The divorce/dissolution petition is a legal document that is filed in court by a spouse who seeks a divorce. Also called the "complaint" in some states, the petition informs the court of the filing spouse's (called the "petitioner") desire to end the marriage, and its filing with the court signifies the initiation of the divorce process. Once the divorce/dissolution petition has been "served" on the petitioner's spouse, it also notifies him or her that the divorce process has begun (more on serving the petition below).
While specific requirements and formats vary from state to state, the divorce/dissolution petition typically contains the following information:
In addition to the information described above, the divorce/dissolution petition may ask the court to put temporary "orders" in place on certain family and financial issues while the divorce process is ongoing. If approved, these orders usually stay in effect until the divorce becomes final. These temporary orders may pertain to issues such as:
Where is the Divorce/Dissolution Petition Filed?
Divorce is governed by state law, and the divorce process is handled solely at the state government level, so the spouse seeking a divorce files a divorce petition in his or her state's "superior" or "circuit" court -- usually in a county or district branch of that state court.
More on Where to File for Divorce, including a listing of durational residency requirements by state.
Go here for information on courts in your state and/or county.
"Serving" the Divorce Petition
After a divorce/dissolution petition is filed with the court, the petitioner (and his or her lawyer) makes sure that the petition is "served" (legally delivered) on the other spouse. Each state has strict requirements for serving legal documents, including the different methods of service that are available, so it is important that service be done right in order for the divorce to validly proceed.
Sample Divorce/Dissolution Petitions (or Complaints)
The state-specific samples below should give you an idea of what a divorce/dissolution petition (or complaint) looks like, and the information these documents usually contain:
Get Legal Help Filing and Serving Divorce Petition
How you proceed with your divorce can seriously impact how easy the process is and how much it ends up costing you. For this reason, it's a good idea to contact an experienced divorce attorney to get help with anything from preparing, filing, and serving the divorce petition to making sure your settlement agreement is fair to you.