What Are the Primary Divorce Documents?
Have you thought long and hard about whether to get a divorce? It’s an incredibly emotional decision that can leave you feeling overwhelmed. And that’s before you even start the formal legal process of ending your marriage.
You’ll need to prepare, file, and review multiple court forms before your divorce becomes final. This can add to your burdened feeling – but when you have support showing you exactly what to do and when things get much simpler. And that need not be a family law attorney. Hello Divorce’s online platform and client services team can help you complete and file every divorce form. But first, let’s look at what those are.
A petition for divorce is the first in a string of documents you’ll need to file with a circuit court – usually the resident county where you or your spouse meet its residency requirements. While some of the paperwork can be time-consuming, it’s important that you approach this task carefully and thoughtfully. If you make a mistake, the court could reject your filing and require you to start over before you get your final divorce decree.
On the divorce petition, you’ll need to provide the following:
- Your identifying and contact information, including name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth.
- Your spouse’s name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth.
- The names and ages of any minor children you have.
- The legal grounds for divorce (if required/in a fault state).
- Your requests for division of property, assets, child custody, child support, and alimony.
You can obtain a copy of a form petition for divorce from your local court clerk’s office. Learn and understand the residency requirements first so you know exactly which county to file for divorce.
You will need to pay a filing fee to the court when you file your paperwork. Filing fees tend to range from $80 to $500, but most fall in the $150 to $300 range. If you cannot afford the filing fee, almost all states have a fee waiver form that you can submit to the court.
The date you file your petition is day one of our divorce court case. Most states use much of the same paperwork and processes for annulments.
This sounds scary, but it’s part of the divorce process. After you file a petition for divorce with your county court, you must serve the divorce petition on your spouse so they know about the divorce case. Included with the divorce petition will be a summons requesting your spouse to respond to the petition within a certain window of time.
If you and your spouse agree divorce is the right step, you might consider not serving your spouse the paperwork. That’s a mistake. Even if you and your spouse agree on all divorce terms, you must still serve them the paperwork and give them the opportunity to respond. The court wants to know that your spouse had a fair opportunity to object to anything in the petition.
Proof of Service
The court knows your spouse has received a copy of the divorce petition and a summons through a Proof of Service. This is a written statement by the person who served the divorce paperwork on your spouse, usually signed by that person and sometimes notarized.
Whether you have a close friend serve the paperwork or hire a process server, you’ll need to have Proof of Service completed and file it with the court. A professional process server will provide you with a Proof of Service form after they serve the paperwork.
If your spouse is the one filing for divorce and you agree that divorce is the right move, you might think you don’t need to respond. In some cases, that could also be a mistake.
Why? Your spouse may request property or assets in a different distribution from what you two previously discussed.
Thus, it’s always a good idea to review the petition and respond, even as a precautionary measure. If you do not file a response, your spouse can file a request for a default divorce. This means you lose the ability to convey your wishes to the court.
Financial disclosures with supporting documents
While divorce rules vary by state, each state usually requires some form of financial disclosure. A financial disclosure is a document in which you and your spouse lay out all your assets and liabilities with full transparency.
In most states, you will not file the financial disclosure with the court unless you and your spouse cannot agree on the division of assets. The primary purpose of the financial disclosure is to promote accuracy and honesty about the financial status of the marriage.
To prove your financial disclosure is accurate, you may be required to attach supporting documents. These could include bank statements, mortgage statements, and credit card statements. You may also be required to provide retirement account information, even if some of the assets were contributed before your marriage.
Now, let’s take a look at how financial disclosures differ from state to state.
Financial disclosures in California
In California, you would complete this financial disclosure form. You may also need to attach supporting documents, which may include:
- Tax returns for the last two years
- Statements showing property or asset interests and liabilities
- Statement of investments, business opportunities, and other income-producing activities
Financial disclosures in Colorado
Colorado requires you to complete a sworn financial statement. This form requests the itemization of income and expenses. For some, you’ll need to attach statements to show the precise values of your assets and liabilities.
Financial disclosures in Utah
Utah takes a somewhat combined approach, requiring you to complete a financial declaration, itemizing your assets and liabilities but also attaching numerous documents. You may need to attach tax returns, financial statements, and pay stubs or other proof of income.
Disclaimer: The above are just three examples of what a state might require for financial disclosures during a divorce. The examples illuminate the fact that every state requires something slightly different, and you must pay close attention to what’s required when you file your divorce petition.
A divorce settlement agreement is a formal, binding document that spells out the terms of your divorce as you and your spouse have negotiated them. Some states call this document by other names—mediated settlement agreement, marital settlement agreement, separation agreement—but it ultimately doesn’t matter what it’s called. What matters is that it contains your full agreement about how your assets, property, debts, and liabilities will be divided.
You don’t have to complete a settlement agreement prior to your divorce proceedings. However, if you and your spouse can sit down and hammer out the details about how to split things, it can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to finalize your divorce.
Note: A judge could reject your settlement
Be aware that a judge could reject your divorce settlement agreement. Why? If the court finds the agreement to be unfair or that one spouse induced the other to agree to terms against their best interests, it may reject your agreement.
For example, if you earn $5,000 per month and your spouse earns $15,000 per month, the judge will want to know why your agreement doesn’t discuss alimony. You may have a fair and legitimate reason, but this could delay the process as the judge probes deeper.
Hello Divorce can help you avoid a rejected settlement agreement and protect your rights. We offer multiple customizable plans as well as access to a legal coach who can guide you through specific legal concerns. Further, we give our readers free access to state-specific divorce guides and checklists so they don’t miss a step.