If you are unable afford a lawyer or believe paying for one might be taking it too far, think about these more inexpensive options for your divorce.
If you knew it was going to happen or your spouse shocked you with divorce papers, terminating your marriage is a stressful time. Add in concerns about money, and it can be absolutely overwhelming. But there are choices that can decrease the expense of divorce.
There is not just one way to get a divorce, and the process doesn’t have to involve court battles and enormous legal fees. Subject to your situation—including the convolutedness of your property and financials, if there are children involved, how much both of you can cooperate, and your want to put in some legwork—you can select a path through divorce that is going to save both of you money and time.
At the beginning, you need to know that the options laid out in this post aren’t the same. For example, you are able to get an uncontested divorce by yourselves or with the assistance of an online divorce service, using mediation, or through lawyers. Comparably, you can utilize mediation with or without online divorce services, and with or without acquiring legal assistance.
Uncontested Divorce: Working Collaboratively to Save on Costs
Divorces come in generally one of two types: uncontested and contested. In uncontested divorces, the spouses come to an agreement on all their divorce-related matters, so they won’t have to go through all the drawn-out legal battles usually involved in contested divorces.
When people are discussing uncontested divorces, they typically mean that the spouses have already come to a complete divorce settlement agreement (occasionally referred to as a “marital settlement agreement” or a “property settlement agreement”) by the time one of them files for divorce. But couples usually begin the process without an agreement and after some time settle their issues (typically with the assistance of mediation, lawyers, or both) prior to heading to trial. That also would be an uncontested divorce, but that isn’t what this post is referring to here.
A lot of states provide procedures and documents for an uncontested divorce that are relatively easy to navigate and faster to get through. And in many states, there are even more straightforward procedures (occasionally referred to as “simplified divorce” or “summary dissolution”) if you fulfill specific qualifications, such as restrictions on property and children.
When you are not in total agreement with your spouse on divorce-related matters but believe you might be able to reach an agreement, you might think about getting assistance from a mediator.
Is a Default Divorce an Option?
When you file for divorce and properly serve the divorce papers, but your spouse isn’t responding in the allotted time, you can petition for a default divorce. Usually, this means that the judge is going to grant your divorce on the basis of the things you requested in your divorce petition. A default divorce is an alternative when your spouse is uncooperative, but some couples choose at the beginning to take this path.
Nevertheless, you should be aware that there are advantages and disadvantages to getting a default divorce. So, unless you are using specialized protocol in your state for your default divorce having a settlement agreement (like the one in California), you need to get a hold a lawyer prior to taking this route.
DIY Divorce Filings: The Cheapest Option
If your divorce is uncontested and you are looking for saving some money, you might think about preparing and filing all of the required papers on your own, without the help of a lawyer. If you can take the DIY route, the only costs to you are going to be the court fees and expenses.
Locating the Divorce Forms
You can locate your court’s free divorce forms using an online service. Searching your local court’s website could turn up each of the forms with instructions. When their website does not have the forms you require, search their main website for each of the courts in your state. (You are typically able to locate the appropriate site by doing a search of your state’s “name, courts, and divorce” or “divorce and family law.”) You are also able to go to your local court clerk’s office when you can’t locate what you are looking for online.
Court clerks are unable to give you legal advice, but most will assist you in locating the forms you need. A lot of courts offer free divorce bundles in person (or online); others keep self-help kiosks where you can pick up the required forms for filing for divorce and instructions on how to file them. In many courts, you may even be able to meet with a family law facilitator whose job is to help people that are representing themselves in their divorce.
Your state or county court may or may not offer a form for settlement agreements. Occasionally, you are going to need to include the conditions of the agreement in the petition for divorce or another form for the suggested divorce decision. When your county or state has the requirement that you submit a settlement agreement for your uncontested divorce and does not offer a form, you might need to get assistance somewhere else. A lot of online divorce services are going to offer and finish these forms, and some mediators will assist in preparing a document based upon the agreement you came to throughout mediation.
Filing and Having the Divorce Papers Served
After you finish the paperwork, in which is going to take some time, you are going to need to bring the original and 2 copies to the courthouse to start your case. (Many courts allow you to file the papers online.)
You are usually going to have to pay a filing fee to start the processing of your divorce case. Filing fees differ from state to state (and occasionally by county). You can figure out how much you are going to need to pay by verifying through your local court’s website or asking the local court clerk.
Typically, the spouse the files the initial papers is required to have it delivered to the other spouse through what is referred to as “service of process.” The other spouse then typically has to file an answer (response) to the divorce petition or grievance within a specific amount of time. Many states allow you to bypass one or each of these steps when the other spouse signs a release, or when you’re filing under a simplified procedure that enables both of you to file the divorce petition jointly.
Online Divorce Services: A Simplified, Inexpensive Choice
For couples that agree on the matters in their divorce but don’t have time to locate and fill out all the proper forms—or are worried about making mistakes and forgetting requirements—online divorce services can be an inexpensive alternative.
Online divorce services typically cost from around $150 to $900. The total fee is going to depend on what the company provides, what is allowed in your state, and the extra services you decide on. Usually, these services are going to offer all the state-specific divorce forms you’ll require (including instructions), with a lot of the forms completed based off of your answers from a questionnaire.
You are going to usually have to file the paperwork with the court, but many services take care of the filing for an additional fee. In addition to that, some guarantee that you are going to get your money back if the court doesn’t approve of your paperwork.
If you require assistance beyond filing your paperwork, a lot of online divorce services provide additional help for a fee, like meetings with an attorney or guidelines for parenting plan preparation.
Divorce Mediation: A More Inexpensive Middle Ground
When your efforts to work things out with your spouse have been unsuccessful, you may still have an option that’s less costly than the conventional contested divorce. Through divorce mediation, a knowledgeable, unbiased professional meets with both of you and guides you through the process of recognizing and negotiating solutions to your issues.
You can use mediation at any point in your divorce proceedings, up to the eve of trial. But if you do it prior to you filing and are able to come to a complete agreement, you can most likely file for an uncontested divorce bypassing hiring lawyers, either doing it yourself or using an online divorce service.
Many states or judges are going to require you to participate in mediation following you filing for divorce when you still have contested matters—particularly when you and your spouse have not been able to agree on custody and/or parenting time. When a judge orders you to mediation, you are usually going to have the option of using free or budget friendly mediation services through the court, no less than one session.
If you attend mediation willing or are required to attempt it, you always can choose a private mediator. Private mediators used through contested divorces have generally been costly, since it can sometimes take a number of mediation sessions to come to an agreement on each of the issues. Also, when you both have lawyers, you are also paying their hourly fees for consulting or involvement in mediation. On the other hand, you can usually save money by paying for just a couple of hours of mediation, either one on one or online, particularly if you have only a couple of issues to work out. It’s usually less costly to work out your disagreements through mediation instead of hashing them out through lawyers, motions, and court proceedings.
When you are able to work out some or all your disagreements, a lot of mediators and mediation services are going to create a written document that is a reflection of your agreement. If your settlement agreement covers each of the matters in your divorce, you are typically going to submit it at a final court proceeding. In many states, you can submit the signed agreement including your final documentation and have them approved by a judge.
Limited Representation by an Attorney
You are able to acquire legal assistance without having an attorney represent you from beginning to end in your divorce case. As an alternative, you might be able to work with a lawyer on an as required basis.
For instance, when you’ve filled out the divorce forms you found online on your court’s website, you might think about scheduling an appointment with an attorney to examine the paperwork and explain the divorce process to you prior to you filing. Or, when you and your spouse have come to an agreement on the matters in your divorce, you can hire an attorney to create or examine your marital settlement agreement prior to you submitting it to the court.
Hiring an attorney to help you in a limited form far is a lot less costly instead of having total representation for the length of your divorce and paying for a couple of hours or so of a lawyer’s time can assist you in avoiding expensive mistakes.
Melissa Heinig, A. (2021, December 2). How to get a cheap divorce. www.divorcenet.com. Retrieved April 8, 2022, from https://www.divorcenet.com/resources/how-to-get-a-cheap-divorce.html
Choose the Right Divorce Lawyer in Arizona
Regardless of the choice you make, it’s important you make the best choice for you when hiring a divorce attorney. Remember: The decisions you make now can affect your future. Ultimately, choosing the best lawyer will depend on which lawyer feels best for you and your situation.