What do you need to do to get a divorce in Delaware? Prepare the forms and file for divorce at a local courthouse. Something else? Your spouse’s consent. Let’s examine every aspect of and requirement for a Do-It-Yourself divorce in Delaware.
Contested Divorce vs. Uncontested Divorce in Delaware
A DIY divorce is available only for amicable couples. The court obviously isn’t going to check if the couple is on speaking terms. In practice, an amicable divorce means that spouses don’t dispute that they are getting a divorce, how to split child custody, or who is taking the family home.
If your spouse agrees to end the marriage and settles all matters of your dissolution, your divorce is uncontested. You have met the minimum requirements for “online divorce” and can fill out and sign the divorce papers without an attorney.
If your spouse refuses the dissolution of marriage or disagrees with the divorce terms, you’re about to have a contested divorce. In such a case, you cannot prepare an application for divorce online and must use the assistance of a divorce lawyer.
Four Main Issues in Divorce
The court cannot end your marriage if you cannot agree on how you are going to handle the four main issues of your married life.
Child custody. Under Delaware law, parents must decide on how they share their parental duties. Parental duties include physical custody (where the child lives, goes to school, has medical treatment, etc.) and legal custody (who of the parents makes important decisions regarding education, religion, healthcare, etc.). Parents draw up a settlement agreement with clauses on visitation and a custodial split and submit it to the court to review.
Child support. To calculate the amount of child support payments in Delaware, parents should use the Delaware Child Support Guidelines and complete Forms 509 and 509-I with instructions available online or at the local courthouse. Use the Child Support Calculator to find out the approximate amount before filing the paperwork.
Property division. According to Delaware law, spouses are expected to divide their marital property fairly and equitably rather than equally. Marital property includes the family home, joint accounts, liabilities and debts, real estate, vehicles, jewelry, insurance and pension funds, etc. If spouses have trouble agreeing on how to divide their property, they are advised to consult a financial advisor. The divorce will not be granted if the judge reviews a settlement agreement and finds the property division part unsatisfactory.
Alimony. Requesting spousal support usually requires legal counsel and is not available through web-based divorce companies. Besides, the court rarely awards alimony in short marriages.
5 Steps for DIY Divorce in Delaware
Step 1. Make sure you qualify. Delaware has certain requirements for divorcing couples. A six-month residency requirement means that either spouse must have lived in Delaware for at least six months before filing for divorce. A six-month separation requirement proves to the court that “the marriage is irretrievably broken and cannot be repaired” cited as grounds for divorce. It doesn’t mean, however, that couples cannot file the paperwork earlier. Instead, it implies that the court won’t finalize a divorce before the six-month waiting period is over.
Step 2. Prepare the paperwork. The petitioner (the spouse who files for divorce) obtains the court forms (with children or without children) and carefully fills them out, detailing the terms of the divorce, such as custody agreement, visitation schedules, child support, spousal support, and property division. The court’s website provides a list of the required forms. The completed forms must be signed in the presence of a public notary.
Step 3. File for divorce. The petitioner files the completed and signed forms with the court and pays the filing fees. Low-income individuals can request a fee waiver from the judge and submit an “Affidavit in Support of Application to Proceed in Forma Pauperis.” The clerk who files the paperwork returns the two copies of the divorce documents for the petitioner to serve the respondent (the other spouse).
Step 4. Serve the spouse. It is possible to arrange for the divorce papers to be delivered to the other spouse right at the court. The court clerk sends the papers to the sheriff to be served on the respondent, who has 20 days to respond. If the respondent fails to file their response for whatever reason, the court grants a default divorce, which means that the terms of the divorce laid down in the divorce petition are not modified.
However, sometimes in no-fault divorces, spouses prepare the divorce papers together. If they add an “Affidavit of Appearance,” process service on the respondent is not required.
Step 5. Decide if you want to attend a court hearing.
In Delaware, after the six-month separation requirement is met, the other spouse is informed, and both parents have attended a parental class, the divorce case is “trial ready.” The court then sends a notice, and the spouses must decide if they want to attend a court hearing or not. They submit a corresponding form. In any case, the petitioner and the respondent will receive court notice and will follow accordingly. If the court dismisses the divorce case for some reason, the spouses will be informed of that. If the documents are in order, the judge signs the order and decree of divorce, and the spouses receive it by mail.
Complete Divorce Online
Even though filing and proceeding with the divorce doesn’t sound too complicated, many people prefer to get some assistance at an affordable price. Internet divorce services help spouses complete the court forms correctly and without errors and instruct them how to file the paperwork with the court.
Self-Representation in Delaware
In legal terms, DIY divorce is a case of self-representation. All the US states, including Delaware, provide the information and guidance divorcing couples need to follow the divorce process with as little trouble as possible. If you’re representing yourself, visit the self-help center at the local courthouse or access all information online on the Delaware Courts website. Private web-based divorce companies also provide step-by-step filing instructions for DIY petitioners.
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