Detailed Information on How to Divorce in USA

Divorce is a big decision and a kind of situation where both husband and wife along with family members and children go through emotional journey. Separating from your spouse can be very difficult but by knowing how to prepare to file a petition in the court and other important steps can help in making the process easy for you. There are a number of steps that you will need to follow to terminate the marriage with little to no hassle.

Especially, for the US residents, to decide to end a marriage can be a big task. In the United States of America, divorce is the province of the state governments. This means there is no role of the federal government in such issues. This is why the laws related to termination of marriage vary from state to state and the legal process for divorce in the United States may also involve issues of spousal support, child custody, child support, distribution of property and division of debt and so on. However, the way you plan to end your marriage will depend heavily on your relationship with your spouse and the laws of the state in which you live.

Here is a list of steps on how to proceed for divorce in the USA:

Gain Knowledge:

Knowledge is power and when trying to terminate your marriage, you will need all the knowledge you can get. Read journals and magazines and find out how the decision is going to change your life. The decision to go to the courtroom is not something that is made abruptly. There are so many things to think about like your family, your children, society, property, financial aspect and so on. On top of that you need to be mentally prepared for the consequences also. 

Know about State laws:

Whether you choose to hire an attorney to represent you in the court or you decide to file the petition on your own, you must be familiar with the process. Each and every state of the USA has its own rules and procedures for filing a petition, including residency requirements and separation requirements. You must be aware about your state’s laws, its family court rules, your rights and your spouse’s rights. This way you will have a clear idea about what to expect in a hearing. It will also help to make a good decision regarding what kind of divorce will be good for you.


It is a fact that without any specific ground you cannot file for divorce. So, when you plan to file a petition in the courtroom you need to determine the grounds. In the US, acceptable grounds for terminating a marriage differ from state to state. Mainly, the grounds fall into two categories – fault and no-fault. Fault grounds include such deliberate acts as adultery, abandonment and cruelty. No-fault grounds include incompatibility and separation. It is essential to find out if your state requires a period of legal separation, which allows couples to live apart while maintaining the order passed by the court regarding financial and custody issues.

Choose the Type:

In the US, you can choose between different kinds of divorce such as no-fault, At-fault, Summary, uncontested, Collaborative and Mediated. Each of the kinds has its own merits and demerits. Check out your state laws to find out which will be a better option for you.

Collect Important Papers:

For filing a petition in the court, there is also the need for a list of important paperwork. Gather the important paperwork, including tax returns, pay stubs, deeds, and documents from a jointly owned business, wills and powers of attorney documents. Arrange the papers in a systematic manner and keep it in a file. This will help in avoiding last minute chaos.

Estimate your Financial Assets:

For getting divorced, you will need to give a declaration of your financial assets you have accumulated during the marriage. List personal property, along that property that is disputed. It is important to assess your own financial situation before filing for divorce in your local court. Calculate how much your marital estate will be worth. Figure out whether you have the income to support yourself. Check your credit levels and other property values before you begin the proceedings. This will help the judge establish an equitable division of property and assist the court in calculating child support and alimony.


Hire a Lawyer:

You can hire a lawyer or attorney to discuss the terms of the divorce. Legal assistance will help to make the process go much more smoothly for you in the long run. The lawyer will draft a settlement contract as well as legal papers that state where assets go and the legal rights and restrictions of both parties. However, a lawyer is not necessary in every case. In situations with no children, little property and spouses who are in agreement on terms, the matter can be handled with a minimum of paperwork and money.

Plan ahead:

Before filing a petition in the courtroom, talk with your spouse and lawyer to decide on custody arrangements for children and pets. Having an idea of what you would like to do with your children and pets, you will get enough time to prepare your children of the consequences of divorce. Also if you have to put your current home on the market, make the necessary arrangements beforehand. This way after getting the divorce, you and your spouse will not have to wait for long.

Consult a Counselor:

The decision to end your relationship with your spouse is going to impact your life in many ways. Try to seek the help of a counselor or therapist to help you stay in a functional emotional state to get through the process. This will be of great help to get you mentally prepared and keep your stress levels lower. Also try to talk to your close friends and family members so that they can act as your support system for strength and assistance.

Prepare a Petition:

A petition is a detailed document in which you, the petitioner, offer basic facts about you and your spouse (the respondent), and a description of the grounds for divorce. In this petition you will also have to request the court to dissolve your marriage, restore non-marital property and, if there are children, make orders pertaining to child custody and support. The petition must be notarized and include a verification indicating that you have read the document and believe its contents to be true. Find the court in your area in which you can file a petition. When you file, you must pay a fee, which differ from state to state.

Complete Civil Summons:

It is essential for your spouse to serve the divorce petition. If you have a lawyer, he or she will take care of this for you. Else you can request a member of the court, usually the sheriff, to serve the petition. Give your spouse time to respond. No matter what, your spouse has the right to argue with the terms of your request.

Attend Court Hearing:

Once you submit the petition you will be given a hearing date. Your petition will be reviewed by a court administrator and then passed onto a judge who will give the final judgment. Attend your court hearing and here you will have the opportunity to present evidence in front of the court before the judge makes a final ruling on your case. In most states, you must attend at least one hearing presided over by a judge or magistrate. During this hearing, the judge or magistrate will make a determination on whether to grant you and your spouse a divorce. The grant will be provided when both parties are willing and consenting.

Final Judgment:

Once the judge signs the final judgment, you will be legally divorced. Here you will have to sign the court papers with your spouse. Now it is time to start a new journey. What the court has ordered you and your spouse need to follow it. In case of any further problem with your spouse you can always knock the door of a legal court in your state.

Important Tips and Warnings:

  • For those who cannot afford the filing fee, can even apply for a fee waiver or make installment payments.
  • Uncontested divorce is not a good option when children are involved. In such cases, courts will intervene to decide what should be done with your children, regardless of your arrangements.
  • If you wish to represent your case on your own, then you must research the process properly and be ready to defend your assets and custody rights in court.
  • Be prepared for the worst situations when filing divorce. Remember your spouse may not like this decision at all and may not even ready to file a petition. 
  • During the process if you ever think that a second chance should be given to your marriage, then you must surely go for it. You never know your second chance can make your marriage successful.

To conclude, the decision of separating from your spouse is one of the hardest decisions in your life. But by knowing how to prepare to file for divorce, the whole process can become easy for you and your partner. 

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