You must use a Petition for Divorce to start a divorce when you and your spouse disagree on one or more issues related to the divorce. You should also use a Petition for Divorce if you think your spouse will “fight” the divorce. The types of issues that you and your spouse may disagree about include:
the reason for the marriage breakdown (whether you have been living separately for 1 year, or that your spouse committed adultery, or that your spouse treated you with cruelty)
parenting arrangements (decision-making responsibility and parenting time)
financial support (child support and spousal support)
division of property (house, personal property, assets, and debts)
division of pensions.
If you file a Petition for Divorce, you are called the “Petitioner” and your spouse is called the “Respondent”.
Time for Service
Once you file the Petition for Divorce, you will have 6 months to serve your spouse with the court documents unless you request (and are granted) more time by the Court. See the section on extension of time later in this Guide for more information.
Your spouse will then have a set amount of time to file an Answer, which is a response to your Petition for Divorce.
Sometimes a contested divorce can become uncontested. If your spouse does not file an Answer, then you may be able to file an Uncontested Motion for Divorce, which is a way to ask the court to turn your contested divorce into an uncontested divorce.
If your spouse does file an Answer with the court, you and your spouse can still continue to negotiate with each other to try and reach an agreement. You can do this with or without a lawyer, or with the help of professionals like a lawyer, a mediator, or with a judge’s help in a settlement conference.
A contested divorce can settle at any time if the spouses work out an agreement. See the section called ‘Resolving outstanding issues.’
The next sections explain the steps you need to take to file a contested divorce, and includes how to start preparing your documents, how to serve a Petition for Divorce, and the forms you may need to file with the court.
If your divorce is uncontested and you want to do a Joint Application for Divorce or an Application for Divorce based on a Written Agreement, you can skip the section about contested divorces except the section on resolving outstanding issues.