What Is Action for Divorce?

By Wayne Thomas

A divorce is legal in nature and proceeds much like any other lawsuit. For that reason, the process for obtaining a divorce is often referred to as an "action for divorce." Although states can vary on the specific steps, the purpose of a divorce action is to legally dissolve the marriage and settle matters related to property, spousal support, and child custody and support.

Overview of a Divorce Action

A divorce action starts with one spouse filling out and filing a complaint for divorce. The complaint includes the reason for divorce, also known as the grounds for divorce. Grounds differ from state to state, but all states have no-fault grounds, such as separation for a period of time, while most states also have fault-based grounds, such as adultery. The next step is to provide a copy of the complaint to the other spouse, typically in person through the assistance of a sheriff or process server. The receiving spouse has a set amount of time to respond in writing. The parties are then provided with a period to exchange information and reach agreement on the major divorce issues. If they cannot agree to the terms of their divorce, the court schedules a trial, and then issues a final divorce judgment after both parties present their cases.

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How to File a Divorce Disclosure Statement

Before a divorce is finalized, most states require the parties to file a disclosure statement, which sets out their assets and liabilities. These statements give the court information about the finances of the parties and assist the court in reaching an equitable division of property. Because divorce is a matter of state law, the process varies slightly among states. However, it is substantially similar in all states. You should familiarize yourself with the laws in your state.

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