How to Get Free Divorce Papers

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

How to Get Free Divorce Papers

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

Despite the horror stories you may have heard, it is possible to get a divorce without spending all your money in the process. The following are a few steps you can take to minimize the cost of your divorce.

Person with a removed wedding band signing documents with a fountain pen

1. Negotiate with your spouse.

The best way to obtain a hassle-free and low-cost divorce is to agree upon as many terms as possible with your spouse before filing any paperwork. Decide in advance how you would like to handle division of your marital assets and debts, child custody matters, and alimony.

Even if you cannot agree on everything, agreeing on some terms will reduce the time and expense of the divorce. For those terms you cannot agree on, consider mediation. Some areas also have programs that offer free mediation.

2. Obtain and complete divorce papers.

In order to start divorce proceedings, you must obtain and complete a petition for dissolution of marriage, or similarly named document, and other legally required divorce papers. You may be able to get the required divorce forms for free, as well as find legal services in your area by contacting your state or local bar association or through a simple web search.

3. File and serve your paperwork.

Once completed, you must file the divorce paperwork with the court. There is usually a fee that ranges from $100 to a couple hundred dollars, depending on the court. If you cannot afford the fee, you may be able to get it waived. Requirements for obtaining a fee waiver will also vary by state, just make sure you ask your court's clerk about it.

If you are the petitioner, in addition to filing, you will also need to serve the petition for divorce on your spouse. You can avoid the cost of hiring a process server if your spouse is willing to sign a waiver of service form and will consent to receipt of the divorce petition without formal service of process.

4. Appear before the court.

If you and your spouse contest the terms of your divorce, you will need to appear in court for a hearing to resolve any outstanding issues. You are not required to have an attorney represent you. You can appear on your own behalf.

If you and your spouse are able to agree upon all terms and have filled out all the paperwork correctly, you may not need to appear before a judge. The judge may just sign off on your case. If this occurs, the court will mail you a copy of the judgment granting your divorce.

Whether you choose to complete your divorce on your own using free and low cost resources or you hire an attorney, it is an important and personal decision. The more complex your divorce, the more likely it is that you may choose to use a family law attorney who can help you avoid mistakes that will cost you more time and money in the long run.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.