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Dissolving your Marriage: Different State, Different Requirements

Divorce procedures are not the same in each state. The requirements of one state may be entirely different from another state, even bordering state. This overview looks at some of the distinctive divorce laws by state.

Divorce laws vary by state in regards to process serving requirements, waiting periods or cooling-off periods, property distribution, divorce filing fees, child custody, child support and alimony, legal separation requirements, grounds for divorce and getting a no-fault divorce, contested or uncontested divorce, divorce vs. dissolution of marriage, community property state vs. equitable distribution state. It is important to know the differences in divorce laws and differences in each divorce by state.

How States Differ in Process Serving Requirements?

Almost all states permit anyone 18 years old or older, who is not a party of the divorce, serve divorce papers, entitled a petition or a complaint depending on the state. There are some states which determine on which days these papers can be served. Tennessee, Maine, Florida, Massachusetts and New York are some states which do not permit service of papers on Sunday. New York also prohibits service on Saturday if the person receiving them observes a religious holiday. Minnesota prohibits service on Sundays and holidays.

Specific states require process servers to be licensed. Alaska, Delaware, Michigan, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Texas require process servers to be licensed for service of divorce papers. New York requires process servers to be licensed in New York City but not statewide. California allows service by a friend, relative, sheriff or professional process server. Nevertheless, it is advisable to have a professional serve papers for you. If process is served incorrectly, this can ruin your case and service must be started all over again.

What is a Cooling-Off Period Differentiate by State?

California has the longest cooling-off period. It will take 6 months plus one day before a divorce can be finalized in California even if everything else is resolved. That doesn’t mean the divorce will only take 6 months. A cooling-off period can alter if there are children. In the state of Idaho’s cooling-off period is 20 days but 90 days is possible if there are children. Where some states do not have any cooling-off period. New Jersey, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Georgia and Montana are among states that do not have a cooling-off period. Check with your state to see if there is a cooling-off period and how long is it.

How do Filing Fees Vary by State?

Filing fees vary significantly from state to state. These amounts are approximations because fees are always changing.

States with Highest Filing Fees:

  • California $435

  • Minnesota $390 - $420

  • Florida $350 - $410

  • Utah $310 - $330

  • Louisiana $200 - $450

States with Lowest Filing Fees:

  • Mississippi $50 - $75

  • Wyoming $70

  • North Dakota $80

  • South Dakota $95

  • District of Columbia $120

While divorce filing fees vary from state to state and often from county to county, nationwide they typically range from $100 to $350. Check with your clerk’s office to find out how much filing fees are in your state.

Remember, if you’re going to serve them it’s crucial for you to serve them properly.

If you need assistance with your documents, contact We Serve Law LLC for your service of process needs at or call us at 800-637-1805 for assistance.


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