How to Initiate a Divorce

How to Initiate a Divorce

You and your spouse are dissatisfied in your marriage and have decided to get divorced. The challenging decision-making process is complete, but you could be left bewildered and scared by the real process of filing for divorce. In the end you’re not proficient in family law. You might not have ever communicated with a local court system or the office of the county clerk.

There are a lot of important things to concentrate on when you’re terminating your marriage – spousal support, custody, the splitting of marital property… The only thing you don’t need is to stress out about how the process will be prior to you even looking at the divorce paperwork.

We want you to know a couple of things about what you’re getting into for prior to you filing for divorce. In this way, you’ll be better equipped to make decisions that leads up to an easier divorce for the both of you, and your children. There are a couple of various kinds of divorce where their processes differ, so think of this as your general outline.

Filing the Divorce Petition

The initial step in the divorce process is to file the petition for divorcing. This paperwork, which some states otherwise call a divorce complaint, enables one spouse to begin the divorce case.

The petition largely just validates the grounds for divorce, establishes the parties and details how they fulfill that state’s residency requirements (you can look them up on your local court website — they vary by state, and you aren’t required to file in the same state in which your marriage license was issued. The petitioner may also take this chance to request that brief court orders be put into place concerning things such as custody and parenting time, alimony and child support, and which spouse is going to continue residing in the marital home, which the court might or might not award.

Other divorce documentation needs to also be filed during this time, but they differ a little bit subject to where you live. This commonly includes a divorce summons, that formally gives notice to your spouse that the legal process has started, documents detailing your income and assets, and documents establishes your children and the regular costs related with them.

The petitioner has the responsibility of filling out all this preliminary documents. They are also going to have to pay a filing fee at that point, but you can by all means, negotiate dividing the cost with your spouse if you choose. Filing fees also differ by state, and you can locate that information on your local court’s website in addition. The date you file is going to serve as your legal separation date, at that time you will stop accumulating marital property.

Serving Your Spouse

After you have filed the preliminary documents, you are going to need to serve your spouse formally. This means providing your spouse with a copy of what has been filed, legal requirements differ by state, so you must fulfill them in order to do this correctly.

In California for instance, any individual over eight teen that is not involved in the case can serve divorce papers, but a couple of states have the requirement to use a licensed process server. It could be beneficial for you to hire a professional regardless of your state’s requirement, because when service is not 100% correct, the court is going to make you start over again.

As difficult as this discussion might be, we strongly suggest you tell your spouse that the divorce papers are on their way prior to them being served, provided that you feel safe doing so. Apart from that, it may come as a displeasing surprise and jeopardize your ability to handle your divorce cordially.

Waiting for a Response

Now that your soon to be ex has had the chance to look over the documentation you’ve completed so far, they are going to have some work to do also.

There is a equal set of documents that the respondent needs to complete and file, which is why it doesn’t matter who starts the process in no-fault divorces. In fault divorces, nevertheless, the petitioner is alleging that the respondent acted wrongly (such as cheating, domestic abuse, or desertion) which warrants wanting to terminate the marriage.

Your spouse is going to have a specific amount of time for completing the forms to avoid a default judgement, so you’re not going to have to wait around forever. They are going to file their documents with the court the same way you did, and the negotiations will begin.

Negotiating a Deal

In spite of what you’ve seen in the movies, only about five percent of divorces really go to court. Likely, you and your spouse are going to settle out of court, either on your own, through mediation, or through divorce lawyers. You may even presently have a prenup or separation agreement, in which circumstance most and/or all of the work is complete.

If you come to a settlement yourselves, then you are in the fortunate position of going through an uncontested divorce. This could save you a lot on attorney’s fees. Even when you do choose you want some legal advice from a family law lawyer, you will still have saved dozens of chargeable hours.

If you both are receptive to work with one another but don’t agree on everything straightaway, then mediation is a perfect alternative for you. Through mediation, a professional is going to guide you through all the negotiations and aid in keeping things respectful. Custody, spousal maintenance, and the splitting of debts and assets can all be pretty juicy discussions, so it’s beneficial to have a level head in the room. Mediation is a lot more costly than on-line divorces but a lot less than costly each of you hiring an attorney.

When you and your spouse aren’t really agreeing on anything, you could end up both hiring a lawyer but settling out of court. Whereas mediation is typically a set of real-time discussions, divorce lawyers are going to execute most of the negotiations by an exchange of letters, so it can take significantly longer than DIY divorces or mediation.

Regardless of which technique of disagreement resolution you decide on, around the time you come the finalization of negotiating, you would have established spousal maintenance, divided your debts and assets, and created a parenting plan (comprising of visitation, child support, legal, and/or physical custody) if there are children involved.

For an unfortunate few, even highly-paid attorneys are not going to be able to make a deal. In those cases, you’ll be going to family court, where a judge is going to have the final say on the conditions of your divorce.

Regardless of how just and knowledgeable the judge might be, they won’t have the chance to get to know you, and it’s a frightening prospect having a stranger establish who will have custody of your child. That’s why it’s encouraged for you to avoid this fate when possible. The time and cost of a divorce trial are bad enough, but the invalidation can be downright traumatic.

Receiving Your Divorce Decree

Following the response document being filed, a lot of states have proper waiting period or required period of time of legal separation prior to your marriage being affirmed over. This is when you both are going to be ironing-out your custody and property specifics.

After the designated period has concluded, a judge can then issue a divorce decree. This document states that your marriage terminated.


    1. Berger, M. (n.d.). How to start the divorce process. wordmark-copyright.

Speak with our Divorce Attorney in Phoenix & Scottsdale, AZ

Moshier Law should be your choice when you need the best divorce attorney in Phoenix. An experienced family law attorney will work with you to obtain the best possible outcome in your situation. We advocate for our clients, so they have the brightest future possible. Give us a call today at 480-999-0800 for a free consultation.


Jennifer Moshier Collaborative Divorce Lawyer Scottsdale Arizona
Jennifer Moshier, Scottsdale Divorce Lawyer

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