The DIY Divorce: Tips for the Self-Help Divorce Filer
A lot of people end up doing a DIY divorce. The thing is, not everybody can afford legal help with filing for divorce or separation. The great thing about this area of law, is that family law is very conducive to DIY divorce litigants – i.e. people who help themselves and eschew lawyers.
Completing, filing and serving your DIY divorce paperwork yourself is not that hard if your case is simple i.e. you have no property or kids and both you and your spouse agree to the divorce. A lot of the necessary forms are either free online or you can usually pick up a packet at the county clerk’s office where you live. If you don’t know what to ask for, just say “I would like to pick up a copy of the no-fault uncontested divorce package” or sometimes instead of the package they call it a “divorce kit.” These divorce forms are usually free of charge.
Once you have all the paperwork, follow the instructions and fill them out. Obviously, you have to start with the divorce petition – the summons and the complaint. You will be the plaintiff and your spouse the defendant. (It could also be petitioner and respondent). If they agree, the defendant will usually fill out and sign a defendant’s waiver in order to speed things up. You will have to articulate the grounds for divorce and in most DIY cases, it will be no fault. That usually means “irreconcilable differences” or an equivalent of that.
Be sure that all documents that need to be signed are signed. The documents usually will have to be notarized (not all of them but some – like affidavits). Be sure to make of all the documents before submitting them to the court.
Obviously, you will have to pay the filing fees and serve the divorce papers on your spouse but if you are indigent, the fees may be waived. You have to discuss this with your county clerk. Once your divorce petition forms have been accepted by the court, it is just a waiting game to receive the judgment of divorce. Depending on where you live, for example if you live in the UK, you will first get a decree nisi and then after a passage of a few months, the divorce judgement absolute. Outside of the UK, for example, in the US you will not have to go through this two step process as a general rule. You will just go straight to the divorce judgment which then is filed and entered with the county clerk.
For Self Help divorce filers it is very important to follow the instructions in the packet (which are usually idiot-proof) in order that you do not miss deadlines or straight-up mess up the divorce.