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Do-it-yourself divorce: How to file papers on your own

Save money by handling everything yourself, but only if it's uncontested.

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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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Attorney fees can significantly drive up your divorce bill. Fortunately, not all divorces require a lawyer. You can get, fill out and file your divorce papers without a costly attorney.

When can I use DIY divorce papers?

You might consider DIY divorce papers if you and your spouse:

  • Agree to the details of your divorce, including alimony and child custody.
  • Haven’t hired attorneys or filed for divorce yet.
  • Don’t have complicated assets, such as a lot of real estate property or pensions and 401(k)s.
  • Have no history of domestic violence or abuse.

How do I get DIY divorce papers?

Not all divorces require an attorney to draft the divorce papers. Places that you can find DIY divorce papers include:

  • State court’s website. Many states have divorce forms available online for download, while some states allow you to file online directly from their website.
  • Local county clerk’s office. Head to your local courthouse to ask if they have divorce packets available.
  • Online divorce service. Answer a few questions to get all of the state-specific legal forms you’ll need for your divorce.

When gathering divorce forms from your state court, follow the instructions and use the correct forms for your situation. For example, many states have different documents for couples with children.

How to fill out divorce papers yourself

Once you’ve gathered all the legal forms for your divorce packet, you’ll need to carefully fill them out. If you need some help, you can hire an attorney to review your documents or use an online divorce service to complete your forms for you.

Since the process varies by state, carefully read the instructions to see if you need a notarized signature before filing for divorce.

What other paperwork or forms might I need?

Each state requires specific documents for your divorce case. Most couples need the following forms:

  • Divorce petition or complaint. The document that initiates the divorce proceedings.
  • Court summons. A legal doc to inform your spouse that you’ve filed for divorce, provides instructions on how to respond and includes any upcoming deadlines. You’ll generally serve your spouse with the divorce petition and court summons together.
  • Financial affidavits. You and your spouse both disclose your assets, income, debts and expenses.
  • Divorce settlement. A legal agreement that outlines the terms of the divorce.
  • Custody and visitation agreement. A document that outlines the parental responsibilities of each parent, legal custody and a visitation schedule for the noncustodial parent.
  • Child support or alimony affidavit. A document that helps the court calculate child support or alimony payments.

How much does a DIY divorce cost?

An uncontested DIY divorce can cost anywhere between $0 to $5,000 plus your state filing fees. If you can gather and complete all the legal forms from your state court for free, you’ll only have to pay the necessary filing fees. You can also use an online divorce service to help gather and fill out your legal documents, which can cost $150 to $5,000.

If you and your spouse can’t agree to the divorce terms, you might need mediation before filing for divorce. Mediators generally cost between $100 and $300 per hour. The more issues you need to resolve, the more your divorce will cost.

3 benefits of a DIY divorce

A do-it-yourself divorce has a few perks over going the traditional court route:

  • Less expensive. A DIY divorce generally incurs fewer court fees than a divorce trial. And you might be able to skip the attorney fees, too.
  • Faster. DIY divorces are uncontested cases, which are usually resolved quicker than contested divorces.
  • More confidential. Although the divorce is still public record, DIY divorce is more private because you might be able to skip the public court hearing.

Are there any risks?

The divorce process can be complicated, and taking it on yourself has the potential for missteps. A few pitfalls could include:

  • Incomplete divorce packet. You might not have all the legal documents you need. Any issues with your divorce paperwork can delay your case or cause a judge to throw it out altogether.
  • Errors on legal forms. Without a professional reviewing your documents, you might incorrectly fill out your paperwork.
  • Unfair settlement. In the absence of an attorney who is there to advocate for you, you might find yourself left with a one-sided settlement that unfairly favors your spouse.
  • Added stress. Navigating the divorce process on your own can be significantly more stressful than if you hired a lawyer.

Get help completing your divorce papers

Compare a few different divorce services to get assistance with your divorce papers.

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

Bottom line

Not all divorces need to end up in a public courtroom with a long, drawn-out trial. You might be able to handle your case yourself without hiring a lawyer.

Take a look at our step-by-step divorce guide for more information about the divorce process.

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