How to File a No-Fault Divorce Without a Lawyer

By Jennifer Kiesewetter, J.D.

How to File a No-Fault Divorce Without a Lawyer

By Jennifer Kiesewetter, J.D.

When you file for a no-fault divorce, you don't have to prove any wrongdoing on the part of your spouse, such as adultery, cruelty, or abandonment. Seventeen states plus the District of Columbia are true no-fault divorce states. This means that you can only file for a no-fault divorce in those jurisdictions. You cannot claim wrongdoing in these states. In the remaining states, you can file for a no-fault divorce, or you can submit based on your spouse's conduct.

Upset man sitting on couch holding a wedding band while a woman stands looking out the window

When granting a no-fault divorce, the court treats your marriage like a contract that is ending. Witnesses do not testify to the morals or manners of one party. Instead, your marriage will terminate based on the irreconcilable difference or the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, depending upon your state's laws. Although your spouse's behavior may not affect the divorce, it can affect other issues such as child custody or visitation.

Filing for a no-fault divorce is easier, faster, and less expensive than claiming fault. If you and your spouse agree on the divorce, then you can file yourself without a lawyer's help, saving you yet more time and money. Here are the steps to follow for a no-fault divorce.

1. Check your state's requirements for filing.

Check your state laws for any requirements for filing a no-fault divorce. For example, some states require that you and your spouse are physically separated for a period of time before filing. Additionally, your state may require proof of residency before filing for divorce. Once you file for divorce, your state may order a waiting period before the divorce is final. If you're filing for a no-fault divorce on your own, you should understand these rules as they impact your divorce's timing.

2. Complete the no-fault divorce forms.

Once you meet your state's requirements for filing, you should complete the applicable no-fault divorce forms, such as the petition for divorce. Contact your local county clerk's office for copies of these forms. Also, ask your local court about the required filing fees.

After you complete the divorce forms, you'll need to provide copies to your spouse. This action is also known as serving your spouse. Check with your local court on who can serve these papers. Finally, your spouse can file a response to your forms, accepting or declining the divorce. If your spouse doesn't agree, you can still proceed with your court action.

3. Discover if you have a no-fault uncontested divorce.

If your spouse agrees to the terms of the divorce, your case will move through the court system quickly. If you and your spouse agree on provisions like the division of property and child support, your divorce is considered uncontested. You will then enter into a settlement agreement. If the judge thinks that your settlement agreement is fair to both parties, then they will grant your divorce. An uncontested divorce allows you to avoid a trial or mediation.

4. Determine if you have a no-fault contested divorce.

If you and your spouse don't agree to all or some of the terms of the divorce, then you have a no-fault contested legal action. When this happens, you'll need to agree on the disputed issues. If you can't agree, you may need to go to mediation or have a trial. In this case, you may need an attorney to help you navigate this process. In contested matters, the divorce process can last a long time.

The no-fault divorce process is faster and less expensive than “at-fault" divorces. Typically, you can avoid a lengthy trial in these cases since you're not arguing about the fault of your spouse. However, be sure to check your state and local court rules on how to file a no-fault divorce, since the laws can vary. You can use a self-guided uncontested divorce service that helps you manage your filing. By doing research, asking questions, and using a self-guided service, you can take charge of your divorce without the help of a lawyer.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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