Divorce laws vary significantly between states, but some states offer a simple divorce that streamlines the process if the spouses meet certain criteria. The process goes by different names in different states and varies somewhat, but there are some similarities between states. You don’t have to “apply” for a simple divorce, but you must file the appropriate paperwork to begin your divorce.
Some states, including Florida and California, offer a simple or simplified divorce process when spouses meet certain specific requirements. For example, in California, couples cannot have been married for more than five years, cannot have children from the marriage, cannot own real property together and cannot exceed certain asset and debt limits. Florida includes restrictions that spouses cannot seek alimony and must attend the final hearing together. Your state may have different limitations.
In many states, spouses can simplify their divorce process by filing a joint petition to begin the proceedings. Even if your state does not have an official “simple” divorce process, filing a joint petition and a signed marital settlement agreement, either simultaneously or soon after filing the petition, streamlines the proceedings. Since you both become petitioners by filing the joint petition, you may eliminate the need for one spouse to officially serve the other with the divorce paperwork, thereby eliminating a step of the process.
Marital Settlement Agreement
A simple divorce, or even one that is jointly filed, typically requires a marital settlement agreement or separation agreement signed by both spouses. Some states, such as Ohio, detail mandatory topics that the settlement agreement must cover. Typically, an agreement fully distributes all marital property between the spouses and addresses alimony, child custody, child support and payment of marital debts. Courts typically adopt a couple’s settlement agreement as part of the divorce decree, making it binding as a court order.
If your state does not have a mandatory waiting period, you could be divorced as soon as you file the petition and signed copy of the settlement agreement, if the court signs off on the agreement immediately. Otherwise, you could be divorced as soon as your state’s waiting period expires. However, your divorce is not final until the judge signs your divorce decree.