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How to File for Divorce in Delaware

Divorce in Delaware State is a legal method of ending the marital relationship between spouses. Delaware divorce proceedings occur at the Family Court division of the state’s Judicial Branch. Before divorce proceedings can be initiated in Delaware, either of the couples must be a resident of the state for at least six months before the divorce filing. Except for divorce on reasons of misconduct, the court requires intending divorcees to be legally separated for up to six months.

According to the 2018 Delaware Vital Statistics Annual Report, the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services recorded 2,709 divorces throughout the year. The divorce rate made 54% of the total number of marriages recorded during the year. More than 50% of the divorces were marital unions that were less than ten years.

Do I need a Reason for Divorce in Delaware?

Typically, divorce in Delaware can either be contested or uncontested. In divorce cases, the court shall enter a divorce decree if it is established that the marital relationship is permanently broken and the chance of the spouses reuniting is unconvincing. According to section 1505, such grounds for divorce are:

  • Mutual separation by the spouses
  • Separation due to misconduct of a spouse that includes adultery, bigamy, criminal conviction punishable by incarceration of a year or more, spousal or child abuse, neglect, and deliberate refusal to perform marital acts.
  • Mental illness of a spouse
  • Separation on the grounds of the unsuitability of the spouses

However, the failure of the petitioner to establish any of this will be ruled as insufficient grounds for divorce, by the court. Also, the filings must satisfy the jurisdictional requirements to be sufficient enough for divorce.

The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care in order to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.

Why do I need a Divorce Lawyer?

A divorce lawyer stands as a legal counselor for persons looking to file for divorce in Delaware. Divorce lawyers are knowledgeable in the state’s divorce and annulment laws and can help prepare a good defense during court proceedings. For a contested divorce, there may be legal requirements such as valid grounds for divorce that a lawyer can help establish. Lawyers can also help sort issues that arise from divorce proceedings like child custody and possession of properties.

How do I Get Started in a Divorce in Delaware?

To begin a divorce action in Delaware, interested persons must complete section II of the Petition for Divorce/Annulment form and file it with the clerk of Family Court within the county that the respondent lives. Other forms that may be required, depending on the divorce circumstances, are available on the court’s divorce forms page. Either the petitioner or respondent must be residents of Delaware for at least six months to be eligible to file for a divorce. Petitioners must also file a certified copy of the original copy of their marriage license. Individuals can file the required documents in-person or via U.S mail in any of the county courthouses that their spouse resides:

Kent County Family Court

400 Court Street

Dover, Delaware 19901

Castle County Family Court

500 N. King Street

Wilmington, Delaware 19801

Sussex County Family Court

22, The Circle

Georgetown, Delaware 19947

To contest divorce actions, respondents must file an Answer within twenty days from the day they received the petition. The court will schedule a hearing for the divorce case.

How to File for Divorce in Delaware Without a Lawyer?

Delaware Family Courts allow individuals to file for divorce without lawyers and also legally represent themselves. However, there are no special provisions for pro se representation and they have to follow the court’s process. The court’s Divorce and Annulment Instruction packet provides instructions and guidance on how persons filing without a lawyer can do so successfully.

Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these organizations are not government-sponsored and record availability may vary further. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain, and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records cannot be guaranteed.

How Does Delaware Divorce Mediation Work?

The court may pass an order for mediation that mandates the parties to work out their differences and reach a mutual, non-judicial resolution. Mediation in Delaware divorce occurs mostly in cases that involve child custody and visitations. The court assigns a mediator/counselor that will help the spouses to resolve their issues while being neutral. If a resolution occurs, the counselor prepares a consent order that the spouses sign and a judge endorses. However, the court schedules a divorce hearing if the mediation process fails.

How Long After Mediation is Divorce Final in Delaware?

The length of time for the finalization of divorce in Delaware upon mediation usually depends on the outcome of the mediation process. If the mediation process is short and unsuccessful, a court hearing ensues.

Are Divorce Records Public in Delaware?

Yes, divorce records are public information in Delaware under the state’s public record laws. Upon request, eligible persons can obtain divorce records from custodians for inspection or copying purposes. However, some sensitive or sealed information may be unavailable to the public.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How do I Get Delaware Divorce Records?

Interested individuals can obtain copies of divorce records in Delaware from the court’s records division in the county that divorce proceedings occurred. To obtain copies in-person, querying parties must provide the clerk with their name, date of birth, and a valid photo ID. There is also a payment of $4 per certified copy and $1 per non-certified copy.

Querying parties can also send a written request that contains their name, date of birth, and validated signature. Similar charges also apply. Requestors can address their requests to:

New Castle County Family Court Records Department

500 N. King St.

Suite 110

Wilmington, DE 19801

(302) 255–2222

Kent County Family Court Records Department

400 Court Street

Dover, DE 19901

(302) 255–2222

Sussex County Family Court Records Department

22 The Circle

Georgetown, DE 19947

(302) 255–2222