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How to get a divorce without a lawyer

It's possible to consciously uncouple without the hefty attorney fees, but it takes some preparation on your part.

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Our top pick: 3 Step Divorce

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  • For uncontested divorces
  • Pay a flat-fee of $299
  • Ready-to-file divorce forms
  • Court approved forms or your money back
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Getting a divorce without a lawyer can be overwhelming. And unlike small claims courts, which are better designed for people to represent themselves, the family court system can be more complicated and slightly more intimidating. But it’s not always necessary to hire a lawyer during the uncoupling process. Here’s when it might make sense to go it alone.

Can I get a divorce without a lawyer?

Yes, you can get a divorce without a lawyer. If you forgo legal representation, your case is considered a pro se divorce. But the court expects you to complete all the tasks according to your state’s legal process — just as a lawyer would.

That means you need to fill out all the relevant legal forms, serve the papers to your spouse, file your legal docs with the court and represent yourself in court if it comes down to it.

How to file for an uncontested divorce without a lawyer

Here’s a breakdown of what you need to do to file for an uncontested divorce on your own.

Step 1: Check your state laws for filing a no-fault divorce.

Depending on where you live, you might have a mandatory waiting or separation period. Look up your state laws to find out your divorce requirements.

Step 2: Confirm you have a no-fault, uncontested divorce.

A do-it-yourself divorce is generally best for no-fault, uncontested cases. A no-fault divorce means that you don’t need to prove that one spouse is to blame, and an uncontested case means that you and your partner agree on alimony, custody and how you will divide everything.

Step 3: Complete your divorce forms.

Compile and fill out the legal forms you need for your divorce, including the divorce petition and relevant affidavits. If you need help navigating the legalese, you might consider using an online divorce service to generate your divorce documents for you.

Be sure to check whether your state requires a notarized signature before filing your paperwork with the court.

What if we don’t agree?

If you and your spouse can’t agree on how to split your assets or key issues like custody and alimony, your divorce is now contested. You’ll need to resolve a contested divorce through mediation or by going to court. Contested cases are more costly than uncontested divorces — especially if you go to trial.

Get help completing your divorce papers

Mull over a few divorce services that can help you fill out your divorce forms.

Name Product Cost Includes filing papers with court? File without spouse Legal assistance available Customer service
3 Step Divorce
$299 - $336
No - you must file and pay court fees
Yes
No
Phone, Email
File within one business day of your start date with 3StepDivorce and qualify for a $50 cash rebate. Payment plans available.
LegalZoom online divorce
$499
No - you must file and pay court fees
Yes
Yes
Phone, Email, Live chat
File for an uncontested divorce online or find legal resources to help guide you through the divorce process.
OnlineDivorce.com
$139
No - you must file and pay court fees
Yes
No
Phone, Email
Ready-to-file divorce forms for one flat fee. Step-by-step directions to help simplify uncontested divorces.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Ask a lawyer: 4 experts share advice on preparing for court

We asked four lawyers to share their dos and don’ts for representing yourself in divorce court.

Tad Davis
  • Tad Davis
  • Founding attorney
  • Law Office of Tad Davis
Meggin Rutherford
  • Meggin Rutherford
  • Founding attorney
  • Rutherford Law Center LLC
Dorit Goikhman
  • Dorit Goikhman
  • Founding attorney-mediator
  • Off the Record Mediation Services LLC
Russell D. Knight
  • Russell D. Knight
  • Founding attorney
  • Law Office of Russel D. Knight

Is pro se divorce right for me?

Getting a divorce without a lawyer is best for simple divorce cases. You might consider a pro se divorce if you and your spouse agree on all of the following issues:

  • That you need to get a divorce
  • How to dole out your assets and debts
  • Alimony and child custody

Should I consider an annulment or legal separation instead?

Instead of a divorce, you might have other legal options, such as an annulment or a legal separation.

An annulment ends the marriage because it wasn’t legal to begin with. It treats the marriage as if it never existed, but you need to meet your state’s grounds and time limit for filing.

A legal separation is a state-recognized marital status that uses a court order to chart each spouse’s rights and responsibilities. Although you and your spouse will live apart and have separate finances and property, a legal separation doesn’t terminate your marriage.

Bottom line

Not every couple needs to arm themselves with attorneys to go their separate ways. You might be able to file for divorce without a lawyer if you have an uncontested, no-fault case.

Learn more about the process with our comprehensive divorce guide.

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