Almost every day I’m asked by potential clients, “How do I get divorced?” The answer isn’t always simple, but there are three basic steps: 1. Petition; 2. Notice; and 3. Finalize. The first step is to file a petition for divorce. As simple as this step sounds, it can be tricky. Knowing where and how to file the petition can be complicated, especially if you and your spouse live in different counties or states. Many sources have petition forms available, but to avoid pitfalls, it’s best if an attorney helps you draft your petition. In many ways the petition is as important as your final decree of divorce, so seek the advice of an attorney before filing your petition.
After filing the petition, the second step in the divorce process is giving notice of your divorce action to your spouse. Often this is done through a process server that personally hands your petition to your spouse, but other service methods exist depending on the circumstances. This notice step is key, so don’t guess. Use an attorney to get the job done correctly, or you potentially will create more problems for yourself.
The last step is finalizing the divorce, which for some amicable couples is done in a matter of weeks without any court settings. But for others, it takes years and numerous court appearances. The final agreements of the parties or orders of the court are written into a final decree of divorce. This document is very important and should definitely be drafted by an attorney. Your attorney will help ensure that your decree addresses your interests and is enforceable against the other party if necessary.
If you are at the point that you are ready to begin the divorce process, seek counsel to assist you. It’s never easy. Deciding to get divorced will probably be emotionally one of the hardest decisions that you will make. But an attorney can help you through the process, one step at a time.