How To File For A Divorce In United States

How To File For A Divorce In United States

Divorce is traumatic and hard, regardless of whether it’s a decision made by both spouses or a sudden action taken by one. This is because, in addition to dealing with emotional and financial difficulties, you must also deal with a complex legal process.

Getting a divorce might be easier if you are aware of the stages involved. You can decide to undergo the process yourself or decide to speak with a divorce lawyer to review your options and safeguard your rights– which is generally advisable.

If you are eager to know how to file for a divorce in united States, then you are on the right page. Continue reading as we list and elaborate on the different steps on how to file for a divorce in United States successfully.

How To File For A Divorce In United States

Different states in the United States have their divorce form. You can get them from the courthouse, court websites, or an attorney to file for you.

Knowing how to start the divorce process is crucial; this is a step-by-step guide on the fundamental process of how to file for a divorce in the United States;

  • File the divorce petition
  • Request for temporary orders
  • Serve your spouse and wait for a response
  • Negotiable a settlement
  • Divorce trial
  • Finalize the judgment

1.    File the Divorce Petition

A divorce petition is the first thing you need to do in a divorce procedure. One spouse—who is the petitioner must submit a petition to the court asking the court to dissolve the marriage, whether or not the other spouses consent to the divorce.

The following are the requirements for filling for a divorce;

  • Residency Requirement

You are not obliged to file for divorce in the state where you got married. But you must reside in a state for at least three months before you can file under residency requirements. However, this varies from state to state, so be sure to verify your state’s regulations. Also, you can choose to file in a state where your spouse stays if both of you stay in different states.

  • Divorce Waiting Period

Some states in the United States require a waiting period before a divorce may be finalized, which means the divorcing party must wait for some time. The waiting period starts after they petition for divorce, and the length of the waiting time may also depend on the kind of divorce that is being requested.

  • Legal Grounds For Divorce

Each state has its own set of legal requirements for divorce. However, there are just three grounds for filing for divorce in United States, which are;

i No-Fault-Based Divorce: This is where one partner decides to file for a divorce without any reason. They don’t have to state their spouse’s flaws or state how desperate they are to leave the marriage.

ii Fault-Based Divorce: This is where one of the spouses takes full responsibility for their marital problems.

iii Least Fault Divorce: A least-fault divorce is when one of the spouses commits a less significant act of fault. When a divorce is filed on this ground and no one objects, the court will grant the request.

2.    Request For Temporary Order

You can petition for a temporary order relating to child support, child custody, and spousal maintenance in a situation where you are a stay-at-home parent raising the children, and you are reliant on your spouse for finance.

Instead of waiting months for a court to rule on a divorce, it’s best to obtain a temporary order. The court will convene a hearing, hear testimony from both spouses and decide. Usually, the judge moves swiftly to grant the temporary order, which is in effect until the divorce is fully finalized.

The order might consist of temporary property restraining orders. The breadwinner is often required to continue paying the marital debts during the divorce process under status quo rules. The Temporary property restraining orders prevent either spouse from donating, transferring, selling, or disposing of the marital estate while the divorce is pending.

Restraining orders are mutual, it requires both parties to abide by them or face punishment from the court. You must apply as soon as possible for temporary orders if you require one after filing a divorce petition.

3.    Serve Your Spouse and Wait for a Response

When you file for divorce and ask the court for temporary orders, you must send a copy of the documents to your spouse after which you submit proof of service to the court. With this document, you can prove to the judge that you followed the rules for serving your spouse with a copy of the divorce petition.

However, if you do not properly serve your spouse, and also file the proof of service, the judge can not proceed with the divorce process. The whole divorce process may become easier if your spouse agrees to the divorce and is willing to sign the proof of service. But if your spouse disagrees with the whole process, it is going to make things difficult.

In a situation like this, it’s advisable to work with a lawyer who can help in the delivery of the documents to the challenging party. And if your spouse also works with a lawyer, it’s best to deliver the papers to his or her lawyer’s office if they avoided receiving the papers themselves.

After receiving the papers, your spouse who is also the respondent has a certain amount of time to file a response to the divorce petition. If he failed to respond on time, it can lead to a default decision which can be expensive and challenging to overturn. Your spouse may decide to contest the charges, which is the basis for at-fault divorce the judgment will involve child custody, spousal support, property division, and so on.

  • Negotiate A Settlement

This is a stage where spouses and their counsel meet to resolve differences. This normally takes place if the two couples cannot agree on the original divorce petition. They might choose to have a discussion together or separately outside of court.

These negotiations may go more quickly, and yield good results if you seek the help of a mediator (a third party that listens to both parties to arrive at a possible solution). Also, there are situations where a court will order both parties involved in a divorce to seek a mediator or arbitrator

5.    Divorce Trial

This is the stage where the court intervenes when the divorce process leads to a divorce trial. This trial is carried out before a judge and in some circumstances, it can be carried out before a jury. In both cases, both parties to the divorce must provide facts, and testimony to support their arguments such as child custody, property sharing, financial support, and other issues related to the divorce.

The court in return weighs all the testimony and facts presented by both parties before making a final and binding ruling. It’s best you know that divorce cases are time-consuming, costly, and require much planning compared to alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation, arbitration, etc.

6. Finalize The Judgement

The judgment of the divorce process is complete after the judge put his signature on the divorce judgment. This is regardless of whether you and your husband settled with the divorce procedure or whether the judge made the decisions for you.

The judgment of divorce declares the end of the marriage. It states the terms of how the couple will divide their assets and debts, and how they will share parenting time and child custody responsibilities.


The divorce method varies depending on the couple’s conditions. Long-term marriages with major properties, marital debt, and small children often end in a more challenging divorce than short-term marriages without children or property.

Additionally, divorces that involve cooperative negotiation of the divorce conditions like; child support, property division, spousal support, etc are less stressful and expensive than divorces involving conflict, and lack of cooperation.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Does It Cost To File A Divorce In US?

In the United States, the average divorce costs between $15,000 and $20,000, with the median cost at $7,000. However, uncontested divorces are less expensive than “contested” divorces with more complications.

Who Pays For Divorce In USA?

Each party pays its legal bills in most divorce proceedings. If you want a divorce,  you should prepare to pay for your attorney.

Do You Need A Lawyer To Divorce In USA?

It depends on the level of cooperation between you and your spouse. If both parties can agree on the conditions of the divorce. Then, it can be completed without the assistance of an attorney. On the contrary, divorce trials are sometimes represented by attorneys for each party.

How Long Does A Divorce Take In USA?

The divorce process takes up to 12 months. It takes time to submit the divorce petition to finalize the verdict. If the divorce result in a trial, it might take up to 18 months. 


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