What to know about filing a divorce petition

| Jul 17, 2020 | Divorce |

A person can represent themselves in divorce court in Minnesota, often called pro-se or do-it-yourself divorce. The process starts by filing a request for divorce, which is commonly called an original petition for divorce or letter of complaint, with the local court. The papers list all parties involved in the divorce, which include children, the petitioner and the respondent or defendant. The petitioner means the one initiating the divorce, and the respondent refers to the other party.

Each state has its own rules on the grounds for divorce, the most common being incompatibility. The divorce documents need to include a clear reason for the divorce and the expected relief. If the petitioner does not understand something regarding the paperwork, a county clerk may be able to help them.

While states vary on what information should be listed on petitions, it commonly requests basic information such as names and addresses of both parties, location and date of marriage, children’s names and reasons for divorce. Some courts automatically set court dates after the paperwork gets filed, but a petitioner may need to ask for a date.

The petitioner usually has a set time frame to notify the respondent of the filing, which is typically 30 to 40 days. The petitioner must send the respondent a copy of the papers and submit evidence that the respondent received a copy to the court. Documents may be sent through a sheriff or process server to give proof of delivery. The respondent commonly has 30 to 40 days to answer the petition.

Pro-se is possible in cases where both parties cooperate. However, the respondent may not answer the papers, might relocate or may disagree with the terms. In this case, a family law attorney may be able to advise the petitioner on how to proceed.