To illustrate the procedure of filing for divorce, let’s outline a typical case step by step:
Bill decided he wanted to file for a divorce from his wife, Anne. He contacted and retained an attorney who agreed to represent him. The attorney filled out the necessary forms, which stated that Bill and Anne were married July 20, 1990 in New Haven, Connecticut, that they’d each lived in Connecticut for more than a year, and Anne’s maiden name. It also stated that they have 3 children, Bill Jr., born December 1, 1992, Thomas, born July 5, 1993, and Julie, born September 21, 1995. The forms also stated that no one in the family received welfare assistance during the marriage, and that the marriage had broken down irretrievably (no fault divorce). Bill asked the court to divide their property fairly between the two of them, and for joint legal custody and visitation with the children. He filed a request for temporary orders requesting that visitation be established on an interim basis, since he had already moved out of the house. The attorney arranged to have Anne served with the papers, and when they were returned to the attorney after service, the attorney filed them with the court. This started the case.
Cynthia wanted to divorce her husband, Ted. Because she and Ted had no children and little property, she decided she would file the divorce Pro Se, without a lawyer. She purchased a book at the bookstore (oftentimes the courthouse clerk’s office can provide a list of Pro Se books available) titled How To Do Your Own Divorce in Minnesota and followed procedures as stated above. She filled out papers she picked up at the court, arranged with the sheriff service at the courthouse to have the papers served on Ted, and after they were served, she returned them to court with a check for the filing fee. Thus, her case was opened with the court.
Does it make a difference who files first?
In most cases, it doesn’t make any difference who files first for the divorce. Your rights are not compromised by the fact that you (or your spouse) filed the divorce papers. In the event of a trial, the person who files tells his/her side of the story first, which can be advantageous. Otherwise, it makes no difference who files the papers.
If you are the plaintiff and you change your mind about pursuing the divorce, you may stop the process at any time by filing papers to withdraw the case from court. If you are the defendant (your spouse has filed the divorce against you), you cannot withdraw the case without your spouse’s cooperation. In a “no fault” divorce, if the plaintiff represents to the court that the marriage has broken down without hope of reconciliation, the court will grant the divorce even if the other spouse wishes to remain married. For a host of free information about divorce, be sure to see the Peace Talks resource center at http://www.peace-talks.com/resources.php. For a list of terrific books about divorce, see http://www.peace-talks.com/books.php.
Excerpted from Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (Simon & Schuster/Fireside 2001). For more information: http://www.yourdivorceadvisor.com/.
For more information contact Peace Talks www.peace-talks.com
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- Filing for Divorce
- What Are My Options for Divorce Representation?
- Divorce Attorney Fees
- How do I Find, Choose and Use a Lawyer