What is a Divorce Petition?

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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 27 January 2020
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A divorce petition is a legal document asking the court to grant an individual's request for a divorce. The contents of the petition vary according to jurisdiction, but often include the petitioner's identifying information, family information, and the grounds for divorce. The petition may also include, or make reference to, the petitioner's desires for a financial or child custody settlement. In most places, a copy of the divorce petition must be served to the petitioner's spouse before a divorce proceeding can move forward.

Divorces are generally granted by a court with the authority to dissolve marriages and to resolve conflict over the division of a couple's property or where their children are going to live. When someone wants a divorce, he or she has to formally ask the court to grant one in the form of a divorce petition. In the United States, divorce law is a state matter, and each state has its own requirements for the formatting and contents of a divorce petition. Other countries and jurisdictions have their own laws regarding the construction of a divorce petition as well.


Once the petitioner or his attorney completes the divorce petition, he must typically file it in court and then arrange for its service to his spouse. In some places, he may be able to hand or mail the petition to his spouse, but in others he must request that local law enforcement or a private process server hand deliver the petition. Once a spouse receives the petition, she can file a response agreeing to or challenging the petition or decide to let the divorce proceed without her participation. If the petitioner's spouse wishes to challenge the divorce, she can do so through her attorney or on her own. Both the petitioner and her spouse can request that the court award them temporary support or custody as well as the use of marital property, such as a home or car.

The requests made in a divorce petition may not be granted by the divorce court judge. Judges are responsible for ensuring that the petitioner has legitimate grounds for requesting the divorce. If the petitioner does have grounds for divorce, the judge may still refuse to grant his financial or child custody requests if the judge feels that the requests violate the law or are unreasonable. In cases where the petitioner's spouse objects to the the terms of the petition, the judge may have to select which, if any, of the petitioner's terms she will grant.


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Post 2

If you really want to irritate your spouse, have that petition delivered by a process server to him or her at work. That might be considered mean, but some spouses want to be mean in such situations.

Sending in a process server is a sure fire way to get that spouse good and riled.

Post 1

Here's a word of advice -- if you are served with a divorce petition, consult an attorney immediately. Why? You only have a certain amount of time (usually 20 days in most jurisdictions) to file a response. If you don't answer the complaint, then your spouse will be granted a default divorce and will get everything asked for in the petition.

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