Category: Filing Procedure
Questions/Answers
If Iím served with a divorce petition, is a trial inevitable?
No, not necessarily. You could not respond to the petition, in which case your spouse will get a "divorce by default." If you do respond to the complaint or petition, you and your spouse still have the option of a "negotiated settlement," an agreement outside the court that settles your differences. A divorce is similar to other civil suits: you can always settle the case at any point or continue with the litigation through the court system.
Helpful Tips and Facts
Save a trip - check on the forms.
The forms you will need to file with your initial paperwork will vary not only from state to state, but may vary from county to county within a state. In Michigan, for example, every divorce case must have a Record of Divorce informational form on file; some counties require this at the initial filing, some with the final judgment. Some have a form of their own for reporting the information that goes into a child support or spousal support calculation. Donít rely on second-hand information when you are filing - call the clerk of court and ask which forms you will need.
Party Titles for Divorcing Spouses
In some jurisdictions, when a couple divorce without contest or litigation, the person who initiates the action is called the petitioner, not the plaintiff, and the person who responds is called the respondent, not the defendant. This terms more accurately describe a procedure that is not adversarial.
The Benefit of an Uncontested Divorce
An uncontested divorce makes it much easier on both spouses and the children because when it is over, the former spouses will have more money left to carry on in their lives. Strained finances stress the lives of the formerly married who are starting anew as single people.
Divorcing Together
In a summary divorce, the spouses can do it together when they 1. agree how they will divide what they own and what they owe 2. file the divorce forms in the local court 3. wait a few months 4. request the final divorce decree from the court. No simpler avenue to a divorce exists that a joint petition for uncontested divorce based on irretrievable breakdown.
Divorce Residency Requirements
Most states require a person to live in a state for a period of time. The residency requirements vary from three months to one year. For divorce purposes, a few states have no specific residency requirements.
Become Friends with the Court Clerk
Court clerks can be very helpful to someone filing a pro se divorce. While they cannot give legal advice, many will take the time to make sure necessary papers are properly completed. In short, be courteous and civil when dealing with the clerks. They can be very helpful.
Retrieving Certified Copies of Documents
It is best to take on this task in person if possible. If you must do this through the mail, make sure you provide all the required information with a money order for the correct amount. Also include a self-addressed envelope with the mail in request to ensure it will be returned to you. Do not expect a quick turn around, this can often take from two weeks to a month. In some counties it takes even longer because the records are located in so many different locations throughout the county. For example, Los Angeles county has over 9 million people, with many courthouse branches. We can be talking about a needle in a haystack.
Reviewing Your Legal Brief
Since you and your divorce lawyer are a team, it is wise that you both spend some time reviewing a brief before to is submitted to the court. You want to make sure the brief is conclusive and reflects your position in the case. Not all lawyers will show you the brief (or ask for your participation), so you may need to request this with ample time to review it before filing.
Attaching Documents to the Petition or Complaint
Most courts prefer to have these documents attached with a paper clip. Do not use staples unless you are told to do so by the clerk. Also certain documents must be a certified copy, especially any existing orders (support, protective etc.). This may require you to contact the ordering court and have a court certified copy mailed to you. Most of the time a photocopy of the original, will not be accepted.