9 Effective Tips to Get an Affordable Divorce
Divorce is not the most pleasant event. Yet if it’s time for a divorce, let the process at least be as straightforward as possible. And, in compensation for your emotional experience, let it be quick and cheap.
Here are some helpful tips which allow you to save a lot of money arranging a dissolution of the marriage. Regardless of the circumstances of your case, and in any US state.
1. Ask yourself once more whether you really need to divorce
Silly but fact – the cheapest divorce is a divorce that did not happen. Besides, according to the recent survey, over 10% of divorced couples usually reconcile after some time.
Sometimes, such a casual and even humdrum thing as a necessity to spend a lot of money and time make people just to stop and reflect on this decision one more time. Dissolution of the marriage is a serious event, and such decisions should not be made impulsively, in anger or rush. In many US states, Family Law even requires a mandatory “cooling-off” waiting period aimed to give the spouses some particular time to change their mind. If you are not sure that your relationship is irretrievably broken, you should better try counselling or couples therapy first.
2. Consider pre-divorce mediation programs
If you are determined to divorce and want to know how to make the process affordable, do not rush to contact a lawyer.
Almost every US state provide special pre-filing mediation programs. Some law schools and divorce mediation centres offer this service for free. There, law students or paralegals help the couples to sort out the main issues of the filing process, state laws, and possible divorce options. Armed with this info, the spouses have a clear vision of what they can do further, what type of divorce is appropriate in their situation, and so on. Mediation is a non-binding process. But if the spouses are ready to meet and communicate directly. Negotiating under the guidance of a mediator, they have much more chance to get divorced fast and easy.
3. Free legal advice
If you are sure that you need to seek a lawyer’s help for some reason, you can find a divorce lawyer who provides free consultations.
A lot of legal specialists all over the US offer a free initial consultation. Even if you are going to deal with divorce papers and agreements on your own. The professional opinion and a piece of advice still would be helpful. Besides, there are government programs which ensure that on certain days a divorce lawyer regularly meets with clients for a short free consultation in the local family court. You should check this service on the government website of your city and schedule a counselling session in advance.
4. Determine the type of divorce
There are different types of divorce depending on the official ground for divorce (fault and no-fault divorce). The participation of the parties (divorce may be granted by default if either spouse refuses to participate or cannot be located), or on whether you intend to contest the case or not (contested and uncontested divorce, respectively.)
You should decide how to arrange a divorce before filing. The simplest type of divorce is a no-fault uncontested divorce with an agreement. It implies that you do not need to specify the actual cause of your breakup, that both you and your spouse agree to divorce, and you want to avoid litigation. Instead of this, you will have to make a marital settlement agreement and parenting plan (if you have minor children), settling all the disputed issues of your case out-of-court.
Some states allow filing for divorce with a so-called Joint Petition, meaning that both spouses act as plaintiffs in a case. Usually, such a simplified divorce is available for those couples who do not have children or marital assets to divide in a divorce. Joint Petition eliminates the need for serving divorce documents from the one spouse to another, which makes such a proceeding much faster.
In other words, the more calm and amicable your separation is, the less time and money is required.
5. Do-it-yourself divorce
If you consider your divorce case is simple enough, and your spouse is ready to negotiate, you can try to arrange a DIY divorce.
A DIY divorce is any divorce process managed by the spouses without an attorney at all. In legal terms, it is called pro se divorce.
If the bureaucracy does not scare you, you have to know where to get all the papers you need in your particular case. Then you must fill them out correctly, and submit them following the residency requirements of your state. Usually, all the basic divorce forms can be found online, on the state judicial branch website. Yet notice, that only the simple divorce cases can be managed without any legal help more or less smoothly.
In fact, all the divorce paperwork is pretty tricky, and the filling rules are strict. You should definitely know what forms and documents you need. You should be informed about filing rules of your state (though, even each county may have some peculiar regulations) before you apply for divorce.
6. Online divorce
Online divorce is your perfect way to draft the paperwork if you don’t want to resort to lawyers assistance but not sure that you can cope with DIY divorce – such a middle ground.
The Online divorce services gained popularity assisting the divorcing couples at the stage of preparation and completing of divorce forms. Although this service is not free, it is still much cheaper than attorney flat fees for an uncontested case.
The customer logs into the online divorce website and provides some necessary data concerning their dissolution case. Then, the system automatically collects all the forms and online divorce papers following the rules of the client’s state, personal circumstances of separation, and so on.
Within two days, the customer receives a completed ready-to-sign paperwork kit. Then, it remains only to approve it with the court.
7. Create your own parenting plan
Child custody, visitation, and support are the most disputed issues of any divorce case. However, if you are ready to negotiate and cooperate with your spouse for your child sake, you can do without a lawyer and long-drawn litigation.
Talk to your spouse and come up with your own parenting plan. Although negotiation may be challenging, as a result. You will not only save money but also will allow you to make your parenting agreement more individual and detailed, adapted to your particular circumstances.
Do not forget to discuss and settle such issues as physical and legal custody, visitation rights of the non-custodial parent and third parties (for instance, grandparents). Emergency plan, extracurricular activities, vacations and travels, and to calculate child support according to the Child Support Guidelines of your state.
You can attend a mediation session or special parenting classes to resolve the child-related subjects. After that, you must submit your plan with the court. The judge reviews and approves it if it’s fair and meets the best interest of the child.
8. Refuse private process servers
Avoiding paid serving services is the easiest way to save some money.
Unless you file for divorce with a Joint Petition, Family Law requires that you serve your spouse with the copies of divorce papers.
Your spouse must be served personally, but usually, it’s forbidden to you just to hand the documents to him/her.
So, there are specialized “professional process servers” which assume responsibility to deliver these papers. They charge about $70, but actually, you can do it for free. The fact is that any adult (who is not involved in the divorce case) can act as a server. This person just needs to fill out and sign an Affidavit of Service, as a proof of service and get the second spouse’s signature.
It is entirely legal, and you can ask your friend to help you with this part.
9. Hire an unbundled attorney
Finally, if your divorce case is not simple enough for “pro se” or online divorce, but you still want it to be inexpensive, consider hiring an unbundled divorce attorney.
An unbundled divorce lawyer is a professional who may handle just a particular aspect of your case. So, you have not to pay hourly fees for the things you can do by yourself, but you are assisted concerning the issue which is the most challenging for you – for example, property division, family business, retirement payments and so on.