What Papers Do You Need to Get a Divorce?

By Lisa Magloff

The exact requirements and paperwork for a divorce differ from state to state, although many of the requirements are similar. For example, every state requires some type of dissolution-of-marriage form. The exact papers you need for a divorce will also depend on whether your divorce is contested or uncontested. In a contested divorce, more paperwork will be required, as the divorce will require a trial or court hearing and all the paperwork associated with a trial, such as legal contracts.

Dissolution-of-Marriage Form

Every state requires at least one spouse to file a petition for dissolution of marriage in the local county court where he is resident. The petition is the formal request to the court for a divorce and is the beginning of the legal divorce process. The petition must then be served on the other spouse. The petition includes information about the reason for the divorce, contact information for both spouses, and the terms the petitioning spouse is asking for: for example, requests for alimony or child support.

Settlement Agreement

Once both spouses have agreed to the terms of the divorce, a settlement agreement will usually be drawn up. In an uncontested divorce this may be done before or just after the petition is filed. In a contested divorce, the settlement agreement may be drawn up during negotiations or following the trial. The settlement agreement is a document setting out the terms of the divorce settlement: for example, child custody agreements and division of property.

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Financial Documents

Both spouses in a divorce must submit documents setting out their finances. These are particularly important in a contested divorce, as the judge may use these documents to form the basis of his judgment for a settlement. Financial disclosure forms may include copies of tax returns for the previous three to five years, a financial affidavit that sets out sources of income and expenses and information on debts, bank accounts and property.

Parenting Plan

If minor children are involved in the divorce, the court will require documents setting out details of the child custody and support arrangements. Each state has different requirements for this. For example, in Washington State, parents must sign a “parenting plan” that sets out how the parents will make decision regarding the child, how custody and visitation will be organized, and guidelines for how the child will be brought up. Other states may require parents to sign an agreement promising to adhere to certain types of behavior, such as not arguing in front of the child.

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How Long Does it Take to Divorce in Washington State?


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Waiting Period for a Divorce in Minnesota

State law governs divorce proceedings, including any waiting periods. Some states impose mandatory waiting periods related to residency requirements and petition filings. In Minnesota, while the law requires a residency period before filing, the state does not require a waiting period once the petitioner files. As a pure no-fault state, Minnesota does not require evidence of wrongdoing. A spouse must file on grounds the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

Uncontested Divorce Procedures in New York

In New York State, when you and your spouse agree to divorce, and there is no dispute over division of property, alimony, custody and support, you can file for an uncontested divorce, with or without an attorney. An uncontested divorce also can be granted if one spouse files a Summons and Complaint for divorce and the other spouse fails to respond. The NYS Unified Court System website provides the forms required to obtain a final divorce decree from a judge.

Procedures for Divorce by Mutual Consent

The quickest and easiest divorce is a divorce where both parties agree to everything before ever setting foot inside a courtroom, i.e. a divorce by mutual consent. When there is nothing to fight about, the court only needs to sign off on the agreement the parties already made regarding property division, spousal and child support, and child visitation.

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