How to File a No Fault Divorce Without a Lawyer
By Beverly Bird
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A no-fault divorce simply means that you are not accusing your spouse of doing anything wrong to end your marriage. It’s not the same as an uncontested divorce, in which your spouse offers no legal opposition to the proceedings. With a no-fault divorce, you’re simply giving him less to contest. He cannot argue your grounds, or the fact that you believe your marriage is over. He can only object to the way in which you've asked the court to end the marriage, such as how you'd like your property divided between the two of you.
Identify your state’s no-fault grounds. All 50 states currently offer no-fault divorces, but some use different terms to refer to them. In some jurisdictions, the no-fault grounds may be known as “irreconcilable differences.” Other states use phrases such as “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage,” “insupportability” or “incompatibility.” Some states require that you and your spouse live apart for a period of time and file on separation grounds, another no-fault option.
Read More: Examples of Grounds for Divorce
Download a petition or complaint for divorce from the Internet. Many states offer these divorce documents on their websites. Other legal websites offer them as well, but if you download one from such a source, make sure it applies specifically to your state. Complete the petition, checking off the no-fault grounds you are using.
File your completed petition or complaint with the proper court. The name of the court, such as “Family Court,” “District Court” or “Superior Court” can be found on the top of the first page of your petition. In most states, you can file in the county where either you or your spouse reside, but check your state’s website or call ahead to the court to make sure.
Find out what methods of service your state accepts. This information is usually available on your state’s website as well, or ask the court clerk when you file your petition. All states require that you give your spouse a copy of your divorce petition in such a way that you can file proof with the court that you've done so.
Arrange for the method of acceptable service that best suits your personal situation. Most states allow you to have your county sheriff or a private process server deliver your petition to your spouse, but this might embarrass him if it occurs in public. If your divorce is amicable and you're hoping for an uncontested resolution -- and if your state allows it -- you might want to mail him your petition, or give it to him yourself and have him sign an acknowledgement of service that he received it.
When you choose no-fault grounds, you eliminate the risk of antagonizing your spouse right off the bat by accusing him of adultery, cruelty or some other fault or wrongdoing. This can potentially make negotiating a divorce settlement with him easier. In most states, if you reach a settlement on your own, you can submit that to the court after you file your petition and your divorce is uncontested, as well as no-fault.
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.