Divorce Forms 101

Whether you opt to hire a divorce lawyer or divorce without a lawyer, there will be a number of divorce forms – also often referred to as divorce papers – involved. But what exactly are these divorce forms or papers and what role do they play in the divorce process?

Most often divorce papers are referred to as an “end result” – as something people are “served with” or documents proving their current marital status.

Divorce forms or papers actually come into play at the very beginning of a divorce.

Completing divorce forms or papers is the first step in the divorce process. Once completed divorce forms constitute a “Petition to Divorce” which is then filed (for a fee) with the Clerk of the District Court. The divorce is allocated a case number and officially in the system.

Notice of the Petition to Divorce – that divorce papers have been filed – is officially delivered to the other spouse, a process often referred to as “being served with divorce papers.”

Types of Divorce Forms.

The exact nature of divorce papers varies from State to State (and sometimes from county to county, too) but there are basically three types or groups of Divorce Forms:

  • Forms to be completed by the “Petitioner” – the person filing for divorce. These contain basic information about the marriage, income, assets and so on.
  • Extra forms to be completed if there are children. These include a proposed Parenting Plan and proposed custody and child support arrangements.
  • Response Forms, to be completed by the “Respondent” – the other spouse. Some may be the same forms as the Petitioner’s but completed from the respondent’s point of view.

The purpose of Divorce Forms

Though the exact nature and number of divorce papers to be completed varies from State to State their purpose is the same everywhere. They contain information the Family Court needs to process a divorce and if necessary, make judgements.

Completing Divorce Forms

In some cases, completion of divorce forms will be fast and straightforward, and the information they contain uncontested and easy to process. This is usually the case when there are modest assets, no children (or no disagreements regarding children), and little if any hostility. In these cases divorce will be a “rubber-stamping” exercise, completed in a matter of months.

In others, information in divorce forms is subject to a great deal of debate both before and after they have been filed, between the soon-to-be ex spouses and/or their lawyers. This is most likely when there are pre-existing hostilities, large assets at stake and fundamental disagreements about children.

In such a case divorce forms are a source of conflict rather than helpful, and contentious issues may ultimately need to be decided by the judge – usually after a great deal of time and expense.

Divorce Forms in a do-it-yourself divorce

Though important, divorce forms do not need to be completed by a lawyer or other professional. They can be completed by the Petitioner for Divorce themselves.

Divorce forms for people opting to file for divorce without a lawyer, are called “Per Se” Divorce Forms (literally, “by itself” or “in itself” divorce forms).

Because so many people are now opting for the advantages of divorcing without a laywer, courts have worked to ensure Per Se Divorce Forms are straightforward and written in plain English. In a do-it-yourself divorce the biggest challenge may be sourcing all the information needed, and math calculations relating to child support and so forth.

Help with Completing Divorce Forms

There are several agencies available to help people complete their divorce forms, including law schools, legal aid services and free self-help divorce clinics which are rapidly increasing in number.

In some States, people who help other people complete their divorce papers must sign a disclosure stating that they have done so, even if they did no more than point out where to sign.

Where can I get Divorce Forms?

Do-it-yourself divorce forms are widely available from a variety of sources, some free, some paid and some much better than others. See “Where Can I Get Divorce Forms?” for more details.

Copyright 2009 Molly Laws

Posted in: Divorce Steps and Planning

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