Unfortunately, I’ve been able to experience a divorce several different ways. Yes, I’ve managed to do this more often than I care to acknowledge, but I want my experience and now “expertise” to help you to come through this financially sound and with as much of your sanity and self esteem as possible. Consider me as someone who has gone through the jungles with the machete so that you don’t have to fight as hard to get through!
So, should you try to take this on yourself?
Should you DIY your divorce?
This depends on several factors.
- If you and your soon to be ex have a lot of assets to divide you’re probably going to need a lawyer, or a mediator to make sure you are getting your fair share. Notice I said “fair”…that’s an important distinction.
- If you and your spouse have a lot of animosity and you’re arguing over custody; you’re going to need a lawyer.
- If you suspect your ex has hidden assets; get a lawyer.
- If your spouse has been abusive (emotionally or physically) you should find a lawyer as soon as possible. You may need to file a restraining order immediately.
- If you can’t afford a lawyer see if there are any Legal Aid offices near you where you can apply for low cost legal assistance.
When can you consider doing your own divorce?
- If you and your spouse have limited assets and debts.
- If you’ve only been married a few years and you don’t want alimony.
- If you have no children or can completely agree on custody, visitation and support.
So, is it possible to DIY it in your case? Probably, but the requirements are different for each state.
How do you start the process?
Discuss the divorce with your soon to be ex and see if you can come to an amicable agreement regarding the division of assets and child custody and support. If not, consider mediation. Please know, a mediator is a NEUTRAL party. They have no horse in this race, nor do they have your best interest over your spouses. Look at your county’s website and see if they offer any information on where you can locate the correct documents to file your divorce and the current fee. Gather all the needed paperwork and documentation you need.
You’ll need copies of all financial statements.
File the documents at the courthouse with the appropriate fees.
There are websites online that will provide you with all the documents for a fee; but try your local courthouse first. They may give you the paperwork at little to no cost and answer your questions. They are not allowed to give you legal advice, though.
Make copies of all your paperwork.
If the court asks for additional documentation get it to them as quickly as possible.
Clear your schedule to attend your appointed court date. Make sure you bring all your paperwork and documentation with you. If you have to reschedule, it can slow the process down by several months.
Expect the process to take several months from beginning to end.
If you’re unable or unwilling to fill out all the paperwork see if you can find a paralegal or legal document preparer who can help you. They will not be able to give you any legal advice but they can help with the preparation of documents.
When your divorce is finalized be sure and get a certified copy of the divorce decree. Keep it in a safe place because you’ll probably need it in the future if you buy a home or remarry.
Remember to consider all aspects of your divorce settlement:
- Child support
- Child custody
- Debt distribution
- Division of assets including the family home
- Division of retirement funds
Your first consultation with a lawyer might be free. (I paid for one, and got one for free, and ended up with the one I paid for) You might want to meet with one or two or even more before you make your final decision to file your divorce on your own. (Look at my article about “The Interview” when interviewing lawyers) They may work with you on a payment plan if you don’t have all the money for their fee upfront.
Remember, you’re going to have to live with the results of your settlement. A bad settlement may cost you more in the long run than the money spent on a hiring a good lawyer.