How to Represent Yourself in a Dissolution

By Victoria McGrath

How you represent yourself in a dissolution depends in part on your marital circumstances. If you and your spouse agree on the divorce, you can file an uncontested divorce together. In some cases, you may not even need to go to court. If you and your spouse disagree on the divorce, you will likely file for a contested divorce. When your divorce involves children, child custody and child support issues may complicate your case.

Legal Terminology

In order to represent yourself in a divorce, you may try to familiarize yourself with basic legal terminology, court documents, legal procedures and the court clerk's office. For example, it is important to understand who is the petitioner and who is the respondent. The petitioner files the petition for divorce and the respondent responds to it. The petition for dissolution is also referred to as a divorce complaint.

Legal Documents

The type and names of legal forms used in a divorce case vary from state to state. For example, Connecticut reminds filers to include the full case name and docket number on each form. The court clerk cannot help you fill out any legal forms, but can confirm the cost of filing fees.

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Petition for Dissolution

The divorce proceedings begin when you file a petition for dissolution. You pay a filing fee when you file your petition. If you cannot afford the filing fees, you can generally request an application for a fee waiver at the court clerk's office. Requirements for fee waivers vary by state.

Service of Process

After you file your petition with the court, you are required to serve a copy of the legal documents on your spouse. Service of process requires the documents to be served by someone 18 years or older who is not a party to the case. Some states require a state marshal or professional service processor to serve the documents. The court also requires proof of service.

Response to Divorce Papers

Your spouse will likely complete the form as the respondent. If your spouse agrees to the divorce, the matter moves forward as an uncontested divorce. Depending on state law, your spouse may be able to sign a waiver of service, to confirm that he has received the documents. By signing a waiver of appearance, he waives his court appearance to contest the divorce.

Marriage Settlement Agreement

In a pro se divorce, you handle all aspects of the case including negotiations and settlements over marital assets. You can work out the details of a dissolution agreement with your spouse and present it to the court for approval. A marital settlement agreement resolves issues such as property distribution, debt assignment, spousal support, child support, child custody and visitation schedules. When a divorce case involves children, a judge may mandate court-ordered mediation to help you resolve custody matters.

Automatic Court Orders

As soon as you file your petition for divorce or response, you may be subject to automatic court orders. Automatic orders vary based on state laws. For example, if you file for divorce in Connecticut, automatic orders restrict you from incurring excessive debt, selling property without your spouse's consent and moving the children out of state.

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How to Represent Yourself At a Divorce Trial In the State of Florida

References

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Steps to Filing for Divorce in Pierce County, Washington

The state of Washington permits you to obtain a divorce if you or your spouse is a resident of the state. State law governs divorce cases, although each county court has its own rules regarding legal filings and fee schedule. In Pierce County, as in other Washington counties, the process begins with the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.

How to Contest a Divorce in the State of Michigan

If your spouse filed for divorce in the state of Michigan, you cannot contest the divorce itself as Michigan, like all other states, recognizes no-fault divorces. However, if there are issues of child custody, property division or alimony you want to contest, you can. To do so, you must act within 21 days of receiving service of the divorce petition. If you do not act within that time, your spouse might be eligible for a default judgment.

Filing Divorce Papers in North Carolina Without Paying Court Costs

Filing for divorce can be expensive, forcing you to stay in an unhappy marriage if money is tight. However, if you cannot afford to pay the filing fee associated with filing for divorce in North Carolina, you can ask the court to waive the fees based upon your financial situation. Unfortunately, obtaining a waiver of the filing fee does not relieve you of the cost of any legal assistance you may require.

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