Once the decision has been made to file for divorce, documents must be prepared to reflect the Plaintiff/Complainant’s (the person starting the divorce action) intent to the court to pursue a divorce as well as to notify the other party (Defendant/Respondent; the one being divorced) that an action seeking divorce has been filed against them.
There are two common types of forms that are used in this process…the Petition and the Summons.
The Petition is the initial form outlining a party’s intent (divorce, legal separation, annulment, etc.) and is initiated by the Plaintiff/Complainant. Thus, the party initiating the process is referred to as the moving party.
Some common types of information that may be included in a petition for divorce include:
1. Identifies the parties involved (the spouses, husband, wife, etc.),
2. The current legal relationship (married, domestic partners, etc.)
3. Residence information (address of their principle home)
4. Dates of marriage, separation and domestic partnerships
5. Information about minor children (biological, adopted, etc.)
6. The reason or grounds for seeking divorce (irreconcilable differences, fault, no-fault, legal incapacity, etc.)
7. Petitioner’s desired legal and physical custody and/or visitation preferences (parenting time)
8. If a party wants to seek spousal support/alimony
9. Information about separate, community and quasi-community property
Again, as with most areas of Family Law, when seeking divorce in pro persona/pro se, it is important to refer to the laws of your state when it comes to the forms and processes for preparing, serving and filing the Petition.
Once the is Petition completed, a Summons will most likely be required to accompany it.
Think of the Summons as the cover page for the Petition…thus, it is announcing to the other spouse that a Petition for Divorce has been filed against them and that they will have a defined period of time (often 30 calendar days) to file a Response to the Petition.
An important note
It is very important to pay close attention to the timeline on the Petition. If a Response is not served and filed within the legally required time, the Respondent may be subject to losing ground, temporary orders being made without consideration of their position, and be ordered to pay attorney fees and costs.
The Petition for the dissolution of marriage may also include information about Restraining Orders against the Defendant/Complainant as well as processes to follow when the Defendant/Complainant is unable to pay any or all of the filing fees.