Do-It-Yourself Divorce Papers

By Beverly Bird

Divorce is hard enough without adding the complication of finding the perfect attorney. An excellent litigator might have no compassion for your personal concerns. The lawyer who is willing to hold your hand through tough moments might be a flop in the courtroom. Add to that the high cost of legal fees, and you might think you’re better off just writing your own documents and representing yourself. There are many pros and cons, however.

Cost

For approximately $40, you can purchase and download a packet of divorce papers from the Internet. You might end up buying something that doesn’t conform to the laws in your state, however. Many states offer their own forms for download for free. You can also stop by your county courthouse and pick up what you need at no charge. The law doesn’t usually permit court personnel to give you advice, but you’ll be sure that what you receive meets your state’s requirements.

Preparation

Both Internet-purchased divorce papers and those available at your courthouse are usually forms that only require you to check boxes and fill in the blanks. They usually include at least a petition and a summons. The summons tells your spouse how much time she has to respond to your papers, and you're required to serve both that and your petition on your spouse after you file. If yours is an uncontested divorce, most states will also require you to submit a marital or property settlement agreement, detailing the terms of your settlement. These are usually more complicated to complete on your own because you should include minute details, even some that might not occur to you.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Advantages

In addition to being very cost-friendly, do-it-yourself papers have the added advantage of leaving attorneys out of the process in uncontested matters. Aggressive attorneys can sometimes stir the pot, causing hard feelings where none existed before. Some attorneys are not willing to simply create or review your documents; you must retain them to handle your entire divorce. If you and your spouse have only been married a short period of time, have little or no jointly-owned property, no children and you both agree to part ways, there is not much to fight about. It might not make sense to spend the additional money to hire an attorney.

Disadvantages

If your divorce is not uncontested and you and your spouse are struggling with issues such as custody and considerable property or debts, you will probably be at a disadvantage if you do your papers yourself. Unless you have some legal background in the state where you’re filing, you may not understand the impact of certain “small” factors, such as the date you separated. In many states, this date marks the cut-off point for joint debts. You might make a misstep because you don’t fully understand the significance of the information you’re entering.

Tips

If you prepare and file your own divorce papers, you’re not necessarily stuck with this decision. Although not all attorneys are willing to do so, some will jump into a case mid-stream, after you’ve filed your own papers. If you end up in court on your own, most judges will expect you to understand the law and court procedures. If this occurs, and you still prefer to handle things yourself, try to attend other divorce and custody hearings so you know what to expect. Research your state’s laws, including case law. Case law is comprised of decisions judges have made in the past regarding situations such as yours, and it usually includes recitals of the judge’s reasoning.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Do it Yourself Divorce in Kentucky
 

References

Related articles

What Happens If an Uncontested Divorce Suddenly Becomes Contested?

The advent of no-fault divorce in every state gives rise to the prevailing concept of the "uncontested divorce" -- a divorce in which the parties have resolved any outstanding issues and all that remains is the judicial act of ending the marriage. Sometimes, however, a spouse files a petition for a simple divorce and the other side counter sues for alimony, child support or property division. When this happens, the divorce is no longer uncontested.

Can Two People Live Together During a Divorce?

The scenario of a husband and wife living in separate households as they battle out a divorce happens mostly in movies. No law says that when a spouse files for divorce, the other must immediately move out. Your combined incomes might not be enough to financially sustain two households. You usually can’t leave and take your children with you without a custody order, which might not happen until you have a divorce decree. There are many reasons why divorcing spouses might choose to stay together in the marital home, and it's legal. However, some practical considerations exist.

Low Income Divorce Help

Legal troubles don’t just strike those who can afford to invest funds into winning. Divorce can happen to anyone, and attorneys' fees can add up to something you have no hope of paying if your income is low. Fortunately, state courts are aware of this and most have implemented procedures and programs to help those who can’t afford legal representation.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

What Will Happen Once My Wife Has Filed for Divorce?

When your wife files for divorce, you'll probably hear from a lot of well-meaning friends who have been through it ...

How Do I File a Response to Divorce Papers?

The emotion of a divorce is often further complicated by the legal labyrinth you find yourself trying to navigate after ...

How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce for Adultery in New York?

In New York, just as in other states, the time required to get a divorce depends much more on whether you and your ...

Things I Should Do Before Filing for Divorce

Chances are, if you’re about to file for divorce, you’re pretty sure you want one. But before you sign the papers, take ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED