DO IT YOURSELF DIVORCE BASICS - 9 TIPS TO REMEMBER
Filing a pro se divorce works well when the action is uncontested, when there are no disputes or open questions of law. Uncontested means both spouses agree to divorce; they agree to the division of property and debts, and, if applicable, they agree on child custody, visitation and support.
An uncontested divorce does not mean that the spouses do not fight and argue; it means they hammer out their differences themselves rather than having a judge do it in an exhaustive and expensive court battle, or through endless and enervating negotiations by lawyers. An uncontested divorce does not mean the parties depart with a smile, but rather it means that they can live with the terms and conditions of the divorce settlement.
9 Tips for a DIY Uncontested Divorce
- 1. While judges and referees of the court may make allowances for a pro se filer, he or she is held to all the rules and protocols of the law and the filing process.
- 2. If negotiations in an uncontested divorce become difficult, often times it is suggested to have a "cooling off" period, which will allow each spouse to set aside any frustration. Almost all divorces become uncontested eventually.
- 3. Once the initial filing takes place, the filing spouse must observe filing deadlines, the court process, and everything that goes with the divorce action until it becomes finalized.
- 4. Because nothing is at issue between the divorcing spouses in a pro se uncontested divorce, the filing process is very easy and streamlined, but it is important to know what each party is agreeing to in regards to the property, debt, support, and child related issues. Do not just sign the papers…know what they mean and get legal help if you do not!
- 5. The filing spouse must be organized and communicate clearly with the clerk of the court when filing the required paperwork. He or she should always be as professional as possible at all times and be overly prepared. Most people have a binder or folder that holds everything that is related to the divorce and have it on hand when visiting the clerk or the court.
- 6. The filing spouse should expect to respond to letters or emails dealing with scheduling and administrative considerations regarding the divorce. To prevent anything from getting missed, many pro se filers set up a new email account specifically for the divorce proceedings, because some courts prefer e-mail communication.
- 7. The filing spouse should not call or contact the judge unless directed to do so by the clerk. This means no telephone calls, letters, email unless the judge has requested it or is expecting it. The clerk is one who will facilitate your divorce and include the judge as needed.
- 8. There’s no free "legal" consultation. Some attorneys offer a free initial consultation. But he or she cannot give legal advice because he or she has not been officially hired.
- 9. Divorce can be very expensive. Many, if not most, pro se filers choose this option because it is less expensive than hiring a lawyer although hiring a lawyer on a “limited scope basis” is an option if needed. In this routine, the pro se divorce filer hires a lawyer for a couple hours of his or her time to double check the paperwork or answer any legal questions.