The proverb “the devil is in the details” implies that failing to pay attention to the details in life might cause failure. In divorce, this adage is very true. If you forget to check a box on your divorce complaint or exclude vital information in your judgment, you could spend exorbitant time and money trying to correct your errors. And, if unsuccessful, you might be forever haunted by a simple oversight. Because this is a risk you want to avoid, it is crucial that you carefully review any legal forms provided to you for signature before signing. Alternatively if you are preparing your own legal divorce forms, take the following steps to improve the likelihood of avoiding mistakes.
1. Download the correct divorce court forms and instructions from your family court’s website. Be sure you have all of the necessary forms for your case (i.e. contested, uncontested, with children, without children).
2. Make two or more copies of the blank divorce forms and fill the first set out by hand. Be sure your forms are clear and easy to read.
3. If you are in an abusive relationship or don’t want to write your home address on your documents, use another address where you can receive mail.
4. If you don’t have a lawyer, you must indicate this on the legal forms. Self-represented parties are usually referred to as “in pro per” or “Pro Se”. You’ll want to confirm the terminology preferred by your court.
5. Fill out your forms completely and accurately. If something doesn’t apply to you, write “N/A.” If you don’t know the answers, leave the answers blank and contact a lawyer, legal clinic, court clerk or ask your local law librarian for books that may help you.
6. Sign each form where your signature is requested. Use blue or black ink only.
7. Make copies of all of your forms. If a form has writing on both sides, use 2 separate pages to copy the 2 sides of the form.
8. Keep a clean copy of all of your court papers in a folder in a safe place.
9. Take your forms to the court clerk’s office for filing and further action. Also be sure to take the correct filing fee with you in the form of a cashier’s check or money order unless your court accepts personal checks.
10. Always take your complete file of documents with you to the clerk’s office, a court hearing, or a facilitator’s office.
11. Be prepared for the court clerk to tell you something is missing or must be changed – this is very common in court filings and shouldn’t be taken personally.
Words of Caution: Because the courts and legal system are very unforgiving, we recommend you consult an attorney or legal clinic to ensure your documents, method of service, filing deadlines and other applicable local and national family laws are satisfied.