse being served.

After the petition for divorce is finalized, both spouses are required to abide by the order of the court in regards to the division of assets and debts, custody and visitation of any minors, and other agreed upon stipulations or court orders signed off on by the judge.

Other  Names

  • Dissolution petition
  • Divorce petition
  • Petition for dissolution of marriage

Contents of a Divorce Petition

If you’re creating documents to file for divorce, it’s important that it contains the right elements. Otherwise, the court clerk can refuse to file the documents or the judge may refuse to assign a hearing date and time. Ultimately, the contents of a petition depends on where it is being filed and whether there are any children under the age of 18. So, while we are providing the following information, it’s important for you to understand that you should ensure that your petition contains the right information for your jurisdiction.

Information and Requests

Overall, the petition itself should address:

  • The legal names and addresses of both spouses.
  • The date and place that the spouses were married.
  • Any minors belonging to both parties.
  • Whether the petitioner has lived in the county long enough to become a resident so that they can file the petition. This also includes how long the petitioner has lived in the county.
  • The grounds for divorce. Most states now have “irreconcilable differences” or “no fault” conditions. Some still allow divorces using a “fault” such as abandonment or adultery. However, if you choose to list a reason for the divorce, you must be prepared to prove it. Sometimes, it is easier to use irreconcilable differences or no fault even if you have a legitimate reason just because it’s faster and easier to put the issue behind you and move forward with your life.

If there is domestic violence or a restraining order involved, that information should be mentioned in the petition.

Temporary Orders

When a divorce is filed, you can request temporary orders. These are legal documents signed by the judge that says that spouses can or cannot do different things. For example, until a hearing takes place, a temporary order may state that the children live with one parent and the other parent receives visitation on certain days. It may also state that one spouse gets full access to the marital home and the other spouse does not. It may also determine whether one spouse must pay the other temporary support.

Common temporary orders requested include, but are not limited to:

  • Who will have primary physical custody of any minor children (or whether the parents choose to adopt joint custody) and a temporary visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent. This is commonly referred to as a parenting plan;
  • Temporary child support;
  • Temporary spousal support;
  • Who will maintain exclusive possession of the marital home;
  • Who will have possession of certain assets (such as vehicles);
  • Who will be fully or partially responsible for certain household bills and other financial obligations and concerns.

Legal Considerations

Divorce is a legal process that varies from state to state. As a result, there are several things you must keep in mind if you’re going to navigate the process without the help of a law firm.

Filing

You will file the divorce with the district or state court that hears divorce cases for your county.  Your petition must conform with the requirements for your county. You will also have to pay the court’s filing fee. Some states do have pauper’s affidavits for individuals with financial issues that make it hard for them to afford the fee.

Serving

Because divorce is a legal process, the respondent must be legally served. Legal service methods vary from state to state, but you'll need to provide proof of service to the court. So you’ll have to look up the rules in your state about the service of process. Generally, service takes place in person. However, it’s rare that one spouse is allowed to (or should) serve the other spouse. Instead, service is generally done by a private process server or the sheriff. If you don’t know where your spouse has gone, you may have to serve them via publication. If that’s the case, the court has specific news or business news publications that you’re allowed to choose from to publish a divorce notice. It must run for a certain number of days and it is an additional expense you must pay.

Response

The other spouse has the legal right to file a response with the court. How much time they have to file their response depends on where the divorce is filed. It could be anything from about 15 days to 45 days. They may also ask the court for an extension to file their response at a later date. If no response is filed, the court may proceed and grant the divorce without ever hearing from the other spouse. Even if you choose to not use a divorce attorney, your spouse has the right to legal help from a family law attorney.

Final Steps of a Divorce

You and your spouse may be ordered to mediation or settlement to try and work out the details of the divorce before the court signs off. Both spouses must be honest about their assets, income, liabilities, and their expenses. The court will use that information to decide if any agreed upon settlement is fair. The court will hear any matters that the two spouses cannot agree to settle.

Sample Petition for Divorce

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Sample Petition for Divorce

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