How to File a No Fault Divorce Without a Lawyer

By Beverly Bird

A no-fault divorce simply means that you are not accusing your spouse of doing anything wrong to end your marriage. It’s not the same as an uncontested divorce, in which your spouse offers no legal opposition to the proceedings. With a no-fault divorce, you’re simply giving him less to contest. He cannot argue your grounds, or the fact that you believe your marriage is over. He can only object to the way in which you've asked the court to end the marriage, such as how you'd like your property divided between the two of you.

Step 1

Identify your state’s no-fault grounds. All 50 states currently offer no-fault divorces, but some use different terms to refer to them. In some jurisdictions, the no-fault grounds may be known as “irreconcilable differences.” Other states use phrases such as “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage,” “insupportability” or “incompatibility.” Some states require that you and your spouse live apart for a period of time and file on separation grounds, another no-fault option.

Step 2

Download a petition or complaint for divorce from the Internet. Many states offer these divorce documents on their websites. Other legal websites offer them as well, but if you download one from such a source, make sure it applies specifically to your state. Complete the petition, checking off the no-fault grounds you are using.

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Step 3

File your completed petition or complaint with the proper court. The name of the court, such as “Family Court,” “District Court” or “Superior Court” can be found on the top of the first page of your petition. In most states, you can file in the county where either you or your spouse reside, but check your state’s website or call ahead to the court to make sure.

Step 4

Find out what methods of service your state accepts. This information is usually available on your state’s website as well, or ask the court clerk when you file your petition. All states require that you give your spouse a copy of your divorce petition in such a way that you can file proof with the court that you've done so.

Step 5

Arrange for the method of acceptable service that best suits your personal situation. Most states allow you to have your county sheriff or a private process server deliver your petition to your spouse, but this might embarrass him if it occurs in public. If your divorce is amicable and you're hoping for an uncontested resolution -- and if your state allows it -- you might want to mail him your petition, or give it to him yourself and have him sign an acknowledgement of service that he received it.

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How to Get a Divorce When One Spouse Won't Agree

References

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What If Only One Person Wants a Divorce?

Because all 50 states recognize no-fault divorce, it's pretty much impossible for a spouse who does not want a divorce to prevent one from happening. You can slow the process down by contesting it, but it will eventually go through anyway.

What Are the Rules for Serving Divorce Papers?

Simply filing a complaint or petition isn’t enough to begin the process of getting divorced. The court can’t make decisions or rulings unless it has jurisdiction over you and your spouse. It gains jurisdiction over you when you meet residency requirements and file. It achieves jurisdiction over your spouse when he receives official and verifiable notice of the divorce so he has an opportunity to object to what you’re asking for. Both the Fifth and the 14th Amendments protect this right, called “due process.”

Can a Divorce Be Denied?

Depending on your state’s laws, the state court can decline to grant your divorce, but it won’t deny a divorce simply because one spouse does not want it. To avoid denial, you must ensure that you fully comply with all of your court’s rules, and you must provide sufficient proof of whatever ground you are alleging in your divorce paperwork.

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