How to File for Divorce in Delaware?

A man fills out divorce papers while sitting at the table

It is not a secret that a divorce is one of the most difficult events in a person’s life. Indeed, the process of filing for divorce in Delaware comprises various steps, and it’s important to get acquainted with them before you begin your marriage dissolution. In this article, you will find important information on how to get a Delaware divorce, from meeting the necessary qualifications to obtaining a final decree.

Step 1. Meet Residency Requirements

In Delaware, one of the spouses must have lived in the state for six months before filing the case. In order to get a divorce in Delaware, you need to make sure that the state courts have a right to review your case. For this, you must be a state resident for a minimum amount of time required by the law. Without this condition being fulfilled, you cannot obtain a divorce in Delaware and will have to file in another state or wait until the required time passes.

Step 2. Prepare the Necessary Paperwork

A girl prepares papers for her divorce
Individuals can try to prepare divorce papers on their own in Delaware, but they should be prepared for the legal complications.

Finding and filling out your paperwork is one of the first steps of divorce, which requires due attention from the petitioner. Delaware divorce forms can be found online. However, searching for them usually takes a lot of time and effort.

You will have to determine what papers are required to file on your own or hire a lawyer who will collect them for you. The number and type of documents depend on the details of your case. For example, spouses with kids need to provide several additional forms related to custody and child support.

As soon as you have compiled your divorce packet of papers, you will have to fill them out, print, sign, and notarize some of them. Be very attentive when filling out the documents to avoid typos or mistakes. Otherwise, the court clerk will not accept your paperwork.

Step 3. Agreement and Settlement

If you seek to obtain an uncontested divorce, discussing all the matters and reaching a full agreement with your spouse is a vital step of a Delaware divorce process. All the conditions of your divorce regarding custody and child support, property and assets division, as well as alimony must be recorded in the Separation Agreement.

However, please note that this document does not have a unified form and is not included in the court packet of papers. The spouses have to create it on their own or with the help of a lawyer. As soon as you have drafted the document, you should sign and notarize it and file it with the court together with a Stipulation to Incorporate the Separation Agreement.

Finally, please be advised that Delaware courts do not review the Agreements to discover whether they are fair or not. Nevertheless, this document will be enforced by the court, which means that both you and your spouse must comply with all the conditions stated in it.

Step 4. File the Paperwork

Spouse signs completed divorce forms
Filing for divorce on your own in Delaware is possible, but requires a knowledge of legal process.

After you have prepared, printed, and signed your Delaware divorce forms, you will have to file them with the family court of the county where either you or your spouse resides. You can also file in the counties where you have previously lived or concluded your marriage. In some cases, Delaware courts allow petitioners to file by email or certified mail.

Irrespective of what type of filing you choose, you will have to cover the filing fees for divorce in Delaware, which are $165. Please note that if you do it electronically, you can only pay with a card. Petitioners who cannot afford to cover the costs are allowed to request a fee waiver by filing an Affidavit in Support of Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis.

In this paper, you will need to provide information about your employment and income and attach the supporting documents. If the judge approves your request, you will not need to pay any fees.


Step 5. Serve the Other Spouse

As soon as you file your Delaware divorce papers, you should serve the copies on your spouse, officially notifying them that the divorce process has started. As a rule, in Delaware, the county sheriff serves the paperwork after the court clerk prepares the Summons that is also provided to the defendant. Please note that you will have to pay a fee in both cases.

However, if your spouse is cooperative and agrees to sign an Affidavit of Appearance, you won’t need to serve them copies of the paperwork.

After receiving the divorce papers, the defendant has 20 days to provide an official answer. If there is no response within this time, the court will proceed with the case in default. The answer is not needed, though, if the responding spouse signed the Affidavit.

Step 6. Waiting Period

Clock and calendar to track the waiting period during the divorce process
Delaware does not have a mandatory waiting period for no-fault divorces.

Delaware divorce laws do not determine any mandatory waiting period like in other states. Nevertheless, the couple must be separated for at least six months before the court can review the case and make any decision regarding their divorce. Separation is still considered to be in effect if they share the same dwelling but stay in different bedrooms and have no intimacy. If you file on the basis of the respondent’s misconduct, you will not need to live separately for the required period.

Please note that the Delaware court will not grant your divorce if you have not complied with a 30-days waiting period for divorce rule. It presupposes that spouses should not sleep in the same bedroom and have any sexual relationships during this time right before being granted the divorce.

Step 7. Final Hearing

If you seek an uncontested divorce in Delaware, you may choose either to appear at the final hearing or to proceed without it. You should notify the court about your decision when filling out your Petition.

If you have filed the form in which you have chosen not to appear on the hearing, you will receive a notice that you can proceed with the divorce as soon as your Petition is trial-ready. It is possible when all the conditions are fulfilled. You will then have 20 days to provide the following forms:

  • Request to Proceed without a Hearing
  • Affidavit in Support of the Request to Proceed Without a Hearing

The Commissioner will review the papers mentioned above. If the Delaware divorce court grants you marriage dissolution, you will receive a Decree copy and the Commissioner’s Order via mail. If it does not grant you a divorce, the Commissioner may:

  • Deny your Petition if some requirements were not met, and your marriage will still be valid.
  • Order a hearing that you should visit to testify or provide evidence that you have complied with the requirements. In this case, you will be notified about the date of the trial by mail.

According to Delaware laws, you may have the final hearing even in an uncontested case. If you have submitted a Petition in which you have chosen to appear on the final trial, you will receive a Notice of Hearing with the date and time. The judge may ask you a few questions, and if everything is fine with your papers, they will sign the divorce decree and finalize your marriage dissolution. Your case will be dismissed if you are not present at the court on this date.

Step 8. Divorce Decree

Divorce decree on the table next to the judge's gavel
Obtaining a divorce decree in Delaware involves a formal legal process, and it is not inherently difficult.

A final divorce decree is the document that the judge should sign if they approve your Petition. In such a case, both spouses will be mailed copies of both the Commissioner’s Order and the Decree of Divorce that finalizes the process and includes all the conditions of your divorce.

The Bottom Line

The process of filing for divorce in Delaware involves specific steps and prerequisites that one must be well-versed in. Being aware of the basic steps of filing for a divorce, you can decide whether you are ready to work without a lawyer and consider other options, such as getting help with paperwork during a Delaware online divorce. Understanding the process thoroughly can alleviate some emotional and financial burdens during this challenging time.