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DIY Divorce Guide

Online Divorce Forms | Filing for Divorce Online

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An increasing number of jurisdictions are offering e-filing for divorce (especially uncontested divorces) – where sign copies of documents are filed in court electronically. This is leveling the mountains of paper that family law courts create in their daily operations. This is particularly true in many divorce or family law courts, where every case can produce a briefcase full of paper.

Digitalized divorce is one step toward what has been called a “virtual courthouse,” where practitioners and pro se plaintiffs and petitioners file court documents electronically by scanning them into a proper format (typically PDF) to upload into the court system so judges can download the information on their laptops for review. E-file is nothing more than getting a digital copy of a hard copy signed document and uploading it into the appropriate court's digital case management system. Using 3StepDivorceTM to prepare your own online divorce forms makes e-filing natural because you are already working on a computer or smart device and are starting with digital versions of your paperwork.

E-File Does Not Replace the Need for Signed Divorce Papers

It’s very likely that the transition to filing for divorce online will follow a trajectory like the path that taxpayers created in the transition to electronically filing of their income tax returns. Convenience and ease argued for the change.

Presently, some jurisdictions demand that attorneys file documents electronically but permit pro se filers to file in person or by regular mail. Iowa, however, requires all divorce actions to be filed electronically regardless of whether a party is going pro se or represented by a lawyer. Also, As of January 1, 2018, all divorce papers in Illinois must be e-filed. This means the papers must be scanned and uploaded to the court system.

Filing for a divorce typically means making multiple copies of the same paper and filing them in person or by mail in the court clerk’s office. Even an uncontested divorce requires ten or more documents, and some require three copies – one for the court, one for the spouse and one for the filer. The volume of paper is increased even more when the parties are parents.

Today, when someone files in a digitalized courthouse equipped to handle e-filing, the need for multiple hard copies vanishes.

When a filer in Iowa creates an e-filing account, everyone registers through the same Electronic Document Management System (EDMS). E-filers in Texas and Illinois can choose from one of a number of electric service providers. But the result is the same – less paper.

With the transition to divorce e-filing, less space is need, so rooms formerly used for storage can be converted to other purposes. In 2009, one Florida county found that e-filing some two million documents per year saved nearly $1 million.

The reduction in paper consumption is one of the big reasons for going digital. According to one source, going digital reduced paper consumption in “the average courthouse” by 5,000 reams of paper per year.

Moreover, for the pro se plaintiff or petitioner e-filing offers an easy way to sidestep trips to the courthouse. Pro se filers sometimes find dealing with the Clerk to be time-consuming. Moreover, unlike the paper regime, where copies of needed documents must be requested by mail or in person at the clerk’s office (with a per page copying fee), e-filed papers are available round the clock, Monday through Sunday. For the pro se plaintiff or petitioner, e-filing means more control and convenience for filing his or her own divorce action.

Divorce E-Filing Has Three Steps

While there are may be differences in different jurisdictions, divorce e-filing has three distinct steps:

  • Creating an e-filing account. Creating the account requires a username and password, an e-mail address and basic information. In some regimes, the plaintiff or petitioner receives an e-mail, with a link he or she must activate before starting.
  • Completing the Divorce Papers for Filing. You must still prepare and sign the divorce papers.
  • Filing the Divorce Papers. The plaintiff or petitioner e-files after he or she creates the account and prepares them in the proper format (typically scanned and uploaded in PDF format)
Just a few years ago, only a few jurisdictions had begun the transition to e-filing. Today all 50 states have some kind of e-filing project running or in the works.
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