What's The Best Way To Get Divorce Papers?

Updated December 17, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Guilbeault

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Excluding perhaps the divorce lawyers, no one likes the divorce process. It's messy, costly, and causes stress towards all parties. However, it's sometimes necessary. Sometimes, the marriage doesn't work, and the two of you are much better off divorcing. If you're about to take that route, you may have a lot of questions, such as how to get divorce papers in the first place. Luckily, here's a guide to getting them.

What Are Divorce Papers?

You may have heard the term "divorce papers," but may not know what they are. Simply put, they're the name for the petition you use to serve to the spouse you're divorcing. The papers have all the information about the marriage and may include the property distribution.

Getting Papers Online

The Internet has made it easier than ever to file for a divorce. You can go to the website of your state and look for the paperwork, and best of all, you can usually get it for free. Online divorce forms papers are common and accessible. 

With that said, the rules are different depending on your state or county, and the rules for online divorce papers may vary. You may need certain types of online divorce papers or go through a certain hoop if you want to carry on with your divorce, and that's never fun. If your divorce is uncontested and your children are minors, there may be more forms involved in your online divorce papers.

People don't like jumping through hoops and they prefer to get their online divorce papers right on the first try. Some people will use professionals to help them prepare their online divorce papers, but that can cost money.

You also need to have an uncontested divorce if you want to file online. That's when you and your spouse agree with most, if not all, of the divisions upon your divorce. If there are some issues you haven't agreed on, the two of you should reach a compromise. Hiring a divorce lawyer for this situation can be stressful and expensive.

Common divorce issues include:

  • Children. Everything from who takes care of the child and when, who can visit the child, who has to provide support, and so on.
  • Alimony. It's similar to child support but instead, support for the wife in general.
  • Who divides the property and debts.

If you can't agree on everything, and no compromise works, then you must hire a divorce attorney to help the two of you reach a deal. This is especially ideal if you're battling over a good amount of property, or you don't agree with taking care of the children. If there is no good agreement, you won't be able to file your divorce papers online.

You should also look into whether your state is a no-fault divorce state, which means that you can file for divorce without any proof of wrongdoing. If you do not live in a no-fault divorce state, then you should also look into proving who is at fault for the divorce and gather a paper trail. For example, if the divorce is happening due to an affair, you should gather evidence of that affair to present in front of a judge.

Non-Government Resources

What if your state doesn't have the proper documents you need? Some turn to online companies that claim to have free divorce papers. There are a lot of them, and it can be overwhelming. Many of them are unreliable; they say they're free, but they're not. They aren't updated with the current divorce laws. The papers also just may be wrong, such as saying you have to prove certain claims, such as adultery, when you don't have to prove them. Be very careful about your source when searching for free divorce papers or online divorce papers in general.

You can search for ratings of all the online divorce websites. A good divorce website will let you speak to an attorney to make sure you're filing the papers right, and make sure you're not missing any important info by going through the online divorce papers with you step by step. A good company will also have people review your forms before you submit, so you can be sure you won't have to refile in the case that something’s wrong. No one likes fees, and it's awful to have to pay more just because you overlooked something. If you get your online divorce papers right, an attorney can find the correct opportunities for fee waivers and make your divorce online as affordable and painless as possible. 

In the end, however, it's up to you to file the paperwork. A third party won't be able to do it, but instead, you have to, or you have to have an attorney.

By going to websites that are reliable, such as a government site or a highly rated third-party company, getting online divorce papers is easier than ever. But what about getting papers offline?

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Getting Divorce Papers Offline

If you can't find the proper divorce papers online, you can get them in person. You can go to the county clerk's office, which may have papers you can retrieve. If they don't, there is a chance that they can mail the forms to you. The forms are much easier to fill out than they may be online, and they have forms for every part of the divorce process. You also have the added security of knowing that your source is legitimate, and you don’t need to worry about “free online divorce papers” scams online.

Examples Of Forms

When you get a divorce, you may need certain types of forms, which can include:

Petition: This is the main document, and it is the one that will ask the court to give you a divorce.

Summons: This is how your spouse is contacted when you file for a divorce. An officer should contact your spouse, and they can respond to you.

Financial: The financial affidavit is when the two of you describe your final situations. Make sure you cover your entire finances in full.

Notice: The notice of hearing is when your court will give you a date for your hearing.

Settlement Agreement: Once you and your spouse agree on everything when it comes to the divorce, you fill out this form.

Decree: The divorce decree is what the judge will be responsible for signing. Once it's signed, the divorce is official.

There are certain forms that require approval from a judge. For example, your divorce property deed probate will determine who will receive any properties or houses split during the divorce, but it is not official until it is approved and recognized by the court.

Make Copies Of Your Documents

Once you've filled out all your divorce papers, make sure you make a copy of them. You can copy them physically, or just upload them online. In case if the papers somehow get lost, you'll have them on you so you can refile if needed. This is a rare occurrence, but it always helps to keep important documents on you.

Filing Your Papers

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Once you've filled out your petition, you can file them and begin the process. You may have to file a particular amount of copies, so make sure you've made enough. You'll need the original documents too. Talk to the clerk's office and see how many copies you may need.

Also, check the clerk's office for any other questions or concerns. For example, you may need to be a resident of the county or state for a certain amount of time. If you're not, you may not be able to file for a divorce. You can check the ease of a divorce online, too, but talking to someone in person may be the best way to get everything up to date, as the government websites are sometimes outdated.

Filing Fees

No one likes to pay fees, but they're a part of the divorce process. There is no set amount as to what the fees are. Your best bet is to look them up or ask. Have a couple extra hundred dollars on you so you can make sure you can pay for it.

But, what if you don't have the money? If you can prove your income, you could have the fee waived or get assistance. It may depend on the court or the situation, but you can always ask. The worst they can do is say no. The sad part of the divorce process is how expensive it is. Even without an attorney, you can pay a lot of money. However, by preparing yourself, you can make it through.

And that's the gist on how to obtain and file for your divorce papers. Obviously, you should contact your local clerk's office to see how it's done. This article is just a general way for you to get started. The process varies from county to county. It's always unfortunate that the rules cannot be the same everywhere, but that's a part of life.

With that said, keep cool and talk it out with your partner. See if the two of you can agree and if not, then you may need an attorney.

Seek Help!

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Divorce is a messy process, and many times, it can be prevented. While some couples are never meant to be, some of the main reasons for a divorce are due to miscommunication. You don't communicate your financial situations very well. One spouse cannot express their emotions well, and because of that, it ends up blowing up in everyone's faces. There are some ways you can prevent divorce. Communicating more, bringing up a concern before it gets too much to control, and talking to people are just a few options.

The latter includes marriage counseling. There is no shame in bringing you and your spouse for a couple's counseling session. Sometimes, the two of you can work things out if you communicate more, and a counselor can help you do that. You can learn techniques that can make the two of you get along better, and you can rekindle that marriage and prevent the mess that is divorcing.

If the reason for your divorce is something that can be fixed, there is still time. Contact a therapist today and see what they can do for your marriage.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

Can I file for a divorce for free?

You can't file for a legal divorce or separation for free, but you can get the fees waived. If you get the fees waived, you wouldn't be paying anything; they would be deferred based on your income level. Filing for divorce can be an incredibly daunting process, especially since emotions are likely running high. What you can do to make it easier is to ask for assistance. For example, a court facilitator will be able to help you with family law issues. Some things, such as the services available and processes related to divorce or separation will vary slightly from state to state. What you can do to find specific information pertaining to your area is to look at legal separation forms FAQs and other information on your state's court website. For example, if you live in California, you would look at the judicial Council of California website or the California courts website. The judicial council of California website and legal separation forms FAQs online will help you understand the basics filing for divorce comes with. In addition to divorce filing information, you may be able to find information regarding access to records. Many court websites will have a menu that includes an access to records link where you can gain access to records that are public. If you aren't able to find what you need on the judicial council website or another government website, it is always appropriate to reach out for assistance. There should be a phone number or contact form on your local court website that's there for you to use to contact someone who will be able to answer your questions. You can ask questions about completing divorce or separation in your state, time frame or fees, and anything else that you can't find on the website. 

How do I start my divorce papers?

The first step to starting your divorce papers is to research divorce or separation in your state and to pay the fees affiliated with divorce or detachment from a domestic partnership. Again, if you are in a certain income bracket, you can get these fees waived. Then, you must obtain legal separation forms. These legal separation forms are also referred to as a petition for dissolution. The person you are separating from will be notified once you fill out these forms. If you have any questions about filing for divorce or legal separation and completing court forms in your state, you can contact your local court or check your state court's website. When you speak to someone at your local courthouse directly, they'll be able to assist you with not only the basics filing for divorce comes with, but more intricate, specific, or in-depth questions regarding forms rules and divorce or legal separation. 

Public records are another topic that sometimes comes up for people who are filing for divorce or separation. Divorce records are almost always public, save for uncommon or unique situations. If you're unsure of where your spouse is located and, as a result, they aren't responding to divorce requests or are unable to do so, you may post a news reference of your divorce. To post a news reference for your divorce, you must give your approval to the publication. Your local court office will be able to provide you with information regarding the specific publications that you can publish your divorce notice in as well as how to start the process. After your divorce or separation, you'll be able to reference your divorce records at any time through public records. 

How do I file for divorce by myself?

There are cases where an individual may not have spousal or partner support or agreement when filing for divorce. Your partner may be absent, involved with the criminal law, not responding to divorce requests, or in refusal to separate. You can still pursue divorce or separation without spousal partner support and do not need to stay stuck in a domestic partnership or marriage that you don't want to be in. Divorce is certainly harder without partner support or agreement, but it is possible. 

You may also find yourself looking into dissolution annulment and what the difference is between the two. If you're wondering how dissolution annulment and divorce vary, the answer is quite simple. Annulment makes it as though the marriage never existed, where dissolution mirrors divorce or separation. The difference between dissolution annulment and divorce may sound confusing, but where it varies is that annulment makes it so that your former marriage isn't legally valid. Annulment "cancels" the union, whereas with divorce, it'll be known that the marriage existed, but you will be single and legally separated. Some criteria must be met for summary dissolution annulment, such as those related to property and debt. Be sure to look at the forms’ rules in your state so that you can be sure that you're eligible for this option. 

To find out anything related to summary dissolution annulment, annulment spousal partner support, or how to go about completing divorce or separation, find your court website. To find your court website, searching for "summary dissolution annulment," "dissolution annulment spousal partner," or "annulment spousal partner support" along with your state name or region should help you find the information you need. Make sure that the website ends in .gov when you search for "dissolution annulment spousal partner" or similar topics to ensure the information you receive is correct.

Finding online divorce papers is possible, and they can be filled out without the help of a divorce lawyer. You can find these divorce forms and instructions and fill them out step by step on your own. However, these are only possible in the case of an uncontested divorce, which is when both parties agree to the divorce and agree to all the provisions of the divorce. If it is possible that you and your partner can come to agreement on your own, that will be best. It still might not be a completely free divorce, but with an uncontested divorce you avoid the extra costs of a divorce attorney and other fees involved in a complex contested divorce case.

Can you divorce yourself?

It is possible to file for divorce on your own. Often, this is referred to as a DIY divorce. Your state's court website will have information about filing for divorce or separation by yourself in your state. A state court is not the same as the supreme court. The supreme court is the highest court in the US, whereas your state court will be local, so make sure that you're on the correct website when seeking information about DIY or do-it-yourself divorce. If your spouse is under criminal law, the divorce process may include extra complications, but it is possible, and there is help out there for those in this situation. You'll want to be versed in divorce or separation basics and can find more information regarding divorce or separation basics for your state easily online.

If you are confused as to what the difference between divorce and legal separation is and are looking for a divorce or separation summary, a simple divorce or separation summary would be that divorce is a legal separation. If someone says that they're getting a divorce or legal separation, they will be separated legally, whereas if someone simply says that they're separated, it may or may not be legal. Either is valid, but many people who are married and want a divorce or separation decide on a court verified divorce or legal separation so that they're no longer legally connected or joined to their former spousal partner. 

Even if you go the DIY route for divorce or legal separation, you may still seek help from a professional for issues related to children divorce property and debt in a divorce. Having some form of support, whether it's mental health help or legal help, is vital for many going through this process who wish to make things even a little bit easier. Whether you need emotional support, help understanding forms rules, or assistance in working through communication troubles, know that it is okay to reach out for help. There are affordable legal options and mental health care options for those going through a divorce or legal separation. The divorce or separation completing time is a life transition, so in addition to getting divorce counseling during the process, many decide to get therapy or counseling from a mental health professional one on one during or after the divorce or separation completing time. 

What should you not do during separation?

You should try to be as fair as possible during a separation. You don't want to act out of spite, nor do you want to try to get a partner to stick around if they are adamant about divorce or separation. Hiring a divorce mediator may be beneficial to you and your legal spouse in the divorce process. A divorce mediator will be versed in family law and other necessary areas of knowledge to help people get through the divorce process. A family law facilitator may also be helpful, depending on your unique situation. In addition to seeing a divorce mediator and/or family law facilitator, there are times where it may be necessary to reach out for the support of a divorce counselor. Since a legal professional will have citable opinions and knowledge regarding the legal side of things and a divorce counselor is versed in psychology and interpersonal connections and can provide citable opinions in those areas, many individuals decide to seek services from both.

Filing for divorce or legal separation and completing divorce or separation is stressful, but this difficult time won't last forever. If you find that there are disparities between you and your spousal partner when filing for divorce or legal separation, divorce counseling or therapy can be incredibly beneficial. A divorce counselor can aid you as you talk through challenging issues such as those related to wills estates, property and debt in a divorce, child custody and visitation, and anything else that comes up while filing for divorce so that you can separate as peacefully as possible. Whether you see a counselor individually or go to a divorce counselor with the person you are separating from, a licensed mental health provider can help you before, during, and after completing divorce or separation. Search the network of online providers at ReGain today or look for a counselor or therapist in your local area.


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