When my current guest, Donna and I talked she’d been separated from her husband for about fifteen months. In her state the law requires a 12-month separation prior to filing for divorce. Donna initially thought that everything would go smoothly with the legal process—her attorney prepared the parenting agreement and his attorney would do the financial agreement. Well, that didn’t happened so Donna took matters into her own hands and resorted to an online divorce. Here’s Donna:
There’s two sets of papers. There’s a separation settlement agreement that lays out what his child support would be and his custody and visitation schedule. He won’t sign that.
Then there’s the financial agreement he won’t get his attorney to start that process. I was debating about that. I’ve already spent $8,000 on attorneys’ fees. And I don’t have the divorce and I don’t have the separation settlement papers signed. I’ve been emailing my attorneys and they said that they would file the paperwork if I wanted to pay another $875. That’s a bit difficult for me right now because I’ve had other expenses.
Do I go ahead and give them the another $875 so I can get this divorce done or do I try to do it myself?
So I researched what I could do myself online. It looked daunting at first but I finally made the decision after talking to another woman who did the divorce papers herself. I put all the papers together and then went down to the courthouse to file. The only thing I’m waiting on now is that he has to be served those papers. He doesn’t have to sign or agree to them. Nothing. He has to be served. So I sent those papers to the sheriff’s department where he is and they will hopefully serve him. Then they send a card back to me in the mail. I have to take that down to the courthouse as proof that he’s been served and then they’ll give me a court date for the divorce. If he doesn’t contest it then it’s automatic.
When I told my attorneys what I planned on doing. I asked them if there was anything, any reason why I shouldn’t do this and they advised me that, no, it was the right thing to do. We sold our house and so that’s out of the picture and he’s not fighting me for custody, so I don’t have to worry about that.
Donna says her STBX hasn’t signed the parenting agreement because he’s stalling, trying to pay less child support and there’s more on that coming in the next post.
I find the idea of an “online divorce” both interesting and scary. I do think it’s a bit of a misnomer, similar to online dating. People don’t really date online. They meet online and then date in person. People don’t get divorced online either however you can go online and find out what is required for your state, complete the paperwork (maybe with a bit of help) and then file the forms with the appropriate court. And since legal fees are often a major obstacle in the divorce process, if you can do this yourself and save those fees then I love that such services exist.
What I find scary about online divorce is the possibility that the significantly lower cost might lure you into agreeing to a financial division that is significantly less than your legal entitlement. That’s a false economy and anytime one partner starts talking about not using attorneys and doing it yourself, it’s a red flag. If you don’t have an attorney ask your friends and other trusted professional advisers for a referral or use a service like Total Divorce which offers a free initial consultation and can refer you to an attorney in your area.
Donna did this the smart way – she’d been working with an attorney and knew her legal position. That’s investing in her future. There was no danger that she’d be locked unwittingly into a less-favorable agreement. Armed with that knowledge, it made sense to complete the paperwork herself and save the money.
Coincidentally I’ve just received a press release from an online divorce company so I’m setting up an interview with the founder … so more on this to come.
Donna blogs about her journey at Elf Lady’s Chronicles including this fabulous post about facing your fears. The exercise that Donna went through here is an excellent one you can do yourself if you’re contemplating divorce but are afraid.