Before your divorce case can begin, you must file a petition through the court and deliver it to your spouse. In most cases, you will also be required to file a financial statement that provides the specifics on your property, income, and expenses. Other documents that may be required include an agreement for settlement (if applicable) and if there are children, a parenting plan. While different states may vary in the divorce forms and laws, there are some that are common in all the states. This article will address these documents and their purpose.
Petition for Divorce
Before a divorce can begin, it is necessary for the spouse seeking a divorce to file a divorce petition and pay the filing fee with the court that has jurisdiction in the area. The petition provides some basic information such as the names of both parties, the county in which you live, the date of marriage, and the grounds for the divorce filing. In some cases, it’s possible to have the filing fee waived. An individual petition always requires a summons. This is a document that notifies your spouse you have filed for divorce.
Settlement Agreement If Applicable
In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree on the terms of the divorce that include:
- Child support
- Alimony or spousal support
- Custody of the children
- Division of all marital assets and debts
The written agreement both parties sign will become part of the divorce case and will be filed with the court. After the final divorce decree, the settlement agreement will comprise part of the court order.
The petitioner must file a financial affidavit that disclosures income, expenses, property, debts, and money on hand. This is required by both spouses in the majority of divorce cases. This information provides the judge with the information needed to determine the amount of child support and alimony/spousal support, division of property, and delegation of attorney’s fees.
Plan for Parenting the Children
A parenting plan is essential when defining how major decisions and daily life will proceed after divorce. The plan defines the specific times the children will spend with each of their parents. It also details which parent will cover expenses such as music lessons and tuition for college. Other details that will be clearly defined include:
- Religious and educations decisions
- Medical emergencies
Most parenting plans follow a clearly defined format, but the responsibilities of parenting may be shared in various ways. The best way is for you and your ex to agree on a parenting plan that is best for the family and will be included in the final divorce order and decree.
About Probate and Family Court Forms for Divorce
The first step in the divorce process is the complaint. What is the complaint? To put it in simple terms, this document contains information about the following:
- Your spouse
- Your marriage
- The reason for the divorce
The rules governing the complaint process will vary by state. For instance, in the state of Virginia, the type of divorce the party is seeking defines when the petitioner can file the complaint. In the case of an at-fault divorce as defined by state statute, the petition can be filed immediately. The reasons that fall into this category include:
- Physical or emotional cruelty
- Potential for bodily harm
- Conviction of a felony
Any other reason falls under no fault, and you must wait a specific period following separation before filing for divorce. In many states, that period is one year, though in Virginia the period may be lowered to six months if the couple has underage children and sign an agreement of separation or property settlement.
What Is a Complaint for Divorce?
The complaint is actually a three-part process. The second part is for the petitioner filing an at-fault divorce and asks for specific statements regarding the reasons for the divorce complaint. The final part is where you will list what you are seeking in the divorce and will include things such as:
- Custody of the children
- Child support
- Alimony or spousal support
- Division of martial assets
Once you complete all the information pertinent to your case, the paperwork will be filed with the court that has jurisdiction in your area. The paperwork will also be delivered to your spouse either in person or by mail (usually certified).
Does It Matter Who Files for Divorce?
While either party in the marriage can file a complaint for divorce, there are advantages to being the first one to file. Filing first could provide some choices such as the following:
- Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be able to choose the county and sometimes state in which to file the paperwork.
- The first person to file can choose when to file thus avoiding the stress of meeting due diligence deadlines. You will also have a better idea when your case may end up in court thus allowing you to make arrangements concerning family and work issues.
- The first person filing is also likely to be the first person to present any outstanding issues to the judge. This means you will need to prepare for court long before the other party.
What is a Counterclaim for Divorce?
In many cases the party filing an answer to a divorce complaint will also file a counterclaim. The counterclaim allows the respondent the opportunity to respond to the allegations regarding the reason for the divorce and provide the court with their requests. Even though the answer may be nothing more than an admission or denial of the information provided by the petitioner, the counterclaim provides alternative versions of the original claim or simply a different reason why the divorce is being sought.
The counterclaim acts just like a complaint—there is no need to prove anything. The only thing you need to do is provide information to support your own claims. Filing a counterclaim also allows the respondent to ask the court for anything they want from the divorce. This will include amenities such as:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Alimony/spousal support
- Division of marital assets
It isn’t always necessary for one party to file an answer or make a counterclaim. When the divorce is based on no-fault and uncontested, and you and your spouse have created and signed a separation agreement or agreement on a property settlement, the terms defined in that agreement will define the terms of your divorce. Under those conditions, an answer would be unnecessary, and the complaint would include a waiver because the separation agreement already covered everything.
How to Answer the Complaint for Divorce?
According to Caulder & Valentine of Shelby, North Carolina, shortly after you are served with a complaint for divorce, you should make an appointment with a divorce lawyer if only for a consultation. Failing to bring some legal claims in your response may prevent you seeking any type of recovery for the following issues:
- Any claim for an equitable distribution of your marital assets.
- Alimony or post separation spousal support.
There is a limited time frame during which you are able to respond to the claim—most states give the respondent one month in which to file an answer. If that isn’t enough time, it’s possible to request an extension for another month. It is necessary to file your answer prior to the deadline or you risk waiving your right to respond.
If the divorce is uncontested with no disputes, the respondent can file a Waiver and Answer form with the Clerk of the Court. Make certain there is nothing in dispute and no need to seek alimony or distribution of marital property. Once the divorce is granted, you will be unable to return to court and request these items.
While the above refers to the state of North Carolina, it is likely to be similar in your state. It is for this reason it is advisable to consult with a family lawyer even if you do not plan to hire a lawyer for your divorce.
How to File a Complaint for Support
While laws may differ slightly across the states, in Pennsylvania the plaintiff must go to the local branch of the Domestic Relations Office. A worker there will prepare and file the complaint for support. There is no need for the plaintiff to engage the services of an attorney or pay any filing fees for support. The plaintiff can file the complaint for support within the jurisdiction where either party lives. The procedure may also vary based on the county in which the papers are filed.
What Is a Joint Petition for Divorce and When Is It Used?
A joint petition for divorce is an option married couples can use when they agree to get divorced and communicate effectively to ensure a smooth onset from the beginning. The joint petition is in contrast to the standard petition in which one spouse files and the other must formally file a response in court.
Filing a joint petition helps the couple avoid a few of the legal hearings and hassles that are required when you file a standard divorce petition. In a joint petition, the parties must agree on the following:
- Distribution of any joint assets and income
- Arrangements for child custody and support
- Agreement concerning alimony
A joint divorce petition can be used any time a divorcing couple can agree on the terms of the divorce and have no plans to contest the divorce action. However, many states only allow couples to file a joint petition if their income or assets are below a specific amount.
Divorce Lawyers Near Me
Once you make the decision to divorce, you must decide if you plan to file yourself or need to research a family lawyer who can handle your case. In all likelihood, the best choice is to seek an attorney. You may want to ask yourself, “How can I find divorce lawyers near me? The best way to find a divorce lawyer is to take advantage of Legal-Yogi’s resources which include the ability to find a lawyer. We have a huge database of over 160,000 experts in both the legal and financial markets, and they operate in over 30,000 zip codes.
Family Attorney Near Me
When you ask yourself, “Where can I find a family attorney near me?” remember the best answer to that question is to visit Legal-Yogi.com. not only do they have a database of thousands of experts, but they also have articles that can help you choose the lawyer that can best meet your needs. Choosing the right divorce lawyer can be a tedious and stressful job, but with the help of the resources on Legal-Yogi, the job is easier to handle.
Annulment of Marriage
Besides divorce, annulment is another way to end a marriage. How does divorce differ from an annulment of marriage? This is important to know, especially if there are children involved. In most cases, the state will not issue this type of paperwork when children are involved since it actually says the marriage never existed. This means the children would then be considered illegitimate. Of course, this also depends if it was a state decision or the church—usually the Catholic Church issues this type of marital end to allow the couple to remarry in the Church.
It doesn’t matter if you get divorced in person or obtain an online divorce where it is allowed. The final end of the marriage will always be reflected in the divorce decree. Before attempting to pay money to obtain a divorce online, it’s important to make sure your state accepts these decrees as valid. You can also consult with a legal advisor by filling out the contact form you find on Legal-Yogi.com.
Divorce is a very difficult process regardless of the circumstances or state of the marriage. There is a great deal of paperwork involved, and if you choose to file without a lawyer, it can be even more stressful. When you and your spouse can’t agree on the conditions, it is always better to engage the services of a divorce lawyer. Legal-Yogi can help you with any questions
you may have and help you find a lawyer in your area. There is a form for you to fill out when you go to the website, and someone will call you as soon as possible.