If you cannot afford a lawyer or believe that paying for one would be excessive, consider these cheaper alternatives for your divorce.
Whether you anticipated the divorce or your partner surprised you with divorce papers, it is a stressful moment. Adding financial issues to the mix can be totally daunting. However, there are options that help reduce divorce costs.
There is more than one way to obtain a divorce, and the procedure need not require court battles and exorbitant legal bills. You can choose a way through divorce that will save you both money and time, depending on your circumstances, including the complexity of your property and finances, if there are children involved, your willingness to collaborate, and your desire to put in the legwork.
Initially, you must recognize that the options presented in this post are distinct. For instance, you can obtain an uncontested divorce on your own, with the assistance of an online divorce agency, through mediation, or with the assistance of attorneys. Similarly, you can use mediation with or without online divorce services and with or without legal counsel.
Uncontested Divorce: Collaborating to Reduce Expenses
Generally, there are two sorts of divorces: uncontested and disputed. In uncontested divorces, the parties reach an agreement on all divorce-related issues, thereby avoiding the lengthy court battles typically associated with contested divorces.
When individuals discuss uncontested divorces, they often mean that the spouses have already reached a thorough divorce settlement agreement (also referred to as a “marriage settlement agreement” or a “property settlement agreement”) by the time one of them files for divorce. Before proceeding to trial, however, couples frequently settle their differences (normally with the assistance of mediation, attorneys, or both) after a period of time. This post does not pertain to an uncontested divorce.
Numerous states provide relatively straightforward and expedient procedures and paperwork for uncontested divorces. And in many states, there are even simpler procedures (often referred to as “simplified divorce” or “summary dissolution”) provided you meet certain requirements, such as restrictions on property and children.
When you and your spouse are not completely in agreement on divorce-related concerns but you believe you may be able to achieve an agreement, you may wish to seek the services of a mediator.
Is Default Divorce an Option?
When you file for divorce and properly serve your spouse with the divorce papers, but your spouse fails to respond within the given time, you might petition for a default divorce. Typically, this indicates that the judge will approve your divorce based on the requests you made in your divorce petition. A default divorce is an option when your spouse is uncooperative, but some couples select this path from the start.
Nonetheless, you should be aware that a default divorce has both pros and downsides. Therefore, unless your state has a unique system for a default divorce with a settlement agreement (such as California), you should see a lawyer prior to pursuing this option.
DIY Divorce Filings Are the Most Economical Option
If your divorce is uncontested and you are wanting to save money, you can consider completing and filing all of the necessary documents on your own, without the assistance of a lawyer. If you are able to represent yourself, your sole charges will be court fees and expenses.
Finding the Divorce Forms
Using an online tool, you can locate the court’s free divorce forms. On the website of your local court, you can find all applicable forms and instructions. If their website does not contain the necessary forms, search their main website for each court in your state. (You can often find the right site by searching for your state’s “name, courts, and divorce” or “divorce and family law.”) When you can’t find what you’re looking for online, you can also visit your local court clerk’s office.
Most court clerks will assist you in locating the necessary forms, but they cannot provide legal advice. Many courts provide free divorce packets in person (or online); others have self-help kiosks where you can pick up the appropriate forms for filing for divorce and information on how to file them. In some courts, you may be allowed to meet with a family law facilitator whose purpose it is to assist persons who are representing themselves in their divorce.
Your state or county court may or may not provide settlement agreement forms. Occasionally, you will need to incorporate the terms of the agreement in the divorce petition or another document for the proposed divorce decision. If your county or state requires you to submit a settlement agreement for your uncontested divorce but does not provide a form, you may need to get assistance elsewhere. Numerous online divorce businesses will provide and complete these forms, and some mediators will help you prepare a document based on the agreement you reached during mediation.
Filing and Serving Divorce Papers
After completing the paperwork, which can take some time, you will need to bring the original and two copies to the courthouse to initiate your case. (Many courts permit online document filing.)
Typically, you will be required to pay a filing fee to initiate the proceedings of your divorce case. State-specific filing fees vary (and occasionally by county). You can determine how much you must pay by visiting the website of your local court or by contacting the local court clerk.
Typically, the spouse who files the initial documents is expected to have them given to the other spouse via “service of process.” The other spouse must normally file a response (response) to the divorce petition or complaint within a certain time frame. Many states permit you to forgo one or all of these procedures if the other spouse signs a release or if you’re filing under a simplified procedure that permits you to file the divorce petition jointly.
Online Divorce Services: A Convenient and Affordable Option
Online divorce services can be a cost-effective solution for couples who agree on the terms of their divorce but don’t have the time to search and fill out all the necessary documents or are concerned about making mistakes and forgetting criteria.
Typically, online divorce services cost between $150 and $900. The final cost will depend on the company’s offerings, state regulations, and the additional services you select. Typically, these sites will provide all the state-specific divorce forms you need (including instructions), with many of the forms filled based on your responses to a questionnaire.
Generally, you will be required to file the documentation with the court, but many agencies will do so for an extra fee. In addition, some offer a money-back guarantee if the court rejects your documents.
If you require assistance beyond submitting your paperwork, many online divorce businesses offer further support for a cost, such as meetings with an attorney or parenting plan writing instructions.
A Less Expensive Middle Ground: Divorce Mediation
If your attempts to work things out with your husband have failed, you may still have an option that is less expensive than a traditional disputed divorce. Through divorce mediation, a qualified, impartial professional leads you both through the process of identifying and negotiating solutions to your difficulties.
You may utilize mediation at any time during your divorce process, up until the eve of trial. If you accomplish this before to filing and are able to reach a full agreement, you can likely file for an uncontested divorce without engaging attorneys, either by completing it yourself or by using an online divorce service.
Many states or judges will require you to participate in mediation after filing for divorce if there are still contentious topics, especially if you and your husband cannot agree on custody and/or parenting time. When a judge directs you to mediation, you typically have the choice of employing free or inexpensive mediation services provided by the court for at least one session.
If you are needed or willing to participate in mediation, you can always choose a private mediator. The use of private mediators in disputed divorces has typically been costly, as it may take multiple mediation sessions to reach an agreement on each topic. In addition, when both parties have attorneys, they charge hourly fees for advising and participation in mediation. In contrast, you can typically save money by paying for only a few hours of mediation, either in-person or online, particularly if you have only a few concerns to resolve. It is typically less expensive to resolve disputes through mediation than through lawyers, motions, and court proceedings.
When you are able to resolve some or all of your disagreements, many mediators and mediation firms will draft a document reflecting your agreement. If your divorce settlement agreement addresses all issues, you will normally submit it at the final court hearing. In many places, you can submit the signed agreement along with your final papers to a judge for approval.
Limited Legal Representation
You can obtain legal aid without hiring an attorney to handle your divorce case from start to finish. Alternately, you may be able to engage with an attorney on an as-needed basis.
For instance, after completing the divorce documents you found on your court’s website, you may wish to consult with an attorney to review the paperwork and explain the divorce procedure prior to filing. Or, if you and your husband have reached a divorce agreement, you can retain an attorney to draft or review your marital settlement agreement before submitting it to the court.
Paying for a couple of hours of a lawyer’s time can assist you in avoiding costly errors.
Need an Affordable Divorce lawyer in Scottsdale?
The High Desert Family Law Group should be your first choice when you need the best divorce lawyer in Scottsdale or Phoenix, Arizona. Our experienced family law attorneys will work with you to obtain the best possible outcome in your situation. Proven trial lawyers in family court, you can trust the firm to represent you fully so you can get on with your life. Call today for your initial consultation.