A divorce occurs when there are irremediable factors between two married people and they want to dissolve their legal union. As mentioned here, marriage is a legal institution whose dissolution must also follow the rule of the law. A Divorce Notice is a legal document addressed to a spouse from the other spouse relaying the intention to start a divorce process.
In most instances, going through a divorce is never an easy time. It can be draining (both physically and emotionally) and time-consuming. However, knowing what to do e.g how to serve a Divorce Notice or how to respond to one can make the process bearable. These days it is even easier than you can access the paperwork needed for divorce online. This is in the form of divorce forms tailored to specific needs such as state, the number of children involved, assets, debt, etc.
Different jurisdictions have different laws with regard to divorce. However, there are some standard processes that cut across most of these laws. For example, most laws require a couple to have been legally married for at least one year before filing for divorce. Others will need the couple or one of them to have met a residency status in the jurisdiction they decide to file for divorce. It is important to note that most of these laws are not static but keep on getting updated to accommodate present needs.
To get you started, here is a 1 minute overview of the steps in serving a divorce notice discussed briefly by MyAdvo.
Why do people seek a divorce?
To understand the need to send a Divorce Notice, we need to first discuss why people would want to seek divorce.
Ideally, divorce should be a last resort after all other alternative methods to resolve the issues that could lead to a marriage breakdown have been explored. That withstanding, is not always possible. Some of the most common reasons are;
Adultery occurs when one spouse has sexual relations with another person that is not their spouse. For adultery to be a sufficient ground for divorce, the party accused must agree or the accuser provides proof that adultery happened. In the latter, they can choose to mention the other party involved as co-respondent in the divorce petition. In addition to this, the petitioner should also prove that it is unbearable to live in the marriage after finding about the adultery. Another key point is that adultery cannot be reported as a ground for divorce if the couple has lived together more than 6 months after an “adultery incident.”
Desertion simply means one spouse abandoning the other for a period of more than two years without any good reason and without any mutual consent to do so.
Violence or any other unreasonable behavior
Intolerable behavior such as domestic violence or denial of love and affection are grounds for a divorce. Such incidences need to be stated down in the Divorce Notice and are solid if there is proof to back them up.
Separation with consent
Even if there is mutual consent, if a couple has been continuously separated for 2 years or more, they can seek divorce. The separation doesn’t need to be from miles away, it can apply even when the couple live together but have different lives e.g if they do not share a room, each has different domestic chores, etc.
In the United States, 53% of marriages end in divorce. With less than a 50% chance of a marriage being successful why do people go for it anyway? Check out this insightful interview with divorce lawyers who have sought to understand the psyches of their clients and have come forward to talk about motivations for seeking a divorce.
Divorce Notice process
We have earlier on mentioned that a Divorce Notice serves as a legal notice from one spouse to another intimating that they would like to start the divorce process by a certain date because of a number of specified reasons. To draft a Divorce Notice, one needs to follow the following steps;
Contact an attorney/lawyer with expertise in divorce proceedings
A legal notice needs to be sent through a legal person such as an attorney or advocate. Today, we are lucky that most of them are available on online platforms and have customized templates to fill in. This can be easily done without much assistance but if one needs further consulting they can arrange to have that.
Share necessary information in detail which is vital to create the Divorce Notice.
This includes such things as; names and addresses of any parties involved, details on the reasons for divorce, complaints, relief being sought, etc.
The next step is sharing relevant documents. These may include a Marriage certificate. If the party seeking a divorce does not have an original copy of the Marriage certificate, they can request one from the office responsible for registering marriages.
Writing the Divorce Notice
In this step, most of the required information is already available. These pieces of information are drafted into a document preferably in the letterhead of the consulting attorney. The document should include the full name and address of the recipient, clearly state the reason behind the notice and why it is being sent, mention any previous communication if there are any, and state a timeframe within which the addressee should respond to the Divorce Notice.
Signing and Serving the Divorce Notice
After the Divorce Notice has been drafted, it needs to be signed by the petitioner serving the notice and the lawyer who has prepared it then sent via registered post and an acknowledgment receipt retained for proof of sending the notice. It is advisable for the lawyer to also retain a copy of the notice that can be used later in the future for reference. Check out this 5-minute guide to effectively serving divorce notices by Sterling Law.
Essential contents for a Divorce Notice
A Divorce Notice must contain the basic information of the sender. This includes full name, contact address and a brief description.
A narration usually detailed in paragraphs should outline the complaints or issues warranting the Divorce Notice. This section should be as clear as possible to avoid ambiguity from the recipient’s side for example listing down instances sequentially and if they have happened multiple times, numbering or assigning them dates. Where applicable, the petitioner should also include any previous communication and attempts to resolve any of the grievances mentioned.
A Divorce Notice should also include a section detailing any relief being sought. For example how to divide both property and debt, alimony and child support.
Lastly, a Divorce Notice is not complete without the signature of the sender and that of a lawyer. There should also be a specified timeframe within which the respondent should have acknowledged receipt and sent a reply.
What happens when a spouse refuses to acknowledge receiving the Divorce Notice?
There are cases when the spouse being served with the Divorce Notice may want to make the divorce process difficult by failing to acknowledge receipt of the notice, refuse to declare their address so that they are not served with the notice, etc. How to proceed with these instances is influenced by the rules applicable in the area the divorce is being filed.
One way that is acceptable by law is for the petitioner to seek a default divorce. Once granted this means that the other spouse forfeits their chance to have their input in the divorce proceedings. A judge presiding over the case may follow what is stated in the petition to make a ruling.
Once served with a Divorce Notice, are you obligated to sign on the divorce papers?
No. There does not exist a law to compel one to sign on divorce papers. However, as mentioned above this is not a wise strategy. This is because one forfeits all the opportunity to influence the divorce proceeding and cannot later go to court seeking redress. Therefore, even if one thinks that not acknowledging a Divorce Notice or signing divorce papers will be insignificant in stopping the divorce, they should at least respond and state their relief too.
The key to successfully responding to divorce papers to focus on the most important legal issues in the complaint. This video from the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii goes over some key tips to responding to divorce papers especially if you dispute some of the claims therein.
What is an uncontested divorce? How long does it take?
An uncontested divorce means that both parties to the divorce have both filed the divorce papers and are in agreement on how to go about the issues raised. This is the easiest form of divorce.
A judge in a court of law makes a ruling based on this agreement. The only thing they are keen on is if there is child custody to make sure the ruling is in the best interest of the child as well as in accordance with the applicable laws.
There is no standard timeline as to how long this can take but it sure is easier than other forms of divorce.
What is a decree nisi and a decree absolute in a divorce?
After serving a Divorce Notice and receiving an acknowledgment from the other party, the next step is to seek a decree nisi. A decree nisi is a document issued by the court to give a go-ahead on the divorce proceedings. It states that the court finds no reason not to proceed with the divorce. However, this does not mean that divorce has been granted. You will need to wait for a minimum period of six weeks before applying for a decree absolute. A decree absolute officially dissolves a marriage and confirms a formal divorce.
What happens when a spouse files for divorce in another country?
In most cases, to file for divorce most jurisdictions require proof of residency by one or both spouses. Therefore, a spouse intending to file for divorce in another country must be living in that country to meet the residency status. However, they should be keen to confirm if the law applicable in that country is effective to consider and complete the divorce proceedings.
Divorce is not always desirable but sometimes it is the best option available. It is important to familiarize oneself with applicable laws that guide the divorce process. As mentioned before, these laws may differ from one area to another. The good thing is that most of the information needed is readily available online and can help save on costs. However, this is not to disregard the need for an attorney who can be of great help especially if the case is of a complex nature.
A Divorce Notice provides a fair chance for the respondent to have some time to prepare to present their version of the case. Sometimes the notice doesn’t always lead to a court proceeding as the two parties if in agreement, are able to solve their grievances amicably outside of the court.