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Divorce Requirements

United States

Chapter 2

These are general requirements to file for Divorce.  Every State has different requirements. 

Health Insurance

In some States, if you are receiving health insurance from the company where you work, or if you have private health insurance, then your spouse can remain on that health insurance plan. 

However, this is only if your spouse writes to the insurance company within 30-days after the Divorce is over and request to remain on your health insurance.  If your spouse does this, then your spouse is responsible for paying their part of the insurance. 

The same is true if your spouse is receiving health insurance and you want to remain on your spouse’s plan.  This is good if you have a preexisting condition and you are concern that a new health insurance plan will not cover it. 

Residency Requirement:

Each State has a different residency requirement, meaning that you must have lived in that State for a particular period of time before you can file for Divorce.  The State might have one residency requirement if you just move to the State compared to if your marriage has always been in the State. 

Check with your court to make sure that your situation meets your State’s residency requirement. 

Separation Requirement:

Some States require the couple to have lived apart or be separated for a certain period of time.  However, the separation requirement is different for each State.

Some States have 3-different separation requirements.  They might have one separation requirement if you just move to the State compared to if your marriage has always been in the State. 

Check with your court to make sure that your situation meets your State’s separation requirement. 

If you go and have sexual relations with your spouse the separation requirement can be reset back to day 1. 

Mediation/Reconciliation Counseling

If you have not been separated for a long enough period of time, some States will require you to attend mediation/reconciliation counseling and will only allow you to file for a divorce after mediation/reconciliation has failed. 

To prove separation, you can bring witnesses, bring to court a notarized statement from a witness, utility bills in your name and your spouse’s name, rental lease agreements, etc.  You can present all of this information at the time you go to court. 

We do not recommend this, but it has been known for some couples to lie about the time they have been separated.  If you both testified that you had been separated for 6-months or two –years, then most of the time, the court will not question it. 

Cannot Locate Spouse:

If you cannot find your spouse, or if your spouse lives in another State, what do you do?

Most States will allow you to get a divorce without the approval of your spouse if your spouse cannot be found, or lives in another State.  For a situation such as this, you will be asking the court for a divorce by default.   

If you cannot locate your spouse, or if your spouse has abandoned you, then you have to provide in court some kind of proof that you attempted to locate them.  Most of the time, this only requires you to present in court that you put an ad in the local newspaper of your spouses’ last known address. 

Before you place an ad in the local newspaper, check with the court for a list of approved newspapers, check to see how long the ad must run, and check to see if there is a required form that has to be filled out first.  Some newspapers will charge $30, and some newspapers will charge $1,000 for the same size ad. 

In addition, you can testify in court that you talked to your spouse’s friends and relatives, that you check your spouse’s last place of employment, and that you check the phone directories in an attempt to locate them. 

Common-Law Marriage:

The simple answer is Forget it!

Social Security does not recognize Common Law Marriage.  If you two have been living together for 30 years, have 10 children together, you will receive no spousal benefits from Social Security. 

Every State is different when it comes to Common Law Marriages.  Some States have no law when it comes to Common Law Marriages. 

In other States, the requirements to prove that you had a Common Law Marriage is very difficult. 

Example 1.  In some States, you have to be living together for 6 years.  It is now 5 years, but if one moves out right before the 6-year mark, then the time is reset back to day 1. 

Example 2.  If all of the bills are in one person’s name, or the lease is only in one person’s name, then there was no Common Law Marriage. 

Children Requirement

Some States require that health insurance and all medical costs be provided for the children before they will grant you a divorce. 

All medical costs include but might not be limited to dental, psychological, and optometric costs.  In some States, this cost is in addition to child support, and in other States, this cost is part of child support. 

Some States require health care cost to be worked out before they will grant you a divorce and education expenses as well. 

Child Support:

  • Obligor: is the person paying child support.
  • Obligee: is the person receiving the support on behalf of the children.

You only have to pay child support for your biological child and adopted children. 

Grandparents Rights:

The US Supreme Court ruled in the case of Troxel vs. Granville that grandparents have no visitation rights, that parents have the right to raise their children how they see fit, and that the States cannot force them to allow grandparents visitation. 

However, many States have attempted to get around this. 

For example, some States will not grant a divorce until you put into your divorce papers some kind of a clause relating to visitation regarding grandparents or other persons. 

Once this is stated in the divorce decree it must be carried out

Put in your paperwork the following statement.

The US Supreme Court ruled in the case of Troxel vs. Granville that grandparents or other persons have no visitation rights, that parents have the right to raise their children how they see fit, and that the States cannot force them to allow grandparents or other persons visitation.  Then attach a copy of Troxel vs. Granville to your divorce papers.  Click here for the pdf

The following clause in your Divorce’s papers may meet this requirement and still provide you with full control over who gets to visit your children.  However, many judges might reject this clause. 

We will allow visitation by the grandparents and others during the times and during the days that are congruent and harmonious with the children’s schedule and the schedule of the parents. 

This Translates too. You will allow visitation by the grandparents and others when you feel like it. 

Divorce Documents

Some of the following documents will apply, and some of them will not.  In general, these are the documents that you will need to file for Divorce.  Do not forget to make copies because the court might ask for copies at the hearing. 

The information you should gather is:

  • Yours, yours spouse’s, and your children’s birth certificates.
  • Yours, yours spouse’s, and your children’s social security cards or social security numbers.
  • Marriages License.
  • Immigration and naturalization documents.
  • Any written agreements between you and your spouse.
  • Documents relating to any past marriages.
  • All documents relating to income, expenses, and property
  • Yours and your spouse’s Federal and State income tax returns and W-2s. 
  • Yours and your spouse’s payroll stubs.
  • Any document relating to any other income such as pension plans, retirement plans, stock options, profit-sharing, stock, bond, CDs, etc.
  • Yours and your spouses’ monthly living expenses.
  • Business tax returns and business financial statements.
  • Deed or mortgages to any property.
  • Copies of any leases such as for a car or apartment, etc.
  • Yours and your spouses’ checking and saving account statements.
  • Titles to vehicles such as a car, boat, etc.
  • Any and all outstanding loan documents, such as credit cards, car note, etc.
  • Credit card statements.
  • Record of any other debts such as medical bills.
  • Names and addresses of your spouse’s employer, family, and friends. 
  • Records of insurance policies such as home, auto, health, life, disability, business, etc.
  • Appraisal value of any property such as your home.
  • Record of inheritance or lottery winnings.
  • Get a copy of your Credit Report because your spouse might have taken out a loan that you might not know about, and this could affect you. 

Credit Report:

You will need your credit report.  Once a year, you can get a free copy of your credit report from the following places.

Over the internet at:

By Phone at:


When you call to get your credit report, you will go through a verification process, and they will then mail the report to you.

By mail at:

Annual Credit Report Request Service

P.O. Box 105281

Atlanta, GA 30348-5281


Because there are thousands of counties in the United States, it is not possible for us to go over all the requirements in each county.  Therefore, you will have to go to your local county courthouse and do some homework yourself. 

Many States and counties have fill in the blank divorce forms, and these forms should be used whenever possible. 

For some States, you will need almost all of the following forms and documents, and for other States, you will not even need half of them.  Every State and county are a little different. 

For example, the forms you will need are the following. 

However, depending on the county, some of these forms might be combined into one form, such as the Petition, the financial information sheet, and the Marital Settlement Agreement form might all be combined into one form. 

  • Petition or Complaint.
  • Cover sheet.
  • Financial or Information sheet.
  • Summons.
  • Acceptance of Service.
  • Respond form.
  • Answer & Affidavit of Consent and Waiver.
  • Serve by Publication form.
  • Declaration of Service, Proof of Service form, Proof of Mailing form.
  • Child Support Order.
  • Parenting Plan.
  • Marital Settlement Agreement.
  • Application and Affidavit for Default & Entry of Default form.
  • Motion to Set.
  • Notice.
  • Judgment, Decree.

The clerk will be able to help you and tell you what forms you might need and what forms you might not need. 

The clerks cannot provide any legal advice, and neither can the judge, but the clerks can help you navigate through the process. 

Some courts will only allow typed answers, and if this is the case, ask if any of these forms are in electronic format. 

If the forms come in electronic format, then you should be able to use the computers at your local library to type in your answers. 

If the forms do not come in electronic format, then you might find a typewriter at your local library. 

Your local library can be a great source of information and help.  Some of the books at your local library are a good source of forms, documents, and additional clauses.

Table of Contents - 9 Pages Total