Your Step-by-Step Guide to Divorce Petition Paperwork

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    If you are one of the many couples undergoing a divorce, you aren’t alone. By April of 2020, the interest in divorce across the United States spiked 34%. When you’re in the unfortunate position of needing to dissolve your marriage to your spouse, there’s quite a lot to consider to ensure your divorce goes smoothly. Throw complex emotions into the already-complicated legal situation, and divorce can feel like an insurmountable mountain to some. Don’t worry, though. With the right legal help, even events as painful as divorce can become far less stressful. If you aren’t sure where to begin, try starting with these steps to simplify divorce petition paperwork.

    Step 1: File Your Petition to Divorce

    Every divorce proceeding must begin with a Petition to Divorce. This petition formally states a person’s intent to dissolve the marriage for the court and begins the legal process. Depending on the state in which you reside, your petition may require a reason for dissolving the marriage, which could include “abandonment” or “adultery” as well as proof of the behavior occurring. However, California does not require proof of wrongdoing and allows for one spouse to file for divorce simply on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences.” This is known as a no-fault divorce.

    To begin the process, only one spouse needs to file a petition, regardless of whether or not the divorce is mutually agreed-upon. There is no preference or privilege granted to the first spouse to file.

    Step 2: Await a Response to the Petition

    Once the court receives a Petition to Divorce from one spouse, a representative will “serve” the other spouse with a court summons to begin divorce proceedings. At this point, the receiving spouse may begin preparing a Response to the Petition to Divorce. This is an official document the respondent spouse submits to the divorce court in which they may provide their side of the story. In short, a Response will provide the full picture of why the marriage should be dissolved. If the recipient spouse disagrees with the intention to divorce or finds the contents of the initial Petition do not provide accurate details of the situation, a Response is where these feelings should be explained. The court allows 30 days from the receipt of the summons to submit a Response.

    A recipient spouse may also decline to submit a Response to the court. If they do not participate in the divorce proceedings, however, the court may issue a Default Judgment. In a Default Judgment, the initiating spouse will submit a Default Judgment document to the court formally requesting the divorce continue despite the other spouse’s lack of input.

    Step 3: Submit Request for Orders to Divorce Court

    When the court proceedings officially begin, either spouse may submit a Request for Orders. This asks the court for an arrangement as part of the divorce like child support or payment of court fees.

    The court will divulge this request to the opposite partner who can make their own argument. The court will take the argument into account when deciding whether to grant or deny the request.

    Step 4: Await a Response to Request Order

    As with the divorce petition, the opposing partner may review a Request for Orders submitted by their soon-to-be ex-spouse and make their own argument. If they disagree with the request, a formal Response to the Request will ensure the judge decides on the best possible outcome for all parties involved in the divorce, including minor children.

    In the Response, the respondent may ask for modifications to the first request in order to reach a compromise. This can include anything from changing spousal support requests to altering how often they have custody of their minor children.

    Step 5: Create a Marital Settlement Agreement

    Once the couple reaches an arrangement in court, they must prepare a Marital Settlement Agreement. This document outlines all the terms of the divorce. The agreement may include custody arrangements, the division of assets, or the payment of support.

    A Marital Settlement Agreement is the final piece to the divorce puzzle. This document will outline how a divorce should be carried out, according to the courts. Of course, if circumstances change in the future, either ex-spouse can request an amendment to the agreement.

    After you complete a Marital Settlement Agreement, there is one more document to file. The opposing parties may file documentation that will make the terms of their agreement enforceable under the law. This is called an Order After Hearing.