Getting a divorce is a stressful time in your life. You can spend a lot of money hiring an attorney or you can handle your divorce online with a reputable company. To file for divorce online, you want to make sure your situation is the type where using online divorce forms will get you the results you want. How do you decide if using online divorce papers is right for you?
Where can you find online divorce papers?
You can often get the paperwork you need from state websites. This is often free, but each state (and in some cases each county) has different requirements depending on the specifics of your divorce. For example, if your uncontested divorce involves minor children, there are often different forms and applications that are required. Navigating through these complex requirements can be so time consuming that many people choose to use a company that can help them get the forms they need.
There are many different sites that prepare divorce papers for you. Some sites are specifically geared to your state while other sites offer all-purpose divorce papers that may not be right for your state. Some sites have a divorce attorney or paralegal review the papers. Other sites are completely do-it-yourself or DIY divorce sites.
Who can file for divorce papers online?
Find out if your divorce is truly an uncontested divorce. Having an uncontested divorce case is required for filing an online divorce. An uncontested divorce is where at least most of the major issues you have with your spouse are agreed upon between you and your spouse. These issues include but are not limited to:
- Child custody and support
- Alimony, also known as maintenance or spousal support
- Division of debt
- Division of real and personal property.
If you and your spouse have agreed to all of these issues, you are a good candidate to file for an online divorce. If you have not agreed to all of the issues but have agreed to most of them, you may want to see if you can resolve them before hiring a divorce attorney.
If, however, you have at least one major issue or even some minor issues that cannot be agreed upon, you will want to consult with an attorney who specializes in matrimonial or divorce law. The same goes for situations where you and your spouse are constantly bickering or where you’re not speaking at all. Consulting with an attorney is important in these situations.
Not all family lawyers do divorces so it’s important to choose an attorney carefully. Additionally, if you have a big estate—for example, where there is a lot of property or where there is expensive property, you probably should hire a divorce lawyer. Likewise, if there are issues concerning the children or support that cannot be resolved, your best bet will be to consult with a divorce lawyer. Filing online when there is no agreement is not going to allow you to get divorced.
Which online company should you use?
There are hundreds of companies that are available to help you prepare a divorce online. In fact, there are so many you may not know which one to choose. Some companies offer free divorce papers. The problem with these companies is that you cannot trust many of them to give you the proper papers. If you file the wrong papers, you will have to start all over again and probably pay a second filing fee at the clerk’s office. Filing fees are in addition to any fees you incur online.
Some companies which offer free divorce papers give you exactly what you pay for—the wrong forms, the wrong information or both. For example, in 2010 New York became the last state in the country to have no-fault divorce. However, many legal sites with free divorce papers have not updated their forms and have not included papers for no-fault divorce in New York. If you use those sites, you’re going to think you need to prove grounds for divorce such as abandonment or adultery. That is not accurate. You do not need to prove grounds for divorce in any state, but some of these free sites will make you think you do.
Finding a reputable online divorce company
How can you find out which companies are reputable so you can file for divorce with papers prepared online? A simple online search will show you how many different online divorce companies rank. The top-listed companies provide opportunities to speak with an attorney from the site. This should give you peace of mind that you’re not missing any important information. These companies allow you to ask legal questions. The reputable companies are ones that have people reviewing your forms who are experienced with uncontested divorce and know the specific requirements for your state.
Make sure to follow all instructions the site gives you and understand that it isn’t possible for a third-party company to file the paperwork at the courthouse for you. Only you and your spouse, or your attorneys can do that for you.
With a little research you can find online divorce papers that will help you get started with your divorce. Getting the right papers, and knowing how to complete them, may take a lot of time but there are sites devoted to helping you find the forms you need.
LegalZoom has helped thousands of couples get the online divorce papers they need. Tell us about your divorce and we’ll see if we can help you get the paperwork you need to start the process. If we can help you, we don’t just give you the forms–we help you complete them by checking your answers for consistency and completeness.
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