This article will be concerned with no-fault, uncontested divorce proceedings, as they provide the opportunity to arrange a quick and low-cost divorce.
Tips for a Low-Cost Divorce
Arguments for Uncontested Divorce
A “traditional” contested divorce is typically a time-consuming and expensive process, which may include a number of court hearings. It is hard to do without enlisting the services of a lawyer, as almost every contested case turns into a real court battle between the spouses and their attorneys acting on the parties’ behalf.
Contrary to stereotype, modern Americans are not that obsessed with litigations. A lot of people prefer to save their money, and thus decide to contest divorces only as a last resort. 90% of all divorces in the US are uncontested, settled out of court.
An uncontested divorce means that the spouses discuss and decide all the most important terms of their case without a trial (to ask for an uncontested proceeding, they submit a waiver of hearing to the judge). They may hire lawyers to help with the filing process or not, but the goal is to make a settlement agreement that will suit both parties.
As an uncontested divorce assumes that there are no claims, just the intention to get a divorce, you can get it done without a lawyer.
The central point of any uncontested case is negotiation between the parties. You should try to decide child-related issues, financial terms, and property division on your own, asking for help from lawyers or mediators if need be. When the court approves your Settlement Agreement (the document that governs your future post-divorce life) the divorce can be granted with no mess.
Filing for Divorce Without a Lawyer
So, the uncontested type allows for divorces without a lawyer.
If your divorce case seems to be simple enough and you and your spouse are able to reach an agreement on the most controversial issues of your dissolution, you may not need to hire a lawyer and spend extra money.
Divorce without a lawyer is entirely legal and quite common all around the U.S. In legal terms it is called “pro se divorce,” “pro se legal representation,” meaning that the individual represents their interests before the court independently; people more often call this approach a DIY divorce.
There is a perception that do-it-yourself divorces are only for couples whose marriages were short, and have no underage kids or marital property to divide.
In reality, there are no strict legal restrictions. Whether or not you and your partner have kids, and whether you have assets to redistribute, you retain the right and opportunity to file for divorce without a lawyer.
The main difficulty that spouses usually face is that for DIY divorces, they themselves are in charge of arranging the process. This can be understandably daunting and discouraging. No one but you knows if you and your spouse can negotiate efficiently.
Also, you should think about whether you have enough time to deal with the paperwork, as well as whether you are ready to study the subject (to sort out the state family law and filing regulations, and so on).
For those willing to take on the responsibility of arranging a cheap and quick divorce without legal assistance, there are plenty of features nowadays aimed to help out. Your divorce can be very affordable, but you should keep in mind that all the services discussed below do not provide legal assistance.
They can, however, be very helpful with saving time and money and avoiding red tape, so you should consider options such as online divorce, e-filing, and divorce mediation.
Benefits of Online Divorce
Online divorce is a revolutionary way to file for divorce without a lawyer and without attending the clerk’s office. It is perfect for uncontested divorces with mutual agreement.
With an online divorce, you may obtain a completed divorce paperwork kit in the shortest amount of time via the internet. Although some divorce attorneys provide similar assistance with uncontested cases, charging so-called “flat fees per case,” their service costs much more.
Preparing your divorce forms with the help of an online divorce platform involves choosing one of the companies, logging in to the site and answering a short online questionnaire. Your answers will allow the system to create your divorce paperwork kit and customize it to follow the specific rules of your state, county, and individual divorce terms.
As a result, you will not have to sort out all the forms and documents; they will be prepared automatically and completed correctly. The customer can usually get the forms by email within a couple of days, and access to the forms is permanent.
The prepared printable forms are ready-to-sign. All you need to do is to file them with the proper court, where you are likely to spend a lot less time than people who fill out everything manually. Legal forms are also quite tricky, and the slightest mistake in filling out the documents can require starting all over again.
The average cost of online preparation of divorce paperwork is between $130 and $250, which is a rather affordable cost, especially compared to lawyers’ flat fees for uncontested cases (the price typically starts from $700).
Electronic Filing for Divorce
E-filing of legal papers is common in U.S. federal courts. More recently, it has firmly entered into the office work of certain jurisdictions and become popular in family law and divorce lawsuits. However, e-filing is yet to be recognized by all counties, so you should check whether this method is available for you.
So, what does e-filing mean?
The petitioner creates a petition for divorce. A copy of the petition must be printed and signed. The ready copy must be scanned and saved as a PDF. Then, you choose one of the e-filing providers after reading some reviews and testimonials.
Note that some states’ official websites offer a list of approved providers for people’s convenience. Then you have to log in with the chosen provider and fill in some required info about your divorce case, along with which court you are going to file with. Finally, you must download your petition and pay the commission fee. The system will confirm that it has received your petition.
Further, you will receive a copy of the petition with a court stamp by email. You need this copy to notify your spouse of the case. Even if you arrange your divorce jointly, the rules of most states require a so-called serving process, meaning that the second party must be officially served with divorce papers.
Divorce mediation is a method which may help the spouses make their settlement agreement, to find solutions regarding custody of a child or other issues that are crucial for them. As a type of alternative dispute resolution, as opposed to litigation, mediation is a non-competitive process.
The essence of mediation is that the parties try to make decisions jointly. The mediators are divorce specialists who do not take sides – they just lead the negotiation process so that the spouses can achieve the most effective, mutually beneficial results.
U.S. courts welcome divorce mediation and generally advocate for couples to divorce peacefully. In some cases, especially if the spouses have children, divorce mediation can even be ordered by the judge.
As you see, a cheap and quick divorce is within the realm of possibility. You can find a lot of the necessary information online, get free divorce forms in your local court and deal with the filing process on your own.
At the same time, you may entrust one stage of the process to professionals by using an online divorce service or enlisting the help of a lawyer or paralegal. Mediation is a great way to settle differences and get a divorce in a civilized way, especially if you will have to stay in touch with your former spouse in your post-divorce life.
In other words, it is up to you to decide which part of your divorce process needs third-party assistance. Anyway, all the methods mentioned above may be used separately or jointly, and they remain more affordable than contesting a divorce and paying an hourly fee to a lawyer. Decide wisely, leave regrets behind, and good luck with your divorce!