This is a question our company gets often. How legal is online divorce? Well let me explain. When you perform your divorce online, you are not doing anything different from getting a conventional divorce. When getting a divorce the traditional way, you most likely will seek the council of an attorney. That attorney will most likely explain to you that you may want to speak to your spouse to try to agree on the terms of why the two of you are getting a divorce. These terms will include but not limited to how to split property, how to diminish debts and child custody and visitation. This may surprise you, but in over 80% of divorce cases, the spouses will agree on these issues. Most of the work in getting the two of you to agree on the terms has been done by you and your spouse. But the person who benefits from these negotiations is the attorneys representing you.
The next step is the separation papers. Your attorney will take all the information gathered from the things the two of you agreed upon and put them in a form that the judge in your case will be able to process. Most attorneys will charge you anywhere from $300 – $2500 just for these papers alone. This fee does not include your attorney filing your divorce or representing you in court. This fee ONLY is for the Separation Agreement. You have now spent money on retaining your attorney for them to tell you to try to work out the terms out on your own. After you have done that, you are now faced with a fee to have them put into writing the things the two of you have agreed upon.
Then there is filing of your divorce with the county clerk. This is another fee that you will pay your attorney to perform. This is usually another $400 – $1000. Being that attorneys are in court buildings all day anyway, they usually do the filing while they are there, but most of them mail, fax or electronically process this paperwork which takes them about 15 minutes at most.
Finally your attorney will represent you in court. Being that you and your spouse have already agreed on everything, the judge usually asks you all the necessary questions. You attorney’s job is usually just to introduce himself, you and your case to the judge. After a series of questions directly to you from the judge, your case will be finalized. The fee for your attorney to perform this will most likely cost you several hundreds to several thousands of dollars.
Now to answer the question on if online divorce is legal…
Do you need an attorney to help you come to an agreement with your spouse? Most likely not. With online divorce, you already have an idea of how you want to split property, debts and child custody. You won’t have an attorney charging you a fee to tell you that you need to agree on some things. What an online divorce provider will do is prepare the Separation Agreement for you after you have already agreed to the terms. This agreement is usually included with most online divorce services. There even some that offers a free Separation Agreement. All you would have to do is sign and have your spouse sign and get notarized.
Now on to getting your papers filed with the county clerk. The filing for divorce in most counties is under $150. This means you will have to take an hour or so out of your day and head down to your local county clerk and fill out a one page sheet pay your filing fee and file your own paperwork. If it sounds better to pay your attorney $400-$1000 to do this, then that is fine too. Most of us don’t want to throw hundreds of dollars away on this process.
Now the final step is the court appearance. Do you really need an attorney sitting next to you while you answer simple questions from the judge such as:
When were you married?
How long have you been separated?
Do you agree with the terms of this Separation Agreement that I am reading?
Most likely not. But for those that think that online divorce is not legal, all you are doing is eliminating the attorney. You still need to file for divorce and do all the things that an attorney would do. You will just be doing all the legwork for yourself. Your divorce forms will be the same as the forms you will get from your attorney. The thing that will really bake your noodle is that the online divorce providers use the same computer programs most attorneys use to draft all your forms.
Hopefully this eliminates your skepticism on the legalism of online divorce. You can always visit 95DollarDivorce.com for more information on how the online divorce process works.
D James Rice