It may seem like a daunting idea to handle your divorce proceedings on your own and without an attorney holding your hand or guiding you every step of the way. The truth is, in some cases where the circumstances surrounding the divorces are relatively simple, soliciting the help of an attorney could be a complete waste of money. Whether or not you can legally apply for a divorce online, depends on the state you live in and whether or not it is an uncontested divorce (a strict requirement).
In order to debunk this process and illustrate how you can save money from a DIY divorce, here are some guidelines:
#1. Consider your Circumstances
You will need to consider your personal circumstances carefully before filing for divorce without the assistance of an attorney. You are considered a good candidate for divorce if the following factors apply to you:
- A. You and your spouse are on amicable terms and agree on the division of all marital assets.
- B. You are sure that both you have all the information surrounding all of the marital assets and that these assets are simple to divide between you and your spouse.
- C. You and your spouse can reach an agreement that both parties are happy with when it comes to custody, support and shared parenting. Both spouses should feel the agreement is fair and reasonable.
#2. Consider Tax
Before embarking on a DIY divorce, make sure that you have a handle on all tax-related issues as these can have long-lasting and serious implications down the line. As a starting point, you can refer to irs.gov which provides guidelines tax-related guidance specific to divorce. Upskilling yourself on this topic can save you a lot of money in the long run. Even in the event that your tax may be more complicated and require consulting with an accountant or tax specialist, understanding the basics of tax and how they might apply to you could save you time and money.
#3. Consult with your County Clerk
Because starting your divorce proceedings, a good first step is to consult with your county clerk as they will be able to provide you with the basic information such as what divorce documents you require and where to get divorce forms from. A country clerk is not able to provide legal advice but they will be able to point you in the right direction as you begin the process.
#4. Consult Legal Document Prepares
In the event that your divorce is uncontested, there are paralegals (or legal document preparers – LDP) who can prepare divorce papers and file them with the court based on the information you provide. It is important to note that LDP cannot provide you with legal advice and can only assist with administration.
It is only a qualified attorney who can give you legal advice. Before you begin with the process, an LDP firm will typically give you a questionnaire to complete to have sufficient information to file for the divorce in your local court or you can elect to do the actual filing yourself. The fees charged by these firms do vary greatly between approximately $200 and $700 depending on a number of factors such as your domicile, whether or not you have children and whether or not a settlement agreement is needed in addition to filing the divorce papers.
As with all services, the quality and service you receive from LDPs can vary so ensure that you do some research before enlisting their help.
#5. Filing for Divorce Over the Internet
One way to save significant costs through the divorce process is through to complete your divorce online. While a web divorce may seem uncommon, this is a popular method used increasingly in cases where the circumstances surrounding the divorce are relatively straight forward. While the number of states which accommodate online divorces is still limited, you can find out of our state supports this by visiting your local county or district court or find the information on their website.
In the event that your state does not support a web divorce through e-filing, you can still access and download the divorce papers you need to complete. There are certain things to consider when filing for an online divorce which include:
- A. Both and your spouse need to agree on the divorce and ideally, should be on amicable terms that allow you to work together in completing the necessary steps. This also means that the divorce needs to be uncontested – i.e. neither spouse has an objection to the divorce.
- B. The marital assets to be divided upon the conclusion of the divorce should be simple to allocate and there should not be disagreement between spouses as to how this allocation is to take place. You will also need to agree on all divisions of property, support, alimony, childcare and how financial matters relating to these elements will take place going forward.
- C. If your divorce is uncontested but you and your spouse do not agree on the division of assets or the settlement terms, you can use the services of a mediator who will facilitate discussions in this regard and make it easier for a conclusion to be made. This can drastically reduce the cost of divorce and ensure you take the most affordable route. Note that mediators do not provide legal advice or make decisions on behalf of any of the parties. The use of a mediator during a DIY divorce can save thousands of dollars compared to resorting to the use of an attorney.
Now that you have considered these elements, here are the two main ways to go about filing a divorce online:
A. Making use of your local County/State Website
There are currently only a few states which support e-filing divorces online. E-filing allows you to complete the divorce online through an online portal and charge a small fee for submitting these online. While this is certainly ideal, currently only 10% of U.S states make provision for this.
B. Use an Online Divorce Service
In the event that your state does not offer e-filing, there are online divorce services that can assist you in completing the paperwork and also review your forms to ensure that everything is in order. This can save you a lot of time, and a lot of money, as these services, provide guidance on completing the forms. The time taken to complete these forms can be reduced from days to hours.
#6. Don’t discount the use of an Attorney
While you may be looking for a cheap option and to go the most inexpensive route, don’t completely discount the use of a lawyer who, when it comes to complicated detail, could save you money further down the line. A short consultation with a lawyer could help you avoid additional cost and hassle down the line as an attorney can take a quick glance of your case and quickly provide insights into any obstacles or barriers which may lie in your way for the outcome you wish to achieve.
Even if you are sure that a DIY divorce is a right way to go for you, you will be able to find free consultations with an attorney beforehand, still keeping your divorce as cost-effective as possible.