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Online Divorce Guide: Papers, Forms, Services, Process & More

Michael Tierney
October 19, 2022

Divorce can be a frightening and stressful experience for anyone. When a marriage ends, filing for divorce is essentially the final nail in the coffin that cements your emancipation from your marital contract. While divorce is an increasingly common issue in modern marriages, there is still a great deal of misinformation surrounding the process that can confuse those approaching the breaking point.

Some relationships can recover after coming close to ending in divorce, but for those unable to reconcile, divorce is often the only recourse. Unfortunately, divorce is a somewhat messy process that can cause stress and emotional strain on the parties involved. One of the biggest challenges you can face is attempting to file for divorce independently.

Filing for divorce can be strenuous by itself, regardless of your spouse's willingness to go through with the process.

Solution Several legal documents must be filled out and submitted within the constraints of state law. Such documents, while standard to divorce practices, can be difficult to get ahold of and fill out when you are doing so without professional assistance. However, there has been a recent surge in independent divorce filing using online resources rather than physical interaction.

Filing for divorce online does lead to a slightly different process than most would experience through traditional means. This means that those interested in filing online might need a little extra information.

Find the State-Specific Forms

When filing for divorce online, you remain subject to the state laws where you, and likely your spouse, currently live. Each state can create its own legislation on most civil matters, save for legal issues previously overruled by the federal government. To that end, each state can set forth its own laws and regulations about proper divorce procedures. For example, the laws for divorce in New York might be radically different from those in North Carolina. These fundamental differences can make all the difference when trying to file for divorce correctly.

While the internet is an international tool, proper channels and paperwork are still necessary for filing for divorce online in your state.

Solution You must file the documents needed to file for divorce with state authorities, and the documents must meet the ones used in your state's judicial system.

Attempting to file for divorce using Texas' website while living in Oregon will only waste time and money. Usually, each state will have an official website for its legal matters, so it should be simple to locate the website for your state's civil law branch.

Finding Specific Divorce Forms

If you are set on filing for divorce online rather than in-person filing or filing via an attorney, you will need to look up the website for your local courthouse to access the documents. Once you have access to the proper, state-approved forms, the rest is a matter of filling them out and submitting them to the proper channels. While online filing might ease some aspects of this process, there is still much to consider if you want your divorce to be filed properly.

Family Court Cover Sheet

One of the first things you will need to fill out is the family court cover sheet. This cover sheet provides important information regarding the individuals involved in the civil process and what civil claim is being filed. The family cover sheet's layout will vary by state, but for the purposes of this article, we will be citing an example from Nevada. The Clark County family cover sheet is divided into 3 distinct sections, but those sections could increase or decrease on forms from other states. For example, the same document from Texas has 3 main sections but several additional subsections compared to the Nevada document.

Family Court Cover Sheet

The family cover sheet is where information about you, your spouse, your respective legal counsel's information (if applicable), the case type, and the children involved (if applicable) is listed. You must fill out each section accurately before submitting the cover sheet. The section requesting information about you and your spouse will require standard information like your full name, date of birth, current address, and relevant contact information. You will also need to fill in the same information for your attorney with the addition of their Bar number.

From there, you will have to specify the type of civil case you are filing for: divorce. There will be a box for a divorce with minor children or one without minor children. If you are filing for divorce with minor children, you will also need to provide the children's names and dates of birth in the final section. While the cover sheet is required to file successfully, there are other equally important documents you will be expected to fill out for your divorce claim.

Complaint for Divorce

The next important document for you to fill out is the complaint for divorce. Like with all divorce documentation, the format and title of this document may vary slightly depending on your state. This time, we will use an example from New York to provide insight into how the complaint might look. The complaint for divorce serves as an outline of what result you are hoping for from the divorce and what kind of asset division you are requesting. Remember that outlining these requests in a complaint for divorce only establishes what you are aiming for and does not guarantee that the asset division will match your goals.

Complaint For Divorce

The document itself will require you to confirm several details about yourself and your spouse, as well as certain information about the divorce request. You will also be able to fill out a page discussing requested ancillary support and boxes to check out regarding asset division. In the New York version of the document, the three boxes allow you to request the ancillary support outlined on the other page, request the division of assets per the separation agreement, or waive your rights to any marital property. Ultimately, the document helps determine what negotiations will follow during the divorce proceedings.

The complaint for divorce is an important piece of paperwork that establishes a baseline for asset negotiations to follow. Despite the importance of the complaint, it is not what allows the divorce process to begin in earnest. You must file other documents, and one, in particular, is responsible for validating every other document listed here.

Petition for Divorce

Perhaps the most important document you must complete when filing for divorce is the petition for divorce. The petition for divorce is what makes every other document valid by informing the court of your intent to divorce your current spouse. The form is very simple and is similar to the complaint for divorce, but there are no sections dedicated to asset division. It explains the nature of your marriage and requests a divorce, annulment, or legal separation from your spouse. Without a petition for divorce, it is impossible to begin the process and successfully dissolve your marriage.

Like every document discussed here, the petition for divorce varies by state and might not be the same for you as it is for, say, citizens of California. Finding the proper petition form for your state is essential to your success. Like most divorce documents, it should be possible to download a PDF or a fillable digital copy from your county's court website. Once you have filled out the petition and filed it, your divorce process can begin. Depending on whether your spouse is for or against the process, there are different ways to petition for divorce.

Petition For Divorce

If your spouse wants the divorce as much as you do, you will likely be filing a joint petition for divorce. A joint petition will have you and your spouse filling out the document together with alternate documents available for couples with and without children. A joint petition also means your chances of having an amicable divorce increase as opposed to hostile divorces requested by one party. Unfortunately, not every couple can agree about getting divorced, and you might have to file a petition independently.

It is possible and legal to petition for divorce without approval from your spouse, and there is nothing they can do to stop the process. Petitioning for divorce without your spouse only means you are likely going to experience a contested divorce which can be time-consuming and financially draining. Regardless of whether you are filing jointly or independently, you will need to file a petition for divorce. The only difference in the paperwork is who is present when the information is filled out.

Submitting the Files

Once you have acquired and completed the necessary files for divorce, it becomes a question of how to submit them to the proper channels. This process is made somewhat easier when filing online thanks to the website usually directing you to the submission section. This usually automates the process so your documents, once uploaded, are sent directly to the proper authorities to be evaluated.

Unfortunately, there might be situations where you are forced to go to your local court building to submit the forms manually. Generally, this is handled by a clerk employed by the judicial system to handle such documents and forward them to the proper authorities. In most cases, the documents are sent to a judge for approval or denial, depending on the circumstances.

Submitting Divorce Files

Submitting the necessary paperwork is fairly straightforward when using an online medium as opposed to traditional methods. There is one caveat that will affect the submission of any legal forms for divorce or other legal issues.

Solution You must pay a mandatory filing fee whenever you file a document with the courts.

The filing fees for certain documents and cases vary by state but will usually range between $100.00 and $300.00 on average, along with a digital filing fee. These costs are inescapable no matter how you file, though having an attorney file means the cost might be deferred until your next scheduled payment with the firm.

Additionally, if you cannot submit the documents via an online e-filing system and cannot take the time to go to the court building, you might end up mailing the documents. Traditional mailing has a few drawbacks that might make it just as inconvenient as using more traditional methods for submitting the proper legal documents. Namely, traditional mailing takes longer to resolve since once delivered, it can take up to 8 weeks for the package to be processed and the contents assessed for approval or denial by a state authority.

Once you have submitted the forms, the real work begins since you will likely end up in a significant legal process that will take time to resolve. Divorce can be unpleasant in many circumstances depending on the relationship you and your spouse have. Fortunately, you can prepare for the realities of divorce with a little research.

Learn the Law

Divorce can be stressful and unpleasant for those involved, especially in situations where you are trying to preserve your marriage. This can be made worse when your spouse actively opposes your efforts to dissolve the marriage for reasons counterintuitive to your respective best interests. Even though there are tools to file online, this stress is seldom mitigated by using these modern tools to expedite the divorce process.

Unless you have full support from your spouse, you will likely need legal counsel and will find yourself attending in-person sessions to resolve the negotiations associated with divorce. Even more unfortunate is that your spouse might attempt to use some of the more underhanded techniques employed in divorce court.

Divorce Court

There is so much uncertainty and misinformation about divorce that the average person likely lacks insight into how the process can affect them. Fortunately, learning more about these divorce processes is easier now than it was even 50 years ago. Much like how online tools exist to help you file divorce paperwork, there are online sources of information that can give you insight into potential situations you might encounter during your divorce. Learning about these situations can help protect your interests if your spouse is hostile. We realize this is a difficult time for you, and we hope this article has provided some clarity.

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Written By:
Michael Tierney

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