What is a joint petition for divorce?
A joint petition is an option for spouses who agree to a divorce and want to work together to ensure the process goes smoothly from the outset. A joint petition is in contrast to a standard petition, which is filed by one spouse and requires the other spouse to formally respond in court.
A joint petition helps you both avoid some of the legal hassles and hearings involved in a standard divorce petition. To file, you and your spouse must agree on the division of your jointly-held assets and income, child custody and support arrangements, and alimony.
Who can file a joint petition?
Spouses who agree on the conditions of their divorce, and don’t want to contest the divorce itself, can file a joint petition in many, but not all, states. In addition, some states restrict joint petitions to couples with income or assets below a certain level.
Why choose a joint petition?
In a joint petition for divorce, both parties have negotiated their needs and wants ahead of time, with or without legal counsel, in preparation for filing the petition. Neither spouse needs to serve the other with a divorce summons and complaint because they file the petition together, with full knowledge of its contents.
You and your spouse will avoid the hassles, stress, and combativeness of court hearings of having a judge decide how your divorced life will be arranged. Plus, you avoid the increased cost of hashing out this agreement in court.
How do other state laws affect my rights in joint petitions?
In a community property state, you and your spouse jointly own most property you’ve acquired during the marriage. You may be required to split jointly-owned property 50/50, even if you agree to a different arrangement in your joint petition. Certain limitations on child support and custody may also be set by law.
When can I file a joint petition?
At least one spouse must have resided in the state where you’re filing for divorce for a minimum time period, such as 90 days or 6 months. In some states you must have been living apart from your spouse for a certain period of time before filing for divorce. Check your state law for applicable details, or consult a divorce lawyer.
Variations on the joint divorce petition
Couples with no minor children and limited assets and debt, who have been married for a few years or less (depending on the state), may be able to file a joint petition for a simplified divorce or summary dissolution, at even lower cost than a regular joint petition.