A divorce begins with a divorce petition. The divorce petition is written by one spouse (the petitioner) and served to the other (the respondent). The divorce petition must also be filed in a state court in the county where the petitioner lives. The petition should include all pertinent information regarding the marriage, including: the names of the husband and wife; the names the children (if there are any); any separate or community property owned; child custody and support desires; spousal support desires and any other information you feel should be included.
The petition has to be served to the respondent, which means you must present them with the divorce papers and give them notice that you have filed them with a state court. If divorce is already agreed upon by both of you, then the respondent only needs to sign an acknowledgement that they received the petition. If the respondent will not sign the acknowledgement willingly (i.e. the divorce is not agreed upon beforehand), or they cannot be located, you should look to hire a professional process server. A good professional process server should be able to find the respondent, and hand the divorce papers directly to them.
Once the divorce papers are served, t he respondent can then file a response to the petition. Although this is not necessary, it is an important step in the divorce process. Filing a response will show that both of you have already agreed to the divorce, and makes it more likely that the divorce will continue without a hearing. This is preferable, as a hearing only serves to elongate the divorce process and increase your legal bills. If the respondent does not file a response by a certain time (usually 30 days), the petitioner can ask that the court enter a default. If a default is entered, the respondent will no longer be involved in the divorce process, and the petitioner will only have to show up at the court for a quick hearing. Therefore, it is always recommended that the respondent file a response. If the respondent should disagree with any information in the petition, they can say so in their response.
Next, both spouses need to give each other all information regarding assets, liabilities, income and expenses. If a divorce is not contested and the spouses agree on all terms of the divorce by themselves, there will only be a few more required forms. Once the court gives their judgment, the divorce will be final. However, the marriage will not be officially over, and the spouses will not be allowed to re-marry, until the end of a six-month period, started on the date the petition was originally served. If disputes arise that are not easily resolved, further court hearings and maybe even a trial will be needed.