How to File for Divorce in Your Local Courthouse
By Roger Thorne J.D.
Updated December 05, 2018
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States laws govern divorce filings, and you must meet specific state legal requirements to file in your county. Though most divorces are filed in county courthouses, some counties have numerous courthouses or locations where the actual filing can take place. The kinds of papers you must file, what they are called and what kinds of information is needed can differ widely depending on your state and particular situations. If you file your divorce papers yourself, you must ensure you comply with all required laws, as the court will not grant you special rights just because you do not have lawyer representing you.
Research your state's residency and grounds requirements. You or your spouse must qualify as a resident of your state before you can file for divorce in your county, and state grounds upon which the divorce can be based. Each state's residency requirements differ and can range from a single day to up to a year. If you don't meet the residency requirements, you can still file in your county as long as your spouse does.
Research your county filing requirements. The actual paperwork you need to file depends both upon state laws and the kind of case you have. For example, Connecticut requires that you fill out form JD-FM-3, Summons for Family Action, form JD-FM-158, Notice of Automatic Court Orders, and JD-FM-159, Divorce Complaint/Cross Petition.
Contact the civil court clerk. A divorce petition, sometimes called a complaint, is a civil law suit and must be properly formatted and contain specific information. Contact the civil court clerk in your county. This official's office is usually located in the county courthouse, but this can differ depending on where you live. The clerk's office might have template or blank forms you can use, or will be able to tell you where you can find such forms, as well as tell you how much it costs to file the petition.
File the divorce papers. Once your petition and other necessary paperwork is filled out, take at least three copies of it to the court clerk's office in person. Pay the filing fee and give the papers to the clerk. The clerk will then assign your case a docket number and schedule a hearing date.
Get a lawyer. Yes, you can file your own divorce, but it is always better to get a lawyer to handle it for you. Even if you don't want to hire a lawyer, talk to one before filing for divorce so you can be sure your rights are protected.
Roger Thorne is an attorney who began freelance writing in 2003. He has written for publications ranging from "MotorHome" magazine to "Cruising World." Thorne specializes in writing for law firms, Web sites, and professionals. He has a Juris Doctor from the University of Kansas.