There are many things to ponder before venturing into this realm of ‘do-it-yourself (DIY)’ divorce. Ensuring that the divorce will be uncontested is the single most important factor before venturing into doing it yourself. You have to sit down with your spouse and agree on the conditions of your divorce.
If you fall in the category of people who seek an uncontested divorce, you could look into getting a pro se divorce, (“on your own behalf”) that basically requires no attorney. All you have to do is to complete the requisite paperwork of your State and which can be easily downloaded from the computer and file it with the court. After that all you have to do is attend a hearing and that would be the sum of effort required. Despite the apparent ease, you need to have some guidelines for it and the below given points might make the journey easier for you.
Of course, there are many things to ponder before venturing into this realm of ‘do-it-yourself (DIY)’ divorce. Ensuring that the divorce will be uncontested is the single most important factor before venturing into doing it yourself. You have to sit down with your spouse and agree on the conditions of your divorce. If at any time you believe that there is an area of disagreement between the two of you, it would be better to have an attorney to help protect your interests. In case, money is a constraint, you can save money by paying an attorney to just look at your divorce paperwork; you can also save money by getting a free consultation, which is often offered by divorce lawyers.
In most cases, it is possible to get a DIY divorce in the circumstances given below:
- You have no child issues that deal with custody, support and visitation.
- You have been married for only a short time.
- Both of you don’t possess much money, shared debts or community properties that need to be divided.
- There is no suspicion of any hidden asset or bankruptcy on the part of your spouse.
- Neither of you are employees of the US military.
- You are financially independent and can support yourself.
- Your spouse hasn’t been abusive towards you.
All the above factors don’t matter in the State of Texas and you can file for pro se divorce anytime. You have to be careful in case yours is a case of same-sex divorce, because each state is continuously evolving laws regarding the same, making the matter quite complicated for you to go at it alone.
A “do-it-yourself” divorce is not always wise, but it’s an option if money for an attorney is a concern and your divorce isn’t complicated.
Once you have decided to go through the DIY route for your divorce, you need to collect the various forms required for filing the divorce. You can either get the forms by accessing your State’s website to get links to download the forms that have legal language in place with space in which yours and your spouse’s details need to be filled in, you can also collect blank forms from the court clerk’s office or from office supply stores.
Each State requires specific forms such as:
- Petition for Divorce.
- Financial Affidavit, in which you and your spouse disclose your financial status and determine how your assets and debts will be divided.
- Notice of Hearing that has to be filed when the court sets a date for your divorce hearing.
- Answer and Affidavit is the document that is required in the condition your spouse is unwilling to go to court for the hearing and agrees to all the divorce conditions.
- Settlement Agreement.
- Divorce Decree.
After completing your divorce paperwork, you have to visit the court clerk’s office that comes in your jurisdiction. You will be then given notice regarding the date and time of your court hearing. It is important to remember that whatever be the court hearing’s decision, it is final. It is quite possible that you won’t be able to go back and change your Settlement Agreement; in fact, in order to prevent such very vacillations, many States insist on a mediation process for both the parties to ensure agreement on all fronts. Get a certified copy of your divorce decree and find out how to get more of the same in case it is needed.
The whole process seems simple enough. But, you need to consider some other factors pertaining to your own self, such as whether you have enough time to go through the whole process of gathering information regarding your state’s laws, then getting the requisite documentation, completing them and going through the court filings and hearings. Your temperament also needs to be considered and your ability to remain cool and calm throughout the complete process. Many suggest a mediation process with a professional mediator who can resolve many of the small irritants and even a counsellor to deal with those emotional issues that hamper the process. Some suggest consulting a tax expert or checking www.irs.gov, to get advice about any tax problems after the divorce.
In your DIY divorce process, there are some people besides the obvious divorce lawyer, who can guide you through the process. Some of them include:
- The county clerk office can help by providing you with basic information required for filing your divorce papers; the information may be even posted on their website. While the county clerk can’t provide you with legal advice, he can guide you to the county law library, if available. You can also check www.statelocalgov.net orwww.ncsconline.org. for information regarding address of your local court, the appropriate branch for you, filing fees and even the clerk’s timings.
- You can also get professionals such as paralegals or legal document preparers to look into your paperwork. They too, can’t give you legal advice, which only a lawyer can, but they can help you fill out the forms and file them with the court. Their fees may range from $175 to $700, depending on variables such as your place of residence, presence of children etc. You need to check on the reliability and quality of their services before approaching them.
- You can also look into Web-based Divorce services who only interact via the internet. You have to answer questions on their website, they will then either mail the forms to you or you can download them. In most cases you have to file the forms with the court yourself, but in some instances, they do it for you. Their services generally cost between $200 and $500 depending on the speed in preparing the documents. Here too, you should research them before seeking their help.