Should You File For Divorce Online?
Whether or not you should file for divorce online depends on a lot of individual factors, such as whether your court accepts filing for divorce online and whether your case is uncontested or contested.
Uncontested vs. Contested Divorces
Online divorce filing is better for people who generally agree on the terms of the divorce and are able to reach their own agreement and only need the court’s involvement to make their agreement legally-binding and enter a divorce decree. Filing for divorce online can help these couples save time and money by not having to miss work to attend court hearings or to otherwise be bogged down by the legal system.
For other couples who do not agree on the terms of their divorce, it may be better to have a lawyer prepare documents than to file divorce papers online. An experienced family lawyer will know what type of language to include in the divorce papers to ask for the relief the spouse wants and what type of defenses to raise.
How To Get A Divorce Online
If the court in the county where you live accepts divorce papers online, the general procedure on how to file for divorce online will follow this framework:
- Prepare your divorce papers online
- File your divorce papers
- Have the other spouse legally served or waive service
- Submit a signed agreement to the court
- Prepare a proposed decree
Prepare Your Divorce Papers Online
The first step you will need to take is to prepare your divorce papers. You can do this in one of several ways, including:
- Creating the documents from scratch
- Looking for standard forms that your court uses
- Using a free service that generates documents based on your input
- Using a paid service that guides you through the process or provides you with acceptable forms
- Hiring a lawyer to prepare the documents for you
If you file divorce papers online, you need to make sure that the forms you use contain all of the necessary information and are formatted in a way that your court will accept. You can look online for your local court’s rules to ensure the documents match with its requirements.
So, what do divorce papers look like? Divorce documents often contain the following:
- A header at the top of the documents that state the name and division of the court
- A case number that the court clerk will assign
- The legal names of both spouses
- A statement indicating why this is the proper court for the court to hear the case
- A statement regarding the residency that qualifies the spouse to file for divorce in that county
- The date of marriage
- The grounds for divorce
- The date of separation
- Whether either spouse is in the armed services
- The initials and dates of birth of the couple’s children
- The relief requested, such as for the court to order the divorce, primary custody, and child support
In addition to the complaint, which sets out the information above, you may also be required to submit additional forms, such as a summons to inform your spouse of the case and a cover sheet to provide information to open the case.
File Your Divorce Papers
Just because you have completed the divorce papers online does not mean that you have officially filed them. Divorce is a legal process, so you will need to file the documents with the appropriate court. You may be able to file the documents electronically, or you may need to present them in person or through the mail. You should also provide the appropriate payment for the filing fee at the time of service.
Have the Other Spouse Legally Served or Waive Service
To proceed with the divorce, you must usually have the other spouse legally served with the divorce papers or have them sign a document saying that they waive their right to be served with the papers.
Submit a Signed Agreement to the Court
If your case is uncontested, you should also submit an agreement between you and your spouse. This should cover the basics of the divorce, including:
- How your property and debt will be divided
- Who will continue to live in the marital home, if any
- How shared property will be handled
- How dependents will be treated on future tax returns
- Whether child support will be paid and in what amount and frequency
- Whether spousal support will be paid and in what amount and frequency
You may also be required to submit a separate parenting plan that states how child custody will be divided, when each parent will have parenting time, and how decisions regarding the children will be made. If you have trouble reaching an agreement, mediation may be able to help. You can then submit the mediated agreement to the court for approval and to be incorporated into your divorce decree.
Prepare a Proposed Decree
Depending on the court’s requirements, you may also be required to prepare a proposed decree for the judge to sign. This decree states some of the same information as your initial complaint but declares that the judge has made this finding. In some jurisdictions, you may be required to submit an affidavit in which you state the basic eligibility you have for divorce, along with an affidavit from a supporting witness while in others you may have to appear briefly in front of the judge to make these declarations. Once the judge signs your divorce decree, the case is technically over and you are divorced.
Are Online Divorces Legal?
Online divorces are generally legal as long as the paperwork gets filed with the appropriate court and the judge enters a decree ordering the divorce.
Preparing Paperwork vs. Filing
While there are many services that can help with preparing printable divorce papers, this is only the first step in the process. You must actually take these papers and file them with the appropriate court in the county where you are filing for divorce. Online services offer different levels of service with some filing the paperwork for you while others require you to file it yourself.
Once you file the divorce papers, the court clerk will file-mark the filing, and the case will only then be officially opened. You are required to fulfill all of the necessary steps and attend any scheduled hearings to complete the divorce process. Some jurisdictions may require you to complete financial disclosures, participate in mediation, or take other steps before you can ask the court to grant a divorce. Your divorce is not final until the judge signs a decree.
How Much Does It Cost To File For Divorce Online?
The price to file for divorce online varies widely, depending on the level of service you receive. Some legal service providers and court-sanctioned forms are available for free. You are only responsible for paying the filing fee for your case, which may be about $150 but varies by jurisdiction. Some courts may allow you to file for in forma pauperis status if you meet certain income eligibility guidelines so that you are not responsible for paying the filing fee.
Other services may file the divorce case for you and have an attorney review your paperwork. These services may cost upwards of $1,500.
Where To File For Divorce Online
If you are worried about how to file for divorce yourself, you may be able to get assistance from a number of online services, including:
- Rocket Lawyer – This site offers a monthly membership that allows you to access and prepare divorce papers and a settlement agreement.
- CompleteCase – CompleteCase says that it is the most experienced and popular online service provider. It lets you complete an online interview, completes forms for you, and gives you filing instructions, usually for $299.
- LegalZoom – LegalZoom can help you file online or connect you with an attorney. Cost ranges between $150 to $1,500.
- DivorceWriter – DivorceWriter guides you through the process of divorce in three simple steps and charges $137 for an uncontested case with or without children.
Wevorce – Wevorce offers a self-guided collaborative divorce that is a hybrid between providing divorce papers and mediation. The service runs $949 for the first month and $199 for each month thereafter.