Our top pick: 3 Step Divorce
- 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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You and your spouse have a few options for how you want to get a divorce. Each method has a different financial impact, and some are less time-consuming than others.
When choosing a divorce process, consider your situation, how well you and your spouse communicate and if you can agree on the main issues involved in your divorce settlement. And depending on the specifics of your case, you might want to hire a lawyer.
The divorce process varies depending on your situation and where you live. Before your divorce is finalized, you and your spouse will need to resolve four main issues: property division, alimony, division of marital debt and child custody.
Additional factors, such as how long you’ve been married and if you and your spouse can agree to work together, can determine how time-consuming the divorce proceedings may be. Contested divorces generally take longer than uncontested divorces, and divorces with complicated situations — including complex property entanglements or if minor children are involved — may take longer to resolve.
A divorce legally ends a marriage and has serious consequences for your family. Before getting a divorce, consider if the marriage is irretrievably broken. If you’re not entirely ready to change your finances and lifestyle, not to mention the impact your divorce may have on your children, you might consider a separation first.
If you and your spouse can’t hammer out major issues in the divorce and can’t communicate, you have a contested divorce. In many cases, a contested divorce requires a court to get involved for resolution. As a result, contested divorces are generally more expensive and take longer than uncontested divorces, where the divorcing couple can agree on terms and don’t require a court hearing.
You might want to hire a lawyer if you and your spouse have a complicated situation, such as shared real estate, assets or minor children. If there is a distinct imbalance of power or a history of domestic violence or abuse, you should consider hiring an attorney to protect your rights. And if your spouse lawyers up, you should do the same.
Follow these steps when you’re ready to initiate your divorce:
There are multiple ways to get a divorce:
Online divorce services are best for couples who can agree on the terms of the divorce, including division of assets, alimony and parental responsibilities if you have children.
Divorce laws vary by state. For example, some states require you and your spouse to separate before you can file for divorce, while others may order counseling before granting a divorce. And state law also dictates how property can be divided.
If you’ve opted to handle your divorce yourself but find that you and your spouse are struggling to communicate, you might consider mediation. The mediator guides the couple to an agreement by pinpointing disagreements and directing the conversation to common ground.
You’ll need to produce your financial documents when dividing property and assets in the divorce. While every divorce is unique, here are a few documents that you’ll likely need to provide:
You can generally find free divorce forms on your state court’s website. Read each form thoroughly to make sure it applies to your situation.
Alternatively, you might consider a paid online divorce service that can help you fill out the appropriate form after answering a few questions about your circumstances.
Once you’ve filled out all the paperwork, file for divorce by submitting the requested documents with the Court Clerk. In some cases, you can complete the divorce process online.
I tell a client five things to plan for their divorce. First, email me a summary of the relationship. This is a narrative from the minute you met them to the moment the marriage was over.
Second, make copies of all the financials. This includes credit card statements, bank accounts, deeds to the properties, etc… I want to know everything that you own with your spouse, and what you own yourself. And the under-narrative — when you bought the stuff.
Third, when you’re coming into the divorce world, it’s all about the forms. In California, I send them a schedule of assets and debts, and the Family Law Interrogatory, which are questions that help them get familiar with the disclosures, the things they have, the things they bought. Whose is it? Is it both of ours? Is it yours? Is it mine?
After this is reviewed, the fourth thing I tell a client is either: I believe it will work out amicably — I believe there’s not much to fight over. Or I’ll say: From what you’re telling me with the personality of your spouse, this is going to be a battle. So this is what I recommend we do.
Now, the fifth and most important thing I’ll always say to a client: This is the value of a divorce that will last this long, these many months — without the discovery, without the motions to compel, without the depositions, without the experts. If you can agree to it, you’re saving this. If you can’t agree to it, these are the extras. These are the unknowns, these are the things you may not expect, but which are coming. They are coming if you guys don’t work it out.
And I always, always will tell both sides: Who’s going to be making the money here? Us as lawyers, or we’re going to try to get them to be done with this soon. There are lawyers who don’t care. There are lawyers who do care.
Professional legal guidance can help alleviate some of the stress when navigating the divorce process.
Once you and your spouse have agreed to get a divorce, there are several methods to get the ball rolling. If you’re both willing to work together, you might be able to expedite the process and minimize costs, such as by opting for an online divorce instead of a drawn-out court trial.
Be sure to pick a method that fits your family’s situation and consider whether you should hire a lawyer to help.
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