How to Divorce Without a Lawyer
Divorce is never easy. Separating from your spouse is already hard enough, but the ramifications of what divorce entails.
The process of divorce can be rather arduous. From finding family lawyers to potentially paying high legal fees, it can have a separating couple wishing to figure out a way to divorce without having lawyers involved.
Learn whether it's possible to divorce without a lawyer, its implications, and what you can do about it!
A DIY Divorce: Is it Possible?
For splitting spouses, they can file for divorce on their own without the help of a lawyer. However, some conditions need to be met to ensure it's feasible.
Need to be Eligible for Divorce First
Firstly, the spouses need a valid reason for divorce. Legitimate grounds for divorce are adultery, cheating, domestic violence, sexual assault, etc. However, not all spouses fit into these reasons. The reason can be simple: just wishing to separate from one another. In which case, there is a condition for that - staying separate from each other for a full year. If the couple ends up getting back together and remaining as such for more than three months, it affects the separation period, and the process will need to start all over again before getting divorced.
On the Same Page with Your Former Spouse
A crucial factor in whether you can divorce without a lawyer depends if you and your spouse are amicable and in agreement on everything. You want to consider whether your current temperament towards your spouse would make it feasible and fair for the both of you.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you and your spouse in agreement on all issues (i.e. division of property, debt, custody, and support) that are fair to you both?
- If you agree, can you two make the time and effort to research your region's law, gather necessary documentation, and potentially follow through with court filings and appearances?
- Do you both have the emotional bandwidth to handle it?
These are essential questions that need answering. However, if you find that you can, the next challenge is more or less the technical aspects of filing for divorce.
Your Divorce Process Checklist & Considerations
Once you have considered all the above, you will want to obtain a divorce application. You can find these forms easily from your local courthouse or even online.
If you're on the same page with your spouse on matters, you can specify your divorce as an uncontested one. An uncontested divorce is generally quite easy to fill out since they only require one application. However, a contested divorce would mean filing a separate divorce application since it entails they do not agree on reasons or terms for the divorce.
A good portion of filing for divorce involves finances. Naturally, this is to effectively figure out how property, assets, and support payments for children or spouse.
You would need the following documentation to fill out a divorce application and other potential paperwork:
- Past tax returns
- Bank statements
- Check registers
- Investment statements
- Retirement account statements
- Employee benefits handbooks
- Life insurance policies
- Mortgage documents
- Financial statements
- Credit card statements
- Family trusts
- Social Security statements
- Stock grants
- Automobile titles
- Gathering all financial info regarding self-employed spouse's business
Once filled out, you just need to pay the fee for divorce and file it at the courthouse. Depending on where you live, there might be more proceedings or conditions you must do beforehand. You will then need to wait for clearance from the divorce registry. During this time, you will need to adhere to the rules of court procedures.
When your spouse is served the divorce papers, they need to have it all filled out 30 days from receiving them and file it. After that, you will need to wait for the court's decision to grant you a divorce. If you meet the criteria after a judge's review, you will be issued a divorce order and obtain a divorce certificate after it's been granted.
Legal Expertise & Considerations
Even if it is possible to file for divorce without a lawyer, it's still recommended to seek some legal advice when gathering the necessary documents for divorce. After all, you and your spouse might agree on the terms, but you may fill things out incorrectly.
And, at worse, one of you might not be entirely transparent in understanding certain terms and conditions. In which case, it can leave one of your shortchanged. It's generally advised to have a lawyer look over any divorce documentation to ensure everything is fair.
If finances are the issue, you can take other inexpensive avenues to separate from your spouse. You can consider mediation and a separation agreement for a fair and amicable approach. Not only is it less expensive than divorce, but you also have a third party that can help resolve things from an unbiased viewpoint and ensures you and your spouse are satisfied with the conditions.
Navigating the law is tricky. It's even more so in regards to family law such as divorce. Filing for divorce without a lawyer might seem ideal to save money, but it's far from recommended. It's a definite no-no for couples that aren't on good terms. Even amicable spouses can face issues when trying to file for divorce on their own. For the most part, it's best to consider other legal avenues to take your separation or hire a lawyer to assist in your divorce.
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