File in the state you live in, not where you were married
You will file for divorce in the state where you currently live, even if you were initially married in another state. Keep in mind that you must meet your state’s minimum residency requirements before you are able to file. This means that you must live in the state for a certain period of time before you are eligible to divorce there, usually somewhere between 2 and 12 months. This requirement may be longer if you have children.
To be eligible to file in California, for example, you must have lived in the state for at least 6 months and within your county for at least 3 months.
Average residency requirement
See your state's residency requirement
Residency requirement: 6 months
Once you've confirmed your eligibility, you will file your initial divorce paperwork with the court and serve the divorce papers to your spouse.
File the petition with the court
Petitions will vary between jurisdictions, but they typically ask for the same type of information. As the person filling out the form, you are the petitioner, and your spouse is the respondent. In the petition, you will list basic facts about your marriage, including any children you have, property you own, and any debts you owe.
In some states, the petition may ask you to list your reason, or grounds, for filing divorce. All states have a no-fault divorce option, meaning neither you nor your spouse is legally to blame for ending the marriage. To use the no-fault option, you can cite "irreconcilable differences" as the grounds for divorce. This just means that you and your spouse are certain that you longer want to be married. Most couples choose this option, as it is the quickest and least expensive way to get a divorce.
The petition may also ask you to propose how you'd like to settle property division, child custody, visitation, and other issues. Compromising on these issues is often the most complicated part of a divorce. So while these terms are not yet legally binding, they serve as a starting point for both parties to discuss their desired outcomes.
Notify your spouse
After the petition is filed, you have a certain number of days to legally notify your spouse of the impending divorce with a summons. Usually, you'll need to do it within 30 days. Once the notice is served, your spouse will have an opportunity to respond, proving that they are aware of the impending divorce.
| ||Tip: In states offering some form of simplified divorce or summary dissolution, you might file a joint petition. This allows you and your spouse file the initial divorce paperwork together, saving you the extra time and fees normally required to serve the paperwork and file a response.|