What are the basic steps for filing for divorce?
While divorce laws vary by state (and these are not Delaware-specific), here are the basic steps:
- First, you must meet the residency requirements of the state.
- Second, you must have “grounds” (a legally acceptable reason) to end your marriage.
- Third, you must file divorce papers and have copies sent to your spouse.
- Fourth, if your spouse disagrees with anything in the divorce papers, then s/he will have the opportunity to file papers telling his/her side. This is called “contesting the divorce.” If s/he contests it, then you will have a series of court appearances to sort the issues out. If your spouse does not disagree with anything, then s/he should sign the papers and send them back to you and/or the court. If your spouse agrees with everything and signs the papers, this is called an “uncontested divorce.” Also, if a certain period of time passes and your spouse does not sign the papers or file any papers of his/her own, you may be able to proceed with the divorce as an uncontested divorce anyway. (In Delaware, your spouse has 20 days after s/he receives the petition by personal service, receipt of service by mail, his/her appearance in court or an appearance by his/her lawyer, 20 days from the date of publication of notice to file a response or counerclaim.1)
- Fifth, if there is property that you need divided or if you need financial support from your spouse, then you will have to work that out either in an out-of-court settlement or in a series of court hearings. Custody may also be decided as part of your divorce.
1 13 Del.C. § 1511(a)