By Divorce.com staff
Updated Sep 20, 2022
Getting a divorce is no easy feat, and divorce forms can be tricky to navigate. The last thing you want is to file your forms incorrectly and have to start over from the beginning. The good news is that you don’t have to go at it alone.
There are several services available online that help divorcing couples through the process of assessing their needs and filling out the relevant forms. Here, you’ll learn all about divorce papers, what they are, where to get them, how to fill them out, and where you can go to find assistance.
What Are Divorce Papers?
Divorce papers are the pieces of documentation needed to initiate and ultimately finalize a divorce case. The papers you need will depend on certain factors, like if you and your spouse have any minor children. It’s essential to make sure you fill out the proper forms.
What Forms Do You Need To Fill Out?
The specific types of forms you’ll need to fill out will vary by state, but the following are examples of the divorce forms you’ll need to complete if you live in Florida.
- Family Court Cover Sheet (Required)
- Complaint for Divorce (Required)
- Summons (Required)
- Joint Preliminary Injunction (Optional)
You'll need to successfully submit these documents to file for divorce in Florida. Once the court receives the completed forms, they’ll be processed accordingly.
Family Court Cover Sheet (Required)
A cover sheet is a document that is required in Florida and many other states when filing for divorce. This document provides a quick overview of the general information relevant to a particular case, such as the reason for filing, the number of people involved in the case, and which issues are on the table (ex: child support, spousal support).
The cover sheet is necessary so the court staff can quickly review the file and understand which category it needs to be filed under. Without it, they would have to read the entire case file each time, which would be pretty time-consuming and likely extend the waiting period for processing.
Complaint for Divorce (Required)
Another piece of documentation you’ll need is a complaint for divorce; this should be filled out and signed by one spouse and kept on file at the court clerk’s office. After you’ve been separated from your spouse for some time (legal separation) and there are no more open disputes, you can file a complaint for divorce.
The purpose of this document is to spell out what you and your spouse need from the court (ex: property division and alimony). Divorce matters are handled in District Court, not in Superior Court, and you’ll need to file your divorce papers in your relevant jurisdiction (where you permanently reside).
A summons is a document that the court issues to the spouse who did not file for divorce; it is filled out by the filing spouse and delivered via authorized courier (ex: county sheriff). The purpose of a summons is to inform someone that they are being asked to appear in court and must provide a response within a specific timeframe.
If the recipient fails to respond within the specified timeframe (usually 30 days), the divorce case can continue without them (dissolution of marriage). They will automatically forfeit their right to be involved in the decision-making aspect of the divorce process. This is known as a “true default” situation and is about all decisions regarding property division, spousal support, child support, and other matters on the table.
Joint Preliminary Injunction (Optional)
A joint preliminary injunction is optional. It’s meant to prevent either party from tampering with common assets until the divorce case is final. It’s also meant to protect both parties and their children (if applicable) from violence or other types of retaliation (ex: removing minor children from the health insurance plan).
This document prohibits either party from doing any of the following:
- Acts of domestic violence
- Moving, hiding, selling, or giving away marital property
- Relocating minor children
- Canceling or amending an insurance policy
The court can hold them in contempt if either party violates a preliminary injunction. When someone is held in contempt, they can be imprisoned until they are willing to obey the court order. The typical sentencing period can be as long as 90 days (per violation).
Where Can You Get Divorce Papers?
You might be surprised that you can often find divorce papers online; you can even begin the filing process online (with some companies). Of course, you can always go in person if you prefer.
Places you can obtain your divorce forms from:
- County clerk’s office
Do-it-yourself (DIY) style divorces are becoming more common, and several digital services are undoubtedly available to help you through that divorce method.
County Clerk’s Office
You’ll need to visit your local county clerk’s office for assistance if you choose to get your divorce forms in person. They can help ensure you fill out the proper conditions and even guide you through the filing process if needed. Your completed records will be kept on file at the clerk’s office.
If you’re interested in exploring online filing methods, there are many services available to you that may suit your needs. It’s a good idea to perform in-depth research on a company before reaching out to them; this will help you avoid illegitimate sites that are simply trying to steal your personal information.
Top signs that an online divorce service is legit include:
- You’re given the option to connect with independent counsel.
- The personnel reviewing your documentation are experts in family law (ex: uncontested divorce)
- You’re able to reach out and ask for help (and receive a legitimate answer)
If you decide to start your divorce online, we’d be happy to help you navigate the process. Our mission is simple — to help divorcing couples find their happy endings while saving them time, money, and stress.
Who Can Help Fill Out Divorce Papers?
Sometimes, divorce paperwork can be challenging to understand. If you need help filling out your forms, there are a few resources you can contact for assistance.
- Legal document preparation services
- Do-it-yourself divorce
Of course, you can always opt for a DIY divorce as well; many divorcing couples go down the self-help route because it’s typically more cost-effective.
The most common method of handling a divorce case is for each party to hire a lawyer. However, there are positives and negatives to seeking out legal representation.
Benefits of Using Lawyers
- They are a legal expert. With many years of education and deep knowledge of the law as it applies to your situation, a lawyer can help you navigate the complexities of divorce, offer legal advice, and answer any questions that arise along the way.
- They will make sure you don’t mess up. When filling out legal documentation on your own, it’s easy to make mistakes, especially if you aren’t fully aware of what you’re meant to be doing. A lawyer can catch those mistakes before filing forms to ensure timely processing.
- They will maintain an efficient filing system. Keeping track of copies of completed forms and other documentation that is relevant to your case (ex: bank statements) by yourself can get overwhelming. With a lawyer, even if you misplace something, they’ll be able to send you a new copy.
Disadvantages of Using Lawyers
- Lawyers are typically quite expensive. A lawyer's average costs range from $100 - $400 per hour (as of 2022).
- Lawyers sometimes overdo it. The lawyer should keep their personal opinions to themselves, not moving beyond offering legal advice.
- Lawyers might make the situation feel hostile. Even if it’s not your intention, hiring a lawyer could make it seem like you don’t want to work through things directly or peacefully.
Legal Document Preparation Services
A legal document preparer can help you by ensuring your documentation meets court requirements before filing. They can prepare divorce forms for you based on the information you provide.
Benefits of Legal Document Preparation Services
- Less expensive than a lawyer or attorney
- Legal document preparers can spot errors before you file.
- They can make sure you’re informed and don’t miss any critical details
Disadvantages of Legal Document Preparation Services
- They’re not equipped for everything (you’ll have to seek out an attorney for complex issues)
- They cannot provide legal direction.
- They cannot locate the proper divorce forms for you.
A legal document preparer is not a lawyer or attorney and therefore cannot offer legal advice. They are simply there to ensure you are informed and that your paperwork is filled out correctly before filing.
Do It Yourself
Another option is to do your divorce yourself without any legal help. You aren’t required to have a lawyer for your case, not even when you go through the court system.
Benefits of DIY Divorce
- You’ll save money (you still have to pay the court filing fee)
- If your spouse doesn’t have a lawyer, you can attempt to work together amicably.
- You could save some time (if you and your spouse agree on everything)
Disadvantages of DIY Divorce
- These types of forms are typically only accepted in an uncontested divorce. If you’re still disputing with your ex-partner over issues like spousal support (alimony) or child support payments, you’ll need to seek legal aid as this would be considered a contested divorce.
- You won’t have anyone to look out for in your best interest. A lawyer or attorney can provide legal advice and direction based on your unique needs.
- If your spouse has a lawyer, you’ll be at a disadvantage. Your partner will have greater leverage, leaving you in a tough spot.
What To Do After Filling Out Divorce Papers?
Once the process of filling out the divorce forms is complete, you’ll need to take steps to file them in court.
- File the forms
- Set a court date
- Serve the papers
- Begin the divorce process
The first step is deciding how you will file your completed forms with the court.
File the Forms
If you’re unsure of the method, you’d like to use to file your forms. A few options are available.
- By mail
The best filing method depends on how long you’re willing to wait for the county clerk’s office to receive and ultimately begin processing your paperwork.
Filing Divorce Papers By Mail
- Include enough documentation. You’ll need the original documents and two copies of each; to account for yourself and your spouse.
- Provide a cover letter. This will help the court clerk know right away what’s included in your envelope; you’ll need to list all of the forms (and the quantity of each) and how much you’ve included covering your filing fee.
- Include your filing fee. Make sure you send the correct amount (this varies by state) to avoid delays in processing your forms. The court will accept cashier’s checks, money orders, or personal checks (in most cases).
- Include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE). This step ensures you receive your copies back once your completed forms are processed. Make sure you’ve paid for enough postage so your documents can be sent back without delay.
How To File Divorce Papers Online
Online divorce services are best used for uncontested divorce cases. You'll need legal aid if you’re having any disputes with your spouse. Or, if you’re able to resolve your issues and come to an agreement, you could find success with the online filing method.
With us, you can start your divorce online in three easy steps. If you have any questions or concerns, we’re happy to provide you with the answers and guidance you’re looking for. You can have peace of mind knowing that your divorce case is being taken care of by skilled professionals who care deeply about your experience.
Filing Divorce Papers in Person
To file in person, you’ll have to visit your local courthouse. For guidance, visit the website of your county clerk’s office to obtain details regarding their hours of operation and the division you’ll need to file your divorce papers. There will likely be a contact page you can refer to if you’d like to speak with someone for more information.
Set a Court Date
After filing, you’ll need to set a court date. The process of handling a divorce case in court can be quite long. In many states, divorcing couples are required to wait up to 30 days on average to have their case heard by a judge; for some, the waiting period is 60 to 90 days or more. The timeframe at which your divorce will be finalized depends mainly on your state of residence.
Serve the Papers
The court will not serve your divorce papers for you, and you aren’t allowed to do it yourself either. You’ll need to hire a process server; this is someone who is 18 or over and not connected to your divorce. It could be a friend of yours or even your local sheriff.
Begin the Divorce Process
The final step is to begin the divorce process. Once you’ve filed everything, a court date is set, and your spouse has received their summons, all that’s left for you to do is wait for your day in court.
Understanding the complexities of divorce paperwork can be stressful, so we’ve made it easy. Over 800,000 couples (counting) have been able to move on faster and save money using our services — and we’d be happy to help you next.