No one who gets married does so planning to get divorced. It’s one of those messy, real-life moments that you can’t really prepare for. And even if the decision to divorce comes gradually, with much discussion about whether it’s the right course to take, the actual process of filing for divorce isn’t typically general knowledge.
That’s why many people decide to seek out a divorce lawyer to help with the process. However, deciding to get a divorce is a deeply personal matter that many may not feel comfortable airing out to someone outside of their ended marriage. Or they may simply not be able or willing to spend the money required to hire a professional attorney. In these and other cases it is possible to file for divorce independently with the proper resources, leaving you and your ex-spouse to settle the matter privately.
While the process to divorce varies depending on the state you live in, there are general similarities in each case that once made aware of will make the process seem less daunting. You will have to file in the county of the state you currently live in unless you meet certain exception requirements. As an example here is the process for filing for a divorce in California.
California Self-Help Divorce Filing Process
- Visit the California courts website where you will find the necessary forms and instructions for filing a divorce. There will be three important areas to explore: Prepare for filing your case, Filing your case, and Forms. You will need to read through each of these sections (starting with preparation) to complete the filing.
- Read through the Basics of Divorce or Separation to understand the differences between a legal separation, a divorce, and an annulment. This ensures you are able to firmly decide that a divorce is the legal procedure that best fits the wishes of both you and your spouse.
- Familiarize yourself with the forms available to you—they should have a brief description. This will help you feel more comfortable as you start the process. They will be together and can be revisited as you need to while reading through the process.
- Fill out and have someone review your court forms. These forms are a declaration of your desire to divorce and provide details about your marriage, including property, debts, and any children under 18 that will require a visitation schedule and potential child support. Once you have filled them out you should have them reviewed by a family law facilitator or judicial self-help center. Make two copies of all forms.
- File your court forms with the county clerk. They will keep one copy and give you back the other copy with a stamp indicating they were filed.
- If you and your spouse are not filing together you need to formally serve them all the court papers. This must be done by someone other than you who is over 18 or via a qualified mail service. During this time you must also serve your local child support agency. Then you must file a proof of service.
- Fill out and file Financial Disclosure Forms, which fulfill the legal requirement to disclose to your spouse (and for them to disclose to you) pertinent financial details like what you owe and own, income, and expenses. This can be filed with your court forms and must be filed within 60 days of filing court papers, as well as other forms related to the disclosure (which can be found on your court’s website). The Financial Disclosure Forms must also be formally served.
- To finalize the divorce at this time you must fill out and file Final Forms based on the current status of your case. This can be one of four options:
- My Spouse/Partner DID NOT File a Response and We DO NOT Have an Agreement
- My Spouse/Partner DID NOT File a Response and We Have an Agreement
- My Spouse/Partner Filed a Response and We Have an Agreement
- My Spouse/Partner Filed a Response and We DO NOT Have an Agreement
- Each situation has its own set of Final Forms that must be filed. Once these are filed they will be processed through the courts and aJudgment and Notice of Entry of Judgment will be sent to both parties, indicating that the divorce has been granted.
As mentioned above, this is an example based on current California divorce guidelines and will differ depending on the state you live in. To find what’s required in your state visit your state’s Courts website.
The process does take some time and patience to get through—and you must pay close attention to the forms needed for your personal situation. Working with Forms Workflow can be a great way to make this process less stressful by allowing you to quickly and easily find current forms for filing for divorce for every state.