The Mechanics of Filing for Divorce

The laws and procedures differ from one legal system to another, and even slightly from state to state in the United States. Although legally, the process is fairly simple, emotionally it is usually not at all simple.

The first step is to file a petition or legal request in the family court in the county where you live. The petition will ask the court to take action, in this case, to dissolve the contractual agreement between the parties to the divorce. If both parties are agreement about the divorce and the terms of the divorce, the process can be usually be handled by the parties themselves under the supervision of the court. However, if there are significant disagreements between the spouses, legal help may be needed to work with the court to negotiate the final settlement.

Steps toward final divorce

Once you have decided on a divorce, the best first step is to visit an attorney with a specialty in family law. Most attorneys will have offer free consultations to discuss your case in general and get needed information. Even if you are concerned about costs, it is a good idea to make use of the free consultation. Many attorneys have sliding fee schedules that depend on income. Some attorneys will provide basic services at a very nominal cost. If spousal abuse is involved in the case, legal aid may provide legal counsel.

First, you have to make sure you are eligible to use the court system in your county and state. Both states and counties may have their own special rules regarding divorces. Generally, the divorce will be negotiated in your local country family court. If the spouses live in different counties, the divorce will have to be filed in the county where one of the two resides.

Most states don’t have “quicky” divorces. They have residency requirements. In Minnesota, at least one of the spouses has to have resided in the state for at least 180 days. The 180-day residency requirement in Minnesota is typical of states, but some states require a year and some states have longer residency requirements. There are exceptions to residency requirement in some cases. For instance, if living in the state you live in is one of the main reasons for the divorce, you may be able to file for divorce without regard to how long you lived there.

The petitioner, or spouse who acts as a kind of complainant, must file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the family court in the county where either party is a resident. Then, the petitioner must personally serve the respondent of the non-filing spouse with a Summons and Petition (unless the divorce is a joint divorce). The respondent has 30 days to answer the petition with a Counter-Petition which makes counterclaims to the reasoning stated in the petition. These petitions will play a role in the eventual settlement.

Summary marital dissolution

Summary dissolution is a streamlined process for obtaining a divorce which can be followed if marital and family complications are minimal.

  • If there are children (born in the marriage or adopted) in the marriage.
  • If the wife is not pregnant.
  • If the marriage is less than eight years old.
  • If neither party owns real estate.
  • If there is less than $8,000 worth of debt incurred during the marriage.
  • If the total fair market value of marital assets is not more than$25,000.
  • If neither party has assets more than $25,000.
  • If there has been no domestic violence.

Under those conditions, the couple may be able to file a joint declaration. They must certify that they have watched a summary process video. The district court has to enter a decree of dissolution 30 days after the filing of the joint declaration.

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