Every year, around four to five million Americans get married. But unfortunately, between 42% and 53% of those marriages end in divorce.
If you’ve decided to get a divorce yourself, the first thing you should know is that it doesn’t have to be messy or ugly. Indeed, experts say having a healthy breakup is possible.
Understanding the divorce process is one way to avoid a stressful split. Knowing how it goes can even help you achieve a faster conclusion.
Below, we’ve outlined how the divorce process starts and ends, so read on.
Starting the Divorce Process
The divorce process begins with one or both spouses filing a legal divorce petition. This is a formal request asking a family court to dissolve the marriage.
A divorce petition requires information about your residency in the state. You must also provide documentation proving how long you’ve lived there.
Most states require divorce filers to have been residents for at least six months. Some, like Arkansas and Wyoming, require at least a 60-day residency. Others, such as Connecticut and Nebraska, have a 12-month residency mandate.
If you’re getting a divorce your spouse agrees to; you can file for a no-fault divorce. With this, you don’t have to cite specific grounds or reasons for wanting to dissolve the marriage. All states allow for this type of divorce.
Serve Your Spouse the Divorce Papers
After filing for divorce, you can have someone serve the petition papers to your spouse. These include a copy of the filed petition and the “summons.”
You cannot serve the paperwork to your spouse yourself. Instead, you must have a disinterested person do it on your behalf. It should be someone who’s at least 18 years old, isn’t involved in your divorce, and has no interest in its outcome.
Disinterested persons can’t be family members and their significant others, either. Instead, they must be neutral parties, such as a sheriff, a family law attorney, or a divorce lawyer.
File Proof of Service
Proof of service is a document telling the court you’ve served your spouse the divorce papers. It’s a statutory requirement; your divorce can’t continue without it.
So as soon as the disinterested party has given your spouse the paperwork, file your proof of service.
Wait for Your Spouse’s Response
After receiving the divorce papers, your spouse must sign an acknowledgment of service. If your spouse also wants to get a divorce, this shouldn’t be a problem.
However, your spouse must respond to the petition within the time given by your state. Most provide a 20-day response period, but some, like California, allow for up to 30 days.
If your spouse fails to respond within the allotted time, you can use it as grounds for a default divorce. In this case, you can ask the family court to decide and proceed with your divorce.
Concluding the Divorce Process
The divorce process concludes once a judge signs the judgment of divorce. Also known as an order of dissolution, it’s a legal document dissolving the marriage. It also contains information about custodial responsibilities, child support, and parenting time.
Hire a Divorce Attorney to Help
As you’ve learned in this guide to the divorce process, it doesn’t have to be messy as long as both sides agree. It may even be quicker if your spouse doesn’t respond within the time given by your state.
However, it still pays to hire a divorce attorney to help you out. Your lawyer can file the petition and serve it on your behalf.
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