Legal Petition Requirements

Updated November 21, 2016

A petition is a written stance on a particular issue addressed to a governing body from an individual or group. Petitions urge the governing body to take an action. For example, a petition may seek relief, such as asking a building not be torn down. Petitions are also used in the court system by individuals seeking a legal change or a court order. For example, an individual must petition the court to grant him a divorce. The requirements for a petition vary by state and type of petition but there are general rules that apply to all petitions.

Informal Petitions

An informal petition is simply a statement with supporting signatures attached to it. These petitions are much like the petitions circulating through e-mail. The purpose of informal petitions is to show overwhelming support for a particular issue in hopes of soliciting change. For example, a petition may be circulated online to request a certain features be added to an Internet provider's services list.

Referendum Petitions

Petitions opposing a decision made by a local government are called referendum petitions. For example, if a local governing body decides to increase tax on gasoline at a county level, county residents dissatisfied with this tax can start a petition to force the issue into referendum. Doing this will give the residents an opportunity to vote on the issue collectively. Depending on county and state rules, there may be a particular form that has to be used or a certain minimum number of signatures for the petition to be legal. Contact your local election commission to learn compliance requirements.

Court Order Petitions

Petitions for court orders, such as one seeking divorce or a modification of child custody, must adhere to the rules of the jurisdiction where the court order is being sought. Typically, courts have petition forms available and the petitioner can simply fill out the information requested in the form and file it. Before filing, make sure your document complies with the demands of the court. Court websites list legal requirements for petitions, which may vary by case and issue. A petition to modify child support is substantially different from a petition seeking visitation.

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About the Author

Lindsay Nixon has been writing since 2007. Her work has appeared in "Vegetarian Times," "Women's Health Magazine" and online for The Huffington Post. She is also a published author, lawyer and certified personal trainer. Nixon has two Bachelors of Arts in classics and communications from the College of Charleston and a Juris Doctor from the New England School of Law.