Not all marriages last forever. If you’re in the position of filing for divorce, our guide could help.
By the time you or your partner has come to the difficult decision to divorce, the last thing you want to think about is navigating a potentially complicated and expensive process. Learn more about what to expect and what can help you can gain control and begin moving on.
Types of divorce
When filing for a divorce, first assess your personal situation to determine whether you and your spouse can come to an agreement on how you’d like the process to unfold.
In general, there are two types of divorce in the US: contested and uncontested.
Your divorce is uncontested if you and your spouse agree on the full terms of your divorce. For most uncontested divorces, you will not have to appear in court. Instead, you can draft an agreement, complete the appropriate forms, and then send those forms to the court. Because every state is different, confirm with your state its procedures for pursuing an uncontested divorce.
If you and your spouse cannot agree on the full terms of your divorce, your divorce is considered contested. This type of divorce is more complicated, requiring numerous steps — serving the divorce petition, attorney negotiations and more —before your divorce is considered finalized.
No matter what type of divorce you pursue, the emotional effects of a marital breakup can be severe. Sorting your affairs and merely adjusting to your new reality can be exhausting and daunting, so set aside time for self-care and reflection when you can. What to do with your joint bank accounts during a divorce
Minimizing the effects of your separation on your children
Although both you and your spouse will suffer some emotional and financial stress in the face of a divorce, it’s often children who are most affected. If you have children, make sure their needs are met as you and your spouse work out the details of your divorce.
If possible, keep your kids on a regular routine to ensure they can be successful in school, socialize with peers and participate in the activities they enjoy. By striving to keep your home as warm and routine as possible, you can minimize the confusion children will inevitably feel with such a life change.
Kids and divorce: legal requirements
In some states, parents are required to attend co-parenting classes as part of the divorce process. These classes are intended to help parents learn how to cooperate in their separate lives for the overall well-being of their kids, maintaining stability within the family even as the parents live apart. These classes can help you focus on a loving way to lead your children through this big change.
You have options to make your divorce easier
If you and your spouse can agree on the terms of the divorce — meaning you agree to an uncontested divorce — you may be able to pursue divorce without appearing in court. Depending on the state you live in, you could even get an online divorce.
You do not need an attorney for an uncontested divorce. As long as you and your spouse have reached an agreement on all matters related to your divorce, it’s considered a more straightforward dissolution of marriage. Online divorce services like Wevorce and MyDivorcePapers make it easy to quickly get the divorce process rolling.
Once you file the papers with the court, you pay a filing fee, usually a minimum of $100. If you can’t afford the fee, you may be able to get the court to waive it for you by filling out additional paperwork, provided by the court clerk’s office.
Uncontested divorce ($300 to $500)
The cost varies by your state’s required forms and filing procedures. Compare that cost to an attorney, which could charge from $5,000 to $10,000 or more for the same forms and similar services.
Private professionals ($100 to $1000)
Even if you and your spouse disagree on some issues, you may be able to avoid going to court through mediation. A divorce mediator remains neutral throughout the process while helping you hammer out the details of your divorce agreement. Private professionals can charge by the hour or by session with costs that vary widely — from $100 to $1,000 or more per hour.
If you and your spouse do not agree on the full terms of your divorce — for instance, you can’t agree on property or custody — you may need to hire a divorce lawyer.
However, even with a lawyer, you may be able to work out your divorce settlement without going to court. A major drawback to lawyers is that they’re expensive — expect to pay at least $15,000, with higher costs if you can’t avoid court or have especially complicated circumstances. Signing up for an attorney payment plan or taking out a personal loan are two ways to help pay for the high costs of divorce.
The decision to end a marriage can be fraught with worry and confusion of the unknown. It can take a lot of time — and a lot out of you. But by thinking about your situation clearly and taking conscious actions throughout the process, you can come through it with your finances unscathed. Manage your life insurance policies after a divorce
Adrienne Fuller is the head of publishing at Finder. With a decade of experience creating guides in finance and education, she aims to deliver the accurate and transparent information she wishes she had when she made some of life's important financial decisions. For the past 3 years she has been the publisher of money transfers, helping readers save when they send money all over the globe. She has a BA from Colorado College and loves to hike with her two Catahoula dogs around her home in San Diego.
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