The Basics of Do It Yourself Divorce

Authored by Pam Hawley in Divorce
Published on 06-21-2009

Going through a divorce almost always places a financial strain on both spouses. Changes in living and child care arrangements are costly, and financing legal representation can be overwhelming. Therefore, many couples choose the option of “do it yourself” divorce.

Do it yourself divorce means going through the process without legal representation. There are pros and cons to this approach. Not hiring lawyers reduces the financial burdens created by your divorce. In some cases, it can result in a more amicable divorce process. Do it yourself divorce eliminates the risk of you or your spouse choosing lawyers who drag out the divorce process for their own financial gain.

However, do it yourself divorce can actually be more stressful and time consuming. You will need to take responsibility for all paperwork and legal activity. You risk overlooking something critical that a lawyer may have brought to your attention. In a do it yourself divorce, you sacrifice the advocacy and support of a good lawyer.

You and your spouse should agree that the statements below describe you in order to consider do it yourself divorce.

  • We have the time and skill to research, understand and complete all divorce-related paperwork and procedures on our own.
  • Our divorce is uncontested. We can come to a settlement agreement regarding children, property and debt without a trial.
  • We can communicate amicably.
  • We are both financially independent. Alimony is not an issue.
  • Neither of us seeks reconciliation.
  • We have no history of domestic violence or abuse. Neither spouse is intimidated by the other.

Once you decide on a do it yourself divorce, research the documents required in your state. Visit your family court clerk to get a complete list of the documents you must file. While exact procedure varies from state to state, there are common steps you can expect to complete in a do it yourself divorce.

One of you will act as the petitioner, the person who files for divorce. You will both complete financial statements. You will work together to complete a divorce settlement agreement. There may be additional paperwork required if one spouse will not be present at the divorce hearing. You may need to submit proof of residence in a state long enough to qualify for divorce there. A notary public and/or witnesses to your completed documents may also be required.

Your circumstances can impact your divorce process. For example, with the exception of cases where a petition is filed for exceptional situations such as abuse or illegal activity, some states require that you live in separate residences for a specified period before your divorce can be finalized. Addresses and other information on your paperwork will need to show that you have not cohabitated for the specified time period.

Do it yourself divorce is not easy, as it requires you to navigate the complex legal system on your own. However, it may be an option for you and your spouse if you are financially strained and feel you can work through the process together and reach settlement amicably.


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