Next, you need to fill out the forms you got from the court (or online). The Divorce Information Sheet is at the front of the forms packet - it gives you some important information. Read it carefully.
Here are some helpful tips about filling out these forms:
- If you're filing for divorce, you are the "Plaintiff." Your spouse is the "Defendant"
- If you cannot fill out the forms by yourself, find out if there is a Courthouse Assistance Program (CHAP) in your local court and when you can meet with them. Get an updated CHAP scheduled here. Or ask the court clerk about the CHAP schedule in your court.
- If you want your address and phone number on court papers to be kept private because you are afraid of your spouse, read ‘What if I am afraid of the other party?’ below.
- You can “file” papers with the court by delivering them to the court clerk or sending them in the mail. The court clerk will give you the mailing address. Or find court mailing addresses here. File originals of all papers, including the summons, with the court.
- When you file any paper with the court, always mail a copy to your spouse, or their lawyer, if they have one.
- Make copies of your court papers for yourself. You may be able to do this at low-cost at your local library or town office. Put them in one file. Take that file to court every time you go. It is also a good idea to keep dated notes about what is happening. This will help you remember things like when you talked to the Clerk and when you mailed or filed papers.
What do I put on the complaint form as "grounds" for divorce?
Most divorces in Maine are granted on the grounds (reason) of "irreconcilable differences." Maine law includes nine different grounds for divorce, including adultery and extreme cruelty. But you do not have to show “fault” to get a divorce in Maine.
If you want to get a divorce based on “fault” (extreme cruelty, for example), you should get a lawyer. If you list this as the only grounds and you do not prove "extreme cruelty," the court may not grant the divorce.
If either spouse tells the court that there are "irreconcilable differences," the court can order a divorce. This is the grounds the court almost always uses, even when one party is at fault.
Domestic violence or abusive behavior may be relevant to other decisions the court must make, like division of parental rights and responsibilities and need for spousal support. You can still tell the court about abuse or other issues even if you file based on "irreconcilable differences." Again, it almost never makes sense to try and show "fault" as the reason for your divorce.
What If I am afraid of the other party? Do I have to say where I am living when I fill out the court forms?
No. You can write "confidential" where the forms ask for address and telephone.
Then ask the clerk for an “Affidavit for Confidential Address form” (or find it online here). Write down why you think this information must be kept private to keep you or your children safe. Sign it in front of a notary public. Then give it to the clerk along with your other papers.
The clerk will then "seal" this information so that others can't see it. The other party can object to this in writing. If so, the court may hold a hearing to decide whether the clerk must still keep the information secret.
If you are experiencing domestic violence or are worried about your safety if you file for divorce, there are resources in your community ready to help you. Contact your local domestic violence support organization or call the statewide hotline for Maine: 1-866-83-4HELP (1-866-834-4357). These resources are free, and available to anyone in Maine who needs them. These organizations will support you through the divorce process and may be able to refer your case to Pine Tree Legal Assistance if it is appropriate.