The Divorce Filing Process—Frequently Asked Questions

Filing with the court begins the legal proceedings of a divorce.

To start the legal proceedings for a divorce, a complaint for divorce must be filed with the Circuit Court. The complaint gives the following basic information: names of the parties, place and date of the marriage, residency in the county and in the state, minor children, employment, assets and liabilities, and that there has been a breakdown in the marriage relationship. In the last section of the complaint the plaintiff states in general terms his/her requests to the court such as: granting of a divorce, child custody, child support, parenting time, spousal support, property settlement, and an injunction. The complaint may be general or specific in stating facts and making requests, depending upon the parties' situation, and the judgment of the attorney drafting the complaint. When the plaintiff files the complaint, the court issues a summons notifying the defendant that a legal proceeding has been filed against the defendant, and informing the defendant that he / she must file an answer to the complaint personally or through an attorney within a certain time period. If the defendant fails to answer within that time period a judgment by default may be entered against him/her, which means the defendant will have no legal say in the outcome of the proceedings, and in the terms of the judgment of divorce.

The complaint and summons must be served on the defendant in some proper manner. The basic choices are personal service by a process server, or signing for the papers by the defendant either by mail or at the plaintiff's attorney's office. The end result is that the plaintiff's attorney must be able to prove that the defendant has received the papers, and is therefore, legally notified of the proceedings.

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