Delaware has specific rules and processes in place that you must follow to legally comply with getting a divorce. It’s important to understand what these are so you don’t waste time and money, and add to your frustrations while preparing for your case.
Here are some of the important things to know.
- What Information Should I Gather to Prepare for Divorce in Delaware?
- Determining Which Divorce Process to Use
- What Forms Do I Need?
- How Do I File My Forms?
- How Do I Serve My Forms on My Spouse?
- After I’ve Filed, What are the Steps for Getting a Divorce?
- Delaware Divorce FAQs
What Information Should I Gather to Prepare for Divorce?
One of the keys to minimizing stress in your divorce is to stay organized from start to finish.
You will need to gather quite a bit of information and starting early in the process can also ease your burden.
Depending on how contentious your divorce is, it may even be smart to start gathering information before you let your spouse know of your intentions. It’s not uncommon for a spouse to conceal important information from the other as a means of retaliation.
Determining Which Divorce Procedure to Use
There are many ways you can get divorced. How you go about the process is driven in part by your relationship with your spouse and how much cooperation there is between both of you.
When you approach divorce as a collaborative problem to be solved, you can get through the process quicker and cheaper than if you fight tooth and nail at every step of the way.
What Forms Do I Need?
Delaware’s Family Court has developed packets that contain instructions explaining what forms you need to file, how to complete the forms, sample forms to which you can refer, along with FAQs and informational materials that will further explain the process.
The same materials can be used if you want to have your marriage annulled.
There are two Instruction Packets pertaining to Divorce and Annulment. They are available for a small fee in Resource Centers, or online at the Family Court website for free.
The Divorce/Annulment Instruction Packet will assist people who are filing a Petition for Divorce/Annulment to start the divorce process.
The Answer to Petition for Divorce/Annulment Instruction Packet will help litigants who have been served with a Petition for Divorce/Annulment and need to file a response.
How Do I File My Forms with the Court?
You must file the Petition for Divorce/Annulment in the county where either you or your spouse lives. Addresses for the courthouses in each county are:
Family Court of the State of Delaware
in Kent County
400 Court Street
Dover, Delaware 19901
Family Court of the State of Delaware
in New Castle County
500 N. King Street
Wilmington, Delaware 19801
Family Court of the State of Delaware
in Sussex County
22 The Circle
Georgetown, Delaware 19947
If neither you or your spouse have ever lived in Delaware, and you are seeking to divorce from a civil union solemnized in the State of Delaware, you can file in Family Court in any county if your state of residence does not permit you to divorce.
If neither you or your spouse currently live in Delaware, but one or both of you have in the past, and you are seeking a divorce from a civil union solemnized in the State of Delaware, you must file in the county in which one or both of you last lived.
How Do I Serve My Forms on My Spouse?
After you file your paperwork with the court, you must legally notify your spouse of your intention to divorce them. This is done through a process known as proof of service.
You can hire a sheriff or a licensed process server to deliver paperwork on your behalf. You can’t do it yourself. If you can’t find your spouse, you can request to complete proof of service by publication. This involves running a legal notice in a local paper.
In all cases, you’ll have to submit an affidavit with the court, proving this step has been completed.
If a spouse is out of state, check with the court for other options to help you complete this step.
What are the steps for getting a divorce after the divorce papers have been filed?
After you file paperwork, you must complete proof of service by having the paperwork legally served on your spouse. You can complete this important step by hiring a sheriff, a process server, or completing service by publication.
Your spouse has 20 days to file an answer with the court. They can either choose to accept the terms in the complaint (uncontested) or challenge portions (contested).
If the divorce is uncontested, it will take about 30 to 90 days for the court to review your proposed settlement and approve your divorce. If you have children, you will be required to attend a short hearing but otherwise, you may not even need to appear in court.
With a contested divorce, you will need to attempt to resolve your differences through processes like mediation, collaborative divorce, arbitration, or possibly a trial. In a trial, you will present your evidence and testimony, and a judge will make binding decisions for things such as alimony, child support, a division of assets, and other related issues.
Connecticut Divorce FAQs
How much does it cost to file for a divorce?
Filing fees will vary depending on the type of petition you’re filing. To find out what the current fee is, go to the Delaware Family Court website or visit the Family Court Resource Centers in each courthouse.
Fees are payable in cash, by credit cards, debit cards, check, or money order. Your paperwork will not be accepted if you do not pay the filing fee.
Can divorce fees be waived?
You may be able to have fees waived in Delaware if you can prove you are indigent and can’t afford to pay. Contact a Delaware Family Court for the appropriate form you’ll need to complete and what the exact process is for submission.
Can I file for divorce online?
No. You must file your paperwork in person or by mail at a Family Courthouse location.
Can I file for divorce without a lawyer?
Yes. You are not required to have an attorney to get divorced in Delaware. If you decide to represent yourself, it is called “pro se” representation. “Pro se” means “for one’s own behalf” or “appearing for oneself.”
However, make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities and that your interests are protected. Courts will expect you to follow the same rules and regulations that attorneys must follow.
What are the residency requirements for getting a divorce?
Either you or your spouse must have lived in Delaware for at least six months before you can file for divorce.
How long does it take to get a divorce in Delaware?
Spouses must be separated for six months before they can legally divorce. You qualify as separated if you meet one of the following conditions:
- It was voluntary
- It is due to your spouse’s misconduct or mental illness
- It is due to incompatibility.
The separation may consist of living in the same household, as long as you and your spouse don’t occupy the same bedroom and do not have sexual relations within 30 days before the court hears your case.
When divorce proceedings are uncontested, a divorce can usually be finalized in 30 to 90 days, depending on the court’s current caseloads and backlog.
Unless you have children, in an uncontested divorce, you won’t need to attend a hearing in most cases. If you do have children, a short hearing will take place to make sure you understand the rights and responsibilities of custody, visitation and support that are part of your settlement agreement.
Litigated divorces, especially those that go to trial, can take as long as two years (possibly more) depending on how complicated the issues are that need to be resolved.
Can I file for divorce while I’m pregnant?
You can file for divorce in Delaware while you’re pregnant, but most judges will not allow you to finalize a divorce until after the baby is born. This makes it easier to deal with the important issues of paternity, support, visitation, and custody as part of the overall settlement agreement.
If a child born during the marriage is not the husband’s child, paternity must be established to clarify rights and responsibilities. Often, this is done through a DNA test.
These entities can bring a paternity matter in the Delaware family court:
- the child’s mother
- the man who believes he is the father or who has been identified as the father
- the state office of child support enforcement
- a legal representative of the alleged father, who is deceased, incompetent, or a minor.
The Delaware Division of Child Support Enforcement has more information for parents who want to establish paternity and receive child support.
If I’m in the military, how does that affect filing for divorce?
If you or your spouse are in the military, you must either be stationed or a resident of Delaware for six months prior to filing.
As a service member, some parts of your divorce will be the same and some parts will be different in Delaware. Federal protections give active members certain rights, including those contained in the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) of 1982.
For example, after you have been served, you can delay your response if your military service conflicts with handling your divorce. This is a protection afforded under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
Each branch of the military has legal assistance on most bases. While they can’t represent a military member in a divorce, they can provide helpful assistance. Spouses of service members may also seek help as well.
Child support is the same as it is in civilian divorces in Delaware. However, there is a rule in place that limits this support to no more than 60% of a service member’s pay and allowances.
Non-military spouses can get health care coverage under TRICARE if they were married for least 20 years during the member’s active service. This is often referred to as the 20/20/20 rule. Lifetime TRICARE coverage is dependent on the former spouse remaining unmarried. If the former spouse remarries, they will lose TRICARE coverage permanently.
A military version of COBRA coverage is available. It is called the Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP). If the military member leaves the service, the former spouse who buys CHCBP is covered for 36 months after the date of divorce. In some cases, this coverage can be extended for a longer period.
Military pensions are divided by whatever means a judge thinks is fair.
It might be wise to consult with an attorney who specializes in military divorces since they can be a complicated blend of military and civilian rules.
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