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Petition for Divorce

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What is a Petition for Divorce?

A petition for divorce is the document that generally begins the divorce process.  One spouse, called the petitioner, may serve the petition on the other party, called the respondent.  The petition for divorce contains notification and information related to the upcoming divorce proceedings. 

If they agree to the petition, the respondent party can sign it.  After this, the petition for divorce is filed in a state court, usually in the county of residence of either spouse.  The petition is also sometimes called a “divorce petition”.

What Should be Contained in a Petition for Divorce?

A valid petition for divorce should contain basic information such as:

  • Names of the husband and wife
  • Names of any children
  • Statements regarding separate or shared property
  • Any statements or requests regarding child custody, child support, and/or spousal support

Many states are “no-fault divorce” states, meaning that the couple does not need a reason to file for divorce.  Thus, a petition for divorce might not always state a reason that a divorce is being requested.

How Should a Petition for Divorce be Responded To?

If the responding spouse agrees to divorce proceedings, they simply need to sign an acknowledgement that they received service of the petition.  This will be enough to allow the proceedings to move forward without any issues. 

However, if the other party is being evasive or difficult in signing or receiving the petition, it may be necessary to work with a professional server to complete the “service of process”. 

What if My Spouse is Missing and I Can’t Serve Them With a Petition?

In some cases, divorce from a missing spouse is possible.  There may be alternatives to serving them with a petition.  This usually involves posting a statement in a newspaper, which would inform the other party that a petition for divorce is being processed.  After a reasonable amount of time, the court may proceed with the divorce process without the other party being present. 

States may have different laws regarding such proceedings where one spouse is absent.  Typically, if a response to a petition for divorce is not received within 30 days, the filing spouse can request for a default judgment to be entered by the court.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With a Petition for a Divorce?

As with any legal issues related to divorce or separation, it’s generally necessary to hire a lawyer when filing any documents.  A qualified family law attorney in your area can assist you with a petition for divorce to ensure that is accurate and meets the legal requirements in your jurisdiction.  Also, your lawyer will be able to represent you in court during the actual divorce proceedings. 

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 06-27-2018 12:04 AM PDT

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