How to Get an Inexpensive Divorce | The Complete Guide
Modern-day life unfolds at a rapid pace, so people try to enjoy and use each moment of their day efficiently. But no one can avoid failures, and all that people can do is just to try to achieve their goals and dreams by trial and error. Marriages fail. Divorce rates are still high. However, divorcing spouses’ behavior has significantly changed in recent decades, according to the statistics. More and more people prefer to treat a divorce not as a tragedy or a chance for revenge, but as a business deal. And it is joyous – at least, as far as it’s possible to say “joyous” in a divorce context. Choosing a calmer uncontested divorce instead of “traditional” divorce litigation, people not only save their precious time but also get a chance to maintain a friendly relationship when the dust settles. The thing is that contested divorce often causes more anger and offense, than an initial ground for divorce – what is undoubtedly bad for children if any.
Along with it, it’s no secret that contested divorces are costly. Divorce attorneys charge hourly fees, and proceedings often turn out to be quite long-drawn. Even though there are cases when you really cannot do without litigation, more often, people just make the process more complicated than it needs to be, paying for their own stress.
Do not fall into that trap. Do not think that serious things cannot be affordable. Let’s consider the most popular divorce options and methods which generate significant savings in money.
Refuse to Contest and Blame
As was mentioned above, a contested divorce is usually much more expensive than uncontested one. This is due to the fact that contested divorce typically require many hearings which are needed so that the judge could go over the case and make a fair decision. The longer the process is, the more money is charged by the attorney. Although everybody has the legal right to act as a self-represented litigant, divorce experts caution against Pro Se divorce if it comes to a contested divorce. If the spouses cannot reach an agreement, if there is no trust between them, none of them can expect the fair battle. The one may want to act as Pro Se litigant, and the second will hire a lawyer to protect their interests. Don’t risk if there is no chance to negotiate with your ex-partner.
But if there is a chance to communicate politely and efficiently be sure to use it! Nowadays, about 90% of all divorces within the USA are uncontested, meaning that they are settled out-of-court.
An uncontested divorce occurs when the spouses agree to discuss all the most essential and controversial issues of their divorce directly, without litigation. They submit a Waiver Of Hearing form to the judge and take responsibility for all the decisions concerning property division, child custody, alimony, and so on. They are obliged to outline all their joint arrangements in a Marital Settlement Agreement. This paper should be submitted to the court, and after the judge reviews it and approves as fair, a divorce can be granted on the spouses’ terms.
Since uncontested divorce does not imply any competition or claims, you can arrange it without an attorney at all. However, if you think you still need some legal aid anyway, hiring a lawyer for an uncontested divorce is much cheaper than for a contested proceeding. Dealing with an uncontested divorce, divorce lawyers usually charge flat fees per case, which is about $1500 on average. Compared to the hourly fees about $250 per hour during the lengthy contested process, the benefit is obvious.
Do It Yourself
Well, flat fees per uncontested case seem to be quite inexpensive, but how to save even more? So, back to divorce without an attorney. First, your divorce should be no-fault and uncontested, but also, both you and your spouse should be ready to spend some time and efforts for negotiation and filling out the paperwork.
A purely DIY divorce means that you deal with each stage of the divorce process on your own, without any assistance. What are the steps you need to take?
- Make sure you meet the residency requirements of your state.
- Determine what divorce forms and documents are needed for your particular case as well as where to get them.
- Learn more about the filing rules and regulations of your state and fill out the paperwork correctly.
- Apply the Petition for Divorce along with the other necessary forms with the local court.
- Serve your spouse with the copies of divorce paperwork according to the rules of your state (this may be done via certified mail, or personally by the private process server or any adult who is not involved in a case.) You can skip this step only if your state allows filing the Joint Petition for Divorce.
- Wait for notice of final hearing. Some states require mandatory waiting periods between filing the Petition and final hearing, and some do no, so read the Family Law of your state. Anyway, the final hearing is rarely appointed earlier than after several weeks after filing, and you can use this time to prepare and improve your Settlement Agreement or Parenting Plan (if you have children) if you haven’t done it in advance. These documents are particularly important, so you should work them out thoroughly.
- Attend the final hearing. An uncontested final hearing is typically the brief and calm procedure. The judge needs to review all your divorce paperwork and make sure it is completed correctly, and all the arrangements and agreements are fair and do not contradict the state law. The spouses testify their intention to get divorced one more, and if the judge is satisfied with all the work done, he/she signs a Final Divorce Decree.
Contrary to popular belief, do-it-yourself divorce is not only for couples who have no children or whose marriage had lasted less than five years. In fact, there are no severe legal restrictions in most of the US states concerning a DIY divorce. If you think you are capable of making a Settlement Agreement and allocate all your spousal and parental responsibilities in a way which would satisfy you, you a free to get a divorce without an attorney and related expenses. Ideally, your divorce costs may be limited to mandatory court filing fees (charged at the time of filing for divorce) which are between $50 and $400 depending on the state.
Be Flexy. Use the Help Selectively
Life is not black and white, and the modern divorce process allows mixing different divorce options according to the circumstances of a particular divorce case. If you are not ready to arrange a real DIY divorce, it still does not mean you must go to trial and waste a lot of money.
There are plenty of helpful methods and services which you may use only on that divorce stage, which seems to be the most challenging for you.
- Online divorce – at the stage of completing the paperwork
Online divorce is a perfect way to save your time and nerves while collecting the necessary divorce papers. Online divorce drafting service offers to take on them all the paperwork issues. This means you do not need to sort out the state laws, trying to find out what the papers you need to file in your unique divorce case, as well as how to fill all the documents without mistakes so that the court approves it at first try. Online divorce website does it for you within two days. For a reasonable fee of about $150-400, you receive a completed divorce paperwork kit which is already prepared to be signed and approved by the court. This option is trendy now, and there are plenty of similar online divorce companies, so you can choose any you want, regardless of where you live.
- E-filing – at the stage of filing for divorce
Electronic filing of legal papers is gradually becoming popular in family law and divorce lawsuits in many US states. Although e-filing is yet to be recognized by all counties, you should learn something about this method and check is it is available in your case.
Electronic filing for divorce allows you not to attend the court or clerk’s office at all. You should just download your divorce forms and documents with a specific e-filing provider, and then to receive the mail with the copies but with the court stamp on them. Once there is a court stamp on your Petition for Divorce, your case is filed, and a divorce procedure has officially started. You must print these stamped copies so that to notify your spouse of the divorce lawsuit formally.
This option is great for everyone who has a hectic schedule.
- Divorce mediation – at the stage of negotiation.
Divorce mediation is a method of alternative dispute resolution, which perfectly suits uncontested divorces which goal is to reach an agreement between the parties. Unlike contested divorces where each spouse has their own lawyer, divorce mediator works with both parties, without taking somebody side. A mediator cannot order something or even give a piece of legal advice. However, he/she leads the couple’s dialogue, helping to cooperate, communicate efficiently, and achieve a mutually beneficial agreement. People often say that divorce mediation is half legal aid and half therapy. In some states, divorce mediation can be ordered by the court, especially for the couples who have children. When it comes to parental rights and liabilities, the American judiciary encourages peaceful problem-solving. It helps couples to maintain healthy relations and, therefore, to ensure the best interests of the child.
Time never stands still, and the American judiciary has undergone many changes aimed to ease a divorce process recently. Modern American divorce is, whenever possible, a quick and cheap procedure which not only ends the legal marriage but also regulates the certain post-divorce rights and liabilities in an agreed and amicable way.