This section provides general information (not state-specific) about the basic steps to get a divorce. If you would like to see your state's divorce information, please select your state from the menu above or on the left.
What are the basic steps for filing for divorce?
While divorce laws vary by state, here are the basic steps:
First, you must meet the residency requirements of the state in which you wish to file.
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, your spouse will then have the opportunity to file papers telling his/her side. This is called “contesting the divorce.” In this case, you will have to attend a series of court appearances to sort the issues out. If your spouse does not disagree with anything, s/he should sign the papers and send them back to you and/or the court. This is called an “uncontested divorce.” 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. You should speak to a lawyer in your state about how long you have to wait to see if your spouse answers the divorce papers before you can continue with the divorce.
Fifth, if there is property that you need divided, or if you need financial support from your spouse, you will have to work that out in an out-of-court settlement, or in a series of court hearings. Custody may also be decided as part of your divorce.
Where can I find additional information about divorce?
The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges has a free, in-depth information packet called "Managing Your Divorce: A Guide for Battered Women," which you may find helpful, especially if you have to represent yourself in your divorce. There are also other information packets on related topics which can be found on their website.