Step 1: The Petition and Response
Every divorce starts with the Petition. If you file first, you’re the Petitioner and your spouse is the Respondent (and vice versa).
There is no legal advantage to being the Petitioner vs. the Respondent. After someone files the petition, the other spouse has 30 days to respond.
The person who files for divorce should do so in the county you or your spouse has lived in for the preceding three months, and will have to pay a filing fee to the court.
Quick Tip: Every time you file a document, you need an original and two copies.
Click “Filing a Petition” (above) to get started now.
To start your divorce, we are going to help you prepare the following three documents:
Let’s Do This
We can prepare, review, and/or file your documents for you.
Initial documents prepared? Time to file them with the court.
After signing the documents, make two copies of each (for a total of three including the originals).
Take them to your local courthouse and find the Family Law clerk’s office. You will need to pay a filing fee (usually $435) so check with the court ahead of time to ensure that you bring the correct form of payment. Note: Some counties allow you to file by fax. To find out if this option is available to you, check out this resource.
The clerk will file your documents (stamp the top right corner of each document) and assign you a case number.
From this point forward all documents you file in the divorce action must contain this case number. The clerk will keep your originals and hand you back the copies.
Keep one copy of each and the remaining copy will need to be served to your spouse.
Initial documents filed? Now it’s time to serve your spouse.
You must have your spouse served with the all the documents you prepared and filed.
It is essential that you serve your spouse correctly for two main reasons:
- The 6 month waiting period does not begin until service is effectuated; and
- The court will not finalize your divorce unless you properly serve your spouse.
The first thing you need to do for this step is gather the following documents. Those labeled as “filed” should have the stamp from the court on them:
- One filed copy of your Petition
- One filed copy of your Summons
- One filed copy of your UCCJEA form (If you have kids)
- One blank Response (FL-120 form)
- One blank UCCJEA (If you have kids — FL-105 form)
How to Serve
There are two main types of service.
The most universally known method of service is when you have your spouse served in person. You must have someone over the age of 18 who is not related to the case personally hand the documents to your spouse. The easiest way to do this is to hire a process server who does this professionally.
Service by Mail
The most common method of service our users employ is by using a Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt which allows your spouse to sign off on the receipt of your documents.
In other words, instead of hiring a stranger to serve the documents personally, you can mail them. We recommend that you do this if at all possible to keep your divorce on the friendliest terms.
Once you have had your spouse served, you must file a proof of service with the court.
Finally, you must file a proof of service with the court.
If you have served the documents formally (that is, you had them delivered in person), you will need Form FL-115, Proof of Service of Summons. The person who delivered the documents must sign this form.
If you hired a process server, they should prepare the Proof of Service of Summons for you. Otherwise, you will need to fill it out and have the person who delivered the documents sign it.
If you mailed the documents, then you will need to ensure the Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt and Proof of Service of Summons (FL-115) are filled out completely and then mailed it to the court (the original with two copies of course!).
Quick Tip: There is no filing fee associated with filing these documents. There is also no advantage to filing them right away. We recommend mailing these to the courthouse to save yourself a trip. Be sure to include a self-addressed stamped envelope, the original and two copies. The court will mail your copies back to you.
DIY the Strategic Way
Take the guesswork out by using our templates. Filling out these documents strategically is essential to ensure the optimal outcome. We break down the consequences of each choice so you are informed and empowered.
If you have been served with a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, you have 30 days to file a Response. Count the 30 days from the day the documents were personally delivered to you OR from the day you signed a Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt (if applicable). You do not need to sign a Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt if you were personally served.
Quick Tip: You and your spouse can agree to extend that deadline. But make sure you get that in writing! Email should be sufficient.
Quick Tip: Take the time to understand the divorce process. When you understand what’s going on, you will have more control over the outcome.
If you have received a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, you will need to prepare and file the following documents:
Let’s Do This
Allow us to assist you by preparing your documents, advising on your unique situation, or reviewing the documents you prepared before you file.
File these documents with the court.
After signing the documents, make two copies of each for a total of three copies including the original.
Take them to your local courthouse and find the Family Law clerk’s office. You will need to pay a filing fee (usually $435) so check with the court ahead of time to ensure that you bring the correct form of payment. The clerk will file your documents (stamp the top right corner of each document). The clerk will keep your originals and hand you back the copies.
Keep one copy of each and the remaining copies will need to be delivered to your spouse.
Quick Tip: Some counties allow you to file by fax. Find out if this options is available to you by calling or emailing the court clerk.
Once you have filed your documents with the court, you need to serve your spouse with them.
The first thing to do is to gather the following documents:
- One filed copy of your Response
- One filed copy of your UCCJEA form (If you have kids)
Since you are the Respondent, good news! You do not need to personally deliver your documents and/or require your spouse to sign a Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt.
Instead you will need a third party (over the age of 18 and not related to the case) to mail the documents to your spouse. Once you’ve done so, you will need to prepare and file a Proof of Service.
Fortunately, you don’t need to rush down to the courthouse and file it right away. In fact, you might choose to mail it in to the courthouse for filing since there is no rush and no filing fee associated with these documents. Just be sure to include a self-addressed stamped envelope, the original and two copies; the courthouse will mail your two copies back to you.
Questions? Feeling overwhelmed?
We get it. At any point, schedule an affordable and convenient meeting with one of our excellent legal coaches.