Family Law

How Long Should It Take My Lawyer to File a Divorce Petition?

By Kristina Otterstrom, Attorney
Learn more about getting your divorce petition filed and served.

Preparing the Divorce Complaint

At your initial divorce consultation, you’ll discuss the details of your case with your attorney. An experienced divorce lawyer will walk you through the divorce process and answer your questions. You may be assigned homework with additional forms to complete or documents to gather to get your case moving.

Most people that file for divorce want to get the ball rolling immediately. However, there are a lot of factors that will affect how quickly your attorney can get a divorce petition filed. For example, if you and your spouse were married for a few short years, have no children, and no property or assets, your divorce petition will be relatively simple to prepare.

By contrast, a couple with a history of abuse, multiple children, significant debts and assets, and a family business, for example, will face a longer and more complicated process. Additionally, your lawyer’s workload will affect how quickly he or she can draft your divorce complaint. After the complaint has been filed, it still must be served on your spouse, which can take additional time.

For more information, see What Goes in a Divorce Petition?

How Will an Attorney Serve My Divorce Complaint on My Spouse?

In an ideal world, your spouse will sign an acceptance of service and willingly receive a copy of your divorce complaint. More often though, your attorney will need to hire a process server to serve your spouse at home or at work. Sometimes a spouse may try to dodge service by hiding when a process server comes to the door. In an extreme circumstance, your attorney may be able to “serve” the divorce complaint via certified mail or publication. These rules will vary somewhat, depending on state and local rules. You should consult a local family law attorney if you have more questions about serving a divorce petition.

What Could Delay Getting a Divorce Petition Filed?

There are some circumstances that can delay your divorce filing. Specifically, if you recently moved to the state where you’re planning to file for divorce, you will have to wait until you’ve met the required residency period. Additionally, if your spouse serves you with a divorce complaint before you’ve filed your own, your attorney may decide to file an answer to your spouse’s complaint, instead of filing your petition.

Some divorce delays are outside of your control. However, the more responsive you are to your attorney’s requests, the faster your attorney can draft your divorce petition and get your case moving forward.

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