Today, you can do almost anything online, from renewing your license to going to college. In many states, it is also possible to get a divorce online. While the idea of no lawyers or court dates can sound appealing, make sure you know what you are getting into before you complete your do-it-yourself divorce. Otherwise, you could end up overlooking your rights or agreeing to something you regret. Ending your marriage is a complex process that deserves due care and attention, whether you do it online or in person.
What Is Online Divorce?
Online divorce does not mean pressing a button that instantly dissolves your marriage. It is much like the typical divorce process, but you do most of the work yourself instead of hiring an attorney. When you partake in an online divorce, you start by downloading the necessary forms online. It may take some time to fill out these forms, especially without help from an attorney. Once you or your spouse fill out the initial Divorce Petition, you will submit it to the correct county courthouse. Some courthouses in California take paperwork online while others require petitioners to file in person.
You will then need to fill out a summons to serve to your spouse, unless you hire someone to do this for you. It is important to complete the summons correctly. Otherwise, your spouse could allege that he or she never got the paperwork – potentially declaring your divorce invalid. You will also need to submit a Proof of Service of Summons. If you and your spouse have children, additional paperwork will be necessary, including a Child Custody and Visitation Application. You and your spouse will need to work together to create a parenting plan if you wish to leave lawyers out of the discussion.
To complete your divorce online, you and your spouse will then need to fill out and submit the final disclosure forms. You must submit these documents no more than 60 days after filing your Divorce Petition. Attach your tax return, make copies of all documents and file the original forms with the court clerk. If your spouse replies and agrees to your petition, a judge may sign off on the divorce without you ever needing to set foot in court. If your spouse disagrees, however, an online divorce may not be possible. You may need to attend mediation or a trial for a contested divorce case.
Who Should and Should Not Divorce Online?
Online divorce can be convenient, but it can also lead to problems if you do not have a simple case. You will have no one to answer your questions or guide you through the legal process. You will not have an attorney to safeguard your rights or look out for your best interests. You will only have the internet, with general advice and questionable authority. You should not divorce online if you think you might run into any issues.
- Long-term marriage
- Bad relationship with your spouse
- Contested or hostile divorce
- Divorce in different states
- Divorce from someone in the military
- High-value assets
- Business ownership
- Child custody
- Child support
- Spousal maintenance
If your spouse has hired a lawyer, it is a good sign you will be unable to divorce online. If, however, you and your spouse were not married for very long, have simple assets and debts, no children, and are willing to work together, you may be able to fill out and submit divorce papers online without a hitch. An uncontested divorce case may be simple enough that doing it online makes sense. If you are not sure which route is right for you, ask a divorce lawyer for advice before proceeding.