Divorce is a heartbreaking and extremely costly undertaking. As much as couples get into marriage, wanting to stay married until the end – sometimes the relationship doesn’t work out. There are times when both parties deem it best that they separate and divorce. And the divorce process typically costs thousands of dollars (excluding the money and properties you may lose as you divide assets).
Thankfully, there’s an option to file a divorce online. It’s a cost-effective, less invasive way to file for divorce on your terms. In this article, learn about online divorce.
Is it Possible to File a Divorce Online?
Yes, it’s possible to file for divorce online in many jurisdictions. Many states and countries offer online divorce filing services to make the process faster and more convenient for couples looking to end their marriage. However, the availability of online divorce filing services may vary depending on where you live, and the specific requirements and procedures for filing for divorce may differ depending on the jurisdiction.
Before filing for divorce online, it’s essential to research the laws and procedures in your area to ensure that you meet all the requirements and fill out the necessary forms correctly. You may also want to consult with a family law attorney to ensure that you understand your legal rights and obligations throughout the divorce process.
It’s possible to file for divorce online. Still, the availability of online divorce filing services and the specific requirements and procedures for filing for divorce may vary depending on where you live.
What is Online Divorce?
In many states, the court system has a website with downloadable versions of forms you need to file for divorce. If you can’t find the forms you need on the state court’s site, try searching for the local court or court clerk’s office website in the county where you’ll be filing the paperwork.
But even if your state courts offer online self-help information, navigating the divorce process and figuring out which forms to use can be frustrating and confusing for some people.
Fortunately, an easier option offers a level of assistance that falls between having to DIY your divorce and hiring a lawyer: online divorce services.
Online divorce is a process in which you use an online service to walk you through the steps of your divorce, such as preparing divorce papers, creating a divorce settlement agreement, and filing the paperwork with the court. It takes the guesswork out of the divorce.
You will fill up a questionnaire or be asked to participate in an online interview. Based on your responses, the service will fill out the paperwork you need for your situation and tell you where to file it or how to file it online in some places.
Is Online Divorce Legitimate?
Online divorce is legitimate in places where it’s offered. However, it doesn’t mean that you can finalize your divorce from start to finish in just a few clicks and fill up forms on your computer. Online divorce offers a way to prepare divorce forms for uncontested cases, and it’s only support for preparing required documents. Your divorce will be legitimate as long as the court receives all forms and the general information they contain is accurate. However, spouses will not receive the final court order online.
It’s possible to complete your divorce documents online, but it’s not allowed all the time in all states. Some states offer electronic filing portals that will allow you to submit digital copies of the divorce paperwork, while other states require paperwork that is printed and physically brought to the courthouse.
Once you sign the documents and they are filed with the court, they will be legally binding. A judge will review the paperwork and issue a final divorce decree, just like in any other divorce.
Is Online Divorce Right for You?
Online divorce does not apply to all couples. You must maintain a civil relationship and are okay with working together to complete the divorce process. If you both have an active interest in saving money and keeping your family away from the stress of the divorce court, this can be enough common ground to discuss the need for an uncontested divorce.
An uncontested divorce is a qualification for online divorce. It means that both spouses both want to end their marriage and agree on all important issues and matters in the divorce, including:
- How to divide assets, property, and debts
- Whether one spouse will pay alimony, and if so, the number of payments and how long they will last, and
- How will they handle custody of minor children, parenting time, and child support
Once you and your spouse agree on these issues, you must put all the details in a written divorce settlement agreement. If you have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, that issue must already be handled.
With an uncontested divorce, you’ll also need to choose a no-fault ground or legal reason for the divorce. Online divorces won’t allow you to accuse your spouse of abandonment, adultery, substance abuse, or any other fault ground.
When is Online Divorce Not Advisable?
Online divorce is not right for couples who disagree or can’t communicate. If your level of disagreement on divorce-related issues and you both think you can come to an agreement with a little help, you can avail of services that offer on-demand divorce mediation so you can find common ground. The mediators are impartial professionals who can assess the level of disagreement between you and your partner and offer a valuable solution.
If your level of disagreement is high and mediation does not work, you will need to get lawyers involved. When this happens, your divorce is likely to become contested, which needs to go to court instead of using an online divorce service. It’s best to try it first and save contested divorce as a last resort, especially if you want to avoid big fees and stress.
Besides heavy disagreements, online divorce is also inappropriate for couples whose situations are complicated, like:
- If one party doesn’t want a divorce or does not want to comply with the divorce process
- If one party is at fault, resulting in the failure of the marriage (ex.: cruelty, adultery, substance abuse, abandonment, confinement in prison, incurable insanity, etc.)
- If one party does not want to give alimony or spousal support
- If the spouses have a lot of property and don’t know how to divide it fairly
- If the spouses owned a business together and had difficulty splitting assets
- If the spouses have large debts
- If the spouses can’t agree on child support or custody or if they have a complex custody situation
- If there has been spousal abuse or domestic violence
- If you can’t locate your spouse
In these cases, the spouses need legal advice and support throughout the divorce process, which online services cannot provide as it can be too complicated.
Advantages of Online Divorce
For ideal candidates, online divorce offers many advantages:
One of the biggest advantages of getting an online divorce is the convenience factor. You can complete the grunt work of the divorce process from the comfort of your own home without physically going to court or meeting with attorneys in person. This can be especially helpful for people with busy schedules living far away from a courthouse.
Online divorce services are often less expensive than traditional divorce methods. Using an online service can avoid high attorney fees and court costs, which can add up quickly. A large percentage of divorce costs is due to attorney’s fees, and by not needing to hire one, you can cut costs by half or three times with an online divorce service. After all, in uncontested divorces wherein spouses agree on most things, or if you both want to go for a no-fault divorce, you do not need a lawyer to protect your interests. If there are minor disagreements, then you can avail of mediation, which is still a lot less expensive than attorney fees.
The online divorce process can often be completed more quickly than a traditional divorce since there is no need for court appearances or delays caused by scheduling conflicts. Lawyers are very busy people, and you’ll need to set up a meeting at a time available to them. It can cause delays on your part.
If you file online, you can finish filing in about half an hour. All you need to do is prepare documents and follow filing instructions. If your state accepts online filing, you don’t even need to drive to the courthouse.
4. Reduced conflict
Going through a divorce can be emotionally charged and stressful, and in-person meetings with attorneys or court appearances can sometimes exacerbate conflict between the parties. With an online divorce, much of the communication can be done through email or online chat, which can help reduce the potential for conflict.
Some people prefer to keep their divorce proceedings private, and an online divorce can provide an added layer of privacy. Since much of the process is done online, there is less potential for the divorce to become public knowledge. You can avoid court divorce trials, which means you’ll not be exposed to other people who would know you’re filing for a divorce.
6. Minimizes risks and mistakes
During a DIY divorce, spouses are fully responsible for their marriage dissolution process. Quite often, spouses make mistakes in preparing and filing papers, but with online divorce services, they can ensure that they have chosen and filled out the appropriate forms. Also, specialized services can guide you in filing with the court, minimizing risks and mistakes that often come with going through the process independently.
How to File a Divorce Online
Filing for divorce online can be done through various websites that offer online divorce services. Here are the general steps you can follow to file for divorce online:
1. Make sure you’re in agreement
Again, online divorce is only for those spouses who agree that they want to end the marriage and they agree on important decisions. You and your spouse should have decided on how to divide assets, properties, and debts. If you have children, you should have decided on custody and child support agreements before getting an online divorce. Make sure you’re putting the well-being of your children in your decision.
2. Choose an online divorce service
Research and select an online divorce service that operates in your state. Some popular online divorce services include CompleteCase.com, LegalZoom, 3StepDivorce, OnlineDivorce.com, DivorceFiller.com, and ItsOverEasy.com.
3. Gather your documents
Gather copies of your official documents, as the online divorce service will require these things. Typing and entering all information into the online service application will be easier if you have already gathered all the documents you need. Here are some of the documents that you may need to prepare:
- Marriage certificate
- A prenuptial or postnuptial agreement (if there’s any)
- Bank statements
- Insurance information
- Information about retirement accounts
It’s vital to verify the information with important documents – finding out later that you made a mistake may be costly and would delay and complicate the process.
4. Create an account
Once you’ve chosen a service, create an account and provide your personal and contact information. You will need to answer a few basic questions about you and your spouse to get started and to confirm if you’re eligible to use the service.
5. Gather and enter information
The online divorce service will ask you a series of questions to gather information about your marriage, property, children, and other relevant details. It can take as little as 30 minutes to a few hours. It helps to have your spouse with you, and this process may move faster if you’re both available to answer the questions.
6. Complete the necessary forms
Based on your answers, the online service will generate the necessary divorce forms for you to complete and sign. You will have the opportunity to review and edit all answers you provided to the questionnaire or interview.
After you’ve double-checked all information, the service will generate completed versions of the forms you need to file, which should include a marital settlement agreement. Sometimes, you may need to fill in additional info for some of the forms, such as the case number or updated income information.
7. File the forms with the court
After you’ve completed the forms and checked their accuracy, the online service will provide you with instructions on how to file them with the appropriate court in your area. This usually involves printing out the forms and mailing them to the court along with the filing fee.
If your state accepts online divorce filing, you can use the local court’s portal to submit the legal documents the moment you have completed them.
8. Serve your spouse
After you’ve filed the forms, you will need to serve your spouse with a copy of the divorce papers. Depending on your state’s laws, you may be able to serve your spouse electronically, by mail, or by hiring a process server. Some states allow couples with uncontested divorces to file joint divorce paperwork, and if that’s the case, make sure that both of you have copies of the documents.
9. Wait for the final divorce judgment
Most states offer a mandatory waiting period before you can schedule a final hearing or get the divorce papers reviewed by a judge. Depending on where you live, you may need to wait within a month or two for a filing, but sometimes it may take up to a year.
Also, the amount of time it takes to finalize your divorce may also depend on the backlogs in your local court and whether you’ve met any interim requirements in your state.
Once the divorce process is underway, you may need to follow up with the court to ensure that all necessary documents are filed and that the divorce is proceeding as planned.
Filing for a divorce online was something that used to be impossible, but with the advances in technology, it is now allowed. In countries with so many divorces happening, many state judicial systems have implemented online tools, and online services have been allowed to assist people in completing the divorce process.
It’s important to note that the specific requirements and procedures for filing for divorce online may vary depending on the state and jurisdiction where you live. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to consult with a family law attorney or legal professional to ensure that you are meeting all the necessary requirements and procedures when filing for divorce online.