How to Start a Divorce

How to Start a Divorce

Filing for divorce is never an enjoyable experience, but when you have the proper help or knowledge, you will be better prepared to begin your divorce. Knowing what to do decreases strain, so it helps to become informed with basic divorce procedures. This post details the steps to begin a divorce.

You and your spouse are going through some marital issues, and you’ve gone to marriage counseling. You’ve even discussed your issues with a trusted clergyman.

After these attempts to resolve your issues have been unsuccessful, you now are contemplating about getting divorced, but you don’t know where to begin. What do you need to do first?

The Initial Steps in Beginning a Divorce

The steps that are required to take are comparable in a lot of states. These initial steps comprise of:

  1. Hiring a divorce attorney. A divorce attorney is able to carry out your whole case or can be retained just to examine documents you have printed from online legal resources, such as LegalZoom. It’s vital to have an experienced family law attorney examine your documentation, regardless of how you proceed.
  2. Preparing a petition towards your spouse. In many states, the document that initiates the divorce process is known as a “complaint” and not a petition for divorce. They are the same since they both initiate the divorce when served with or following a summons.
  3. Providing specifics in the divorce petition. It is required to include the names and birthdates of your children, and your immediate families’ addresses. It should declare what you require from the court, comprising of spousal maintenance, custody, visitation rights, child support, life and/or health insurance, and tangible and personal belongings.
  4. Declaring the grounds for your divorce in your petition. This comprises of whether you are filing a “no-fault divorce,” meaning there aren’t any “irreconcilable differences” or that the relationship is “irretrievably broken.” In many states you are still able to list grounds of infidelity, desertion, or harsh and heartless treatment.

How to File for Divorce

The following steps in progressing with a divorce are:

  1. Having the summons served to your spouse. Your spouse is known as the “respondent” or the “defendant,” subject to your state. Occasionally the summons is going to be served with the divorce petition or complaint. You are unable to serve the divorce papers to the other party. A process server, an officer of the court, or an individual that is at least 18 years of age and not related to you is required to serve the papers.

It is judicious to hire a process server since “service of process” is required to be done appropriately. This comprises of serving your spouse with the divorce papers in the correct manner, which is usually called “in-hand delivery.”

  1. Filing the divorce documents. The documents are required to be filed with the appropriate clerk in a timely fashion. The individual that served your papers, or the process server you hired, is also required to file an appropriately filled-out affidavit of service, in which can be difficult. This is one more reason why it’s wise to have a process server begin the action for you.
  1. Waiting for a response from your spouse. The respondent has thirty days in many states for filing a response. The response could be called an “answer” in a lot of states and, in it, your spouse could deny the statements made in your petition or acknowledge some of them. The response may also include a “counter-claim” when your spouse wants to pursue some of the same things you’re requesting from the court.

The Next Steps in Uncontested Divorces

When your divorce is “uncontested,” you both agree on how most or all the significant issues need to be resolved. You record your comprehension in a settlement agreement, in which is usually arranged by a family law attorney.

You then present the settlement agreement to the divorce court including the necessary divorce documents. Divorce documents are different in each state, so, when you have a family law attorney, have them arrange the documents.

The judge examines the agreement including the divorce papers. When all is in order, the judge is going to grant you your divorce.

The Next Steps in Contested Divorces

“Contested” divorces are more time-consuming, challenging, and costly than an uncontested one. A divorce is contested when you and your spouse can’t come to an agreement on all the significant issues, such as custody or financial matters, and might have to be determined by a judge.

When some matters can’t be settled, you’ll most likely have what is known as “discovery.” Discovery aims to find out as much details as possible from the other party. Either one of you, can utilize discovery.

Discovery can be accomplished by using:

  • Written examinations. One of the spouses sends the other party a list of questions, which is typically quite drawn-out. The spouse that receives the list is required to answer them. Examinations are used for discovering unknown or secret information, like financial information.
  • Examinations prior to trial or depositions. “Depositions” are where an attorney pursuing the depositions asks questions of you and/or your spouse for collecting information. You or the other party gets sworn in by the court reporter, and each of you is required to answer under the penalty of perjury although a judge is not present. The testimony can be used against both of you in court.
  • Admissions of fact. When your spouse sends you questions in admissions of fact, you could either confess or renounce the information in the questions. You are also able to add justifications to your answers.
  • Inquire for production. These are inquiries for you or your spouse to produce items for examination. This is usually used to acquire financial information and is tedious.
  • After discovery is finished, if you and your spouse have not been able to resolve your matters, your case is entered into the court’s schedule for trial. It’s still feasible to settle your case prior to trial, but the longer it takes to settle, the more legal costs you are going to have to pay for.

Another Way to Deal With Marital Issues

When you don’t want to get divorced, you may opt to have legal separation from your spouse. It its not final, like divorces, and many states actually require you to be legally separated for a year or more prior to you being able get divorced.

If you want to attempt a legal separation, you should speak with a family law attorney, that can arrange a separation agreement on your behalf. The separation agreement includes your rights and responsibilities—in addition to your spouse’s—like if you were divorced. The distinction is that you are still legally married but living separate from each other.

When you’re not sure you want to get divorced, a legal separation might be the best way to see if you can settle your marital matters.


    1. DeLoe, R. L. (2021, July 29). How to start a divorce. LegalZoom.

Speak with our Divorce Attorney in Phoenix & Scottsdale, AZ

Moshier Law should be your choice when you need the best divorce attorney in Phoenix. An experienced family law attorney will work with you to obtain the best possible outcome in your situation. We advocate for our clients, so they have the brightest future possible. Give us a call today at 480-999-0800 for a free consultation.


Jennifer Moshier Collaborative Divorce Lawyer Scottsdale Arizona
Jennifer Moshier, Scottsdale Divorce Lawyer

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