What Do I Need To Know: Filing for Divorce

By Staff Writer

What is actually involved in filing for divorce? Well, no matter if your divorce is uncontested, or headed for the courts, it will start out the same way. Either you or your spouse will file a complaint or petition with the court when you get a divorce.

Filing For Divorce--How It Works
If you file the petition, you are the plaintiff or the petitioner, and your spouse is the defendant or the respondent. In your petition, you establish the facts, and indicate what you will be asking for, such as child custody, child support, or alimony. When you file a divorce petition, you are actually initiating a civil lawsuit. If you end up in court, you will present your side of the case first.

Once you've filed the petition, you can have your spouse sign a waiver of service. This means that he or she will not be formally served with a notice that you have filed, and it's usually done if the separation has been amicable and the divorce will be uncontested. If the divorce is hostile or your spouse has been abusive, then there will be no waiver and a sheriff or process server will serve him with the notice.

Filing for divorce obligates the defendant to respond when the papers are served. Different state divorce laws will specify a different time frame for the response. All states now have some form of no fault divorce, and in these cases, no response is usually necessary. If your spouse can't be served, if he or she is out of the country or has disappeared, you can serve them by publishing a legal notice in a local newspaper.