How to File For Divorce Online
Table of Contents
- FILING AN ONLINE DIVORCE
- Requirements to file an Online Divorce
- What Does it Mean to File Online?
- Choosing an Online Divorce Service
- Like Another Service Not Mentioned?
- STEP 1: HOW TO INITIATE A DIVORCE PROCEEDING
- STEP 2: LEGAL NOTICE
- STEP 3: CONTESTED OR UNCONTESTED DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE?
- Uncontested Divorce (Low Cost)
- STEP 4: WHICH OPTION IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
- STEP 5: RESOLVING THE MAJOR ISSUES
- STEP 6: FINALIZING THE DIVORCE
Filing for a divorce online was something that used to be nearly impossible to do, but with the advances in tech, it has allowed for anyone to file an online divorce without ever having to leave your home. With so many divorces occurring every year, many state judicial systems have implemented online tools and resources that may assist you in completing the divorce process.
Although only a handful of states now allow you to file for divorce online through their website, there are countless services that allow you to file a divorce online in any state (Best Divorce services).
FILING AN ONLINE DIVORCE
The number of states that have online filing support on their sites for divorce remains limited, but you can find out if your state has one by visiting the website of your local county or district court. If your state does not have an e-filing system for divorce, you may still be able to access and download documents from the court’s website.
After you complete the paperwork, you may file them at your local Clerk’s Office in person, by mail, or by fax (depending on the jurisdiction). In some states, you may not need to ever step into a courtroom after you file for an uncontested divorce.
In order to go through the process of completing an online divorce, there are a few requirements that you need to know to qualify.
Requirements to file an Online Divorce
- To qualify for to file a divorce online, you and your spouse must to agree to the divorce and are okay with working together. This means that your divorce cannot be contested by your spouse, and both of you have settled on all the property, support, childcare, and financial matters. If both of you agree to an Uncontested divorce, you’ll be able to go ahead and use an online filing service no matter what state your in.
- If your spouse does not agree on all items regarding the divorce and is being difficult on the subject, try using a divorce mediator (Benefits of a mediator) to ensure that both of you are able to come to a reasonable win-win outcome. By using a mediator, this will also save you both thousands of dollars by not having to get attorneys.
- If your divorce is contested, it’s in both of your best interest to go ahead and hire a lawyer.
What Does it Mean to File Online?
If your interested in filing a divorce online, it’s important that you understand that their two main ways of doing so. Filing through your local county’s website or using an online divorce service.
Let’s discuss these two options further:
Using your local County / State Website
A very small amount of states have what is called, e-filing, which allows you to fill out the paperwork through their online portal, and you’ll be able to pay their fee when you submit your paperwork on their site.
This is definitely the ideal way to do it, but it is not yet available in over 90% of states and makes going this route more of a headache.
Using an Online Divorce Service
If your state does not offer e-filing, you can simply use a online divorce service to help you easily fill out the paperwork and have it reviewed to make sure everything is filled out correctly. These services are very popular on the web because they cut the time down to a few hours instead of days of you trying to figure out how to fill out the paperwork if you downloaded them from your states website.
How does it work?
The process is very similar across all online divorce paperwork services. You create your account and follow a question prompts that walk you through all the needed forms based on your circumstances. Depending how you answer the questions, follow up questions or additional forms will be automatically filled out. Once you are done, you are able to download your paperwork and file it at your local courthouse.
How much does it cost?
These services range in price ($159 – $2500) based on their level of services they provide in addition to helping you fill out the paperwork. Some of these companies include services like, a review by a case manager, divorce libraries of tips and how-to’s, calculators for support, serving your paperwork, phone support, filing paperwork for you and much more.
Finding the right company comes down to your personal needs and circumstances.
Choosing an Online Divorce Service
We have done the hard work for you and have reviewed some of the best online divorce services on the web, and to make a long story short, we highly recommend Mydivorcepapers.com at $159 if your filing a simple uncontested.
They make the process of filing an online divorce very simple and walk you through each form by having you simply answer questions about your divorce. Their unlimited phone, chat and email support will be there to ensure all of your questions and concerns are answered.
If you need additional options like more hands-on support, negotiating platform for you and your spouse, we recommend 3stepdivorce.com at $299 or four payments of $84 (Check out all of our reviews here).
Are online divorces legal?
Many people find it unbelievable that a person can complete the paperwork and file for a divorce online, but that is exactly the case and it’s 100% legal. As mentioned above a few times, not all states offer the e-filings but there are services that will take your online divorce papers into your local court for you.
Are These Services Safe?
All of the sites we recommend are encrypted and very high level of security built into their products. You will never need to worry about either your information being sold or being hacked into.
How long do online divorces take?
Online divorces or divorces filed not in person are all subject to your states divorce laws. Every state has its own requirements and one of those requirements is the length of time it takes to get a divorce (View your state’s divorce process here).
State Filing Fees Aren’t Included
It’s very important to understand that many of the online divorce services do not include state filing fees. This means that you’ll have to pay an additional fee to your local courthouse to have your paperwork filed and processed in your county. Typical court filing costs are from $200 – $700, depending greatly on the state that you will be filing in. You can find your state’s filing charges by simply Googling: [Your State] Divorce filing fee.
Like Another Service Not Mentioned?
No matter which service you choose for your online divorce papers, make sure that they meet the following requirements before signing up.
- They offer at least telephone support
- There are a lot of these online divorce paper services and some of them do not offer telephone support to help you fill out the paperwork when-when you run into an issue. They will offer email support but sometimes its best to speak with someone by phone. Try to make sure that the provider that you are considering offers you a way to talk by phone.
- Ensure divorce forms are updated & Guaranteed
- This is another big issue that some online providers have. If the provider does not have a guarantee to ensure that the divorce paperwork is updated and the state will accept them, run the other way. This is a big no-no in this industry, so make sure that there is a guarantee because states change things all the time.
- A great online reputation
- This is much easier to figure out because you can simply do a search for the company name and the word review behind it, and you will get a great idea of how good a company is. This seems like a no-brainer but so many people skip this step and find themselves with a crappy service.
- Offers What you Need
- If you need additional support or don’t know where to turn for support, don’t be afraid of going with a more costly option to make sure everything is taken care of the right way. Review features on the service your interested in and make sure your needs will be taken care of. Take a look at our reviews to get a better idea as to what is on the market now.
REQUIREMENTS NECESSARY TO FILE FOR DIVORCE
- Divorce is a legal procedure and, more precisely, a lawsuit brought by one spouse against the other. Although an attorney is not a requirement for divorce, legal counsel may be advisable in more complicated divorces.
- In most jurisdictions, you must file a Petition for Divorce (or similar form) along with supporting documents with the local court to begin the divorce process. Check the website of your local clerk’s office to see if they allow you to e-file your petition.
- While many states have an expedited process for uncontested divorces, this may be more complicated for couples with children or larger estates.
- You will need to pay a filing fee when you file for divorce. This is typically a few hundred dollars, but many courts allow you to petition for a fee waiver if you are without funds. If you file online, you will need to pay the fee using a valid credit or debit card.
- Filing for divorce in the United States can be difficult without expert assistance. Try using an online divorce service to make the process easier. At only $159, 3StepDivorce.com can save you thousands in legal fees.
- If any questions come up during or before filing for a divorce online, ask a lawyer online at JustAnswer.com.
- There is almost always a residency requirement to file for divorce, so learn the details from your local court.
- There is often a minimum period for a divorce to finalize depending on which state you live in. While officially, this may range from 30 to 180 days, it is usually a much longer wait due to judicial caseloads.
Typical Grounds for Divorce
- Most states will grant a divorce without considering any spouse’s wrongdoing, i.e. no fault. If you are seeking a no-fault divorce, you must typically only demonstrate that you and your spouse have irreconcilable differences.
- A handful of states still allow you to divorce your spouse based on their immoral behavior. The most common fault grounds for divorce include:
- Habitual intoxication
STEP 1: HOW TO INITIATE A DIVORCE PROCEEDING
To file for divorce in most states, you must obtain a Petition for Divorce, complete it fully and accurately, then submit it with the appropriate filing fee to the Clerk’s Office of the local court. Many states provide some or all of these forms online, and some even allow you to file them electronically. If you cannot complete and submit them electronically, you may still be able to download them and submit them in the traditional fashion(Read about your states divorce process).
Although the exact filing fee will depend on the county in which you file, most counties demand a minimum of a hundred dollars, and some quite a bit more. If you file your divorce online, you will need to pay your filing fee using a credit or debit card. If you hire an attorney, they may take your personal information, complete the requisite forms and file them for you; you will still need to provide the filing fee unless you request the fee be waived.
If you and your spouse do not have any unresolved issues, you may create a settlement agreement that stipulates how property is divided, child custody and visitation are allocated, and spousal support is structured. You may file jointly for divorce in some jurisdictions.
STEP 2: LEGAL NOTICE
Divorce is actually a legal procedure between you and your spouse, so, in order to satisfy legal requirements, you must properly notify your spouse that legal action is being taken against them. In a divorce proceeding, this is called Service of Process and involves delivering copies of the Petition for Divorce along with supporting documents to your spouse in a timely manner. Some online divorce services offer you the ability to use their serving services which makes the divorce process much easier on you.
In most states, you must complete Service of Process within a given time period after filing your petition. You may fulfill this legal requirement in one of the following ways:
- In person—the majority of states allows anyone who is 18 years of age or older and is not a party to the lawsuit to serve the divorce papers in person. In most cases, the process server is a sheriff or a professional, bonded process server. Once the papers have been delivered to the respondent’s home, person or attorney, the process server must complete an Affidavit of Service and file it with the Clerk of Court (Some online divorce services offer serving services also).
- By mail—Some states allow you to mail the divorce papers to your spouse, but you must usually provide a delivery receipt or a signed Acknowledgement of Service form to prove service occurred.
- By publication—If you are unable to locate your spouse, you may ask some courts to serve notice by publication. If the court approves, then you may post notice of the divorce in a local newspaper to satisfy the process service requirement.
Once Service of Process has been completed, your spouse will have a legally stipulated number of days to respond to the petition or lose certain legal rights under the law.
If your spouse does not respond to the Petition for Divorce, then the judge may assume that the respondent is waiving their right to participate in the divorce proceedings. In this case, the court will likely grant the plaintiff most or all they are seeking in the Petition for Divorce.
If your spouse does not wish to contest the Petition for Divorce, they may file an Answer that concedes all of the requests in the Petition. Like mentioned before, if you are filing a divorce online, you must make sure that your divorce is uncontested. This obviates the need for a trial and allows parties to proceed through the uncontested divorce process. While some jurisdictions may require at least a minor court hearing to confirm certain details of the divorce settlement, others will issue a Final Decree of Divorce without such a hearing. If you have minor children in the household, there is a greater chance a hearing will be necessary.
If your spouse files an Answer that disputes details in the Petition for Divorce, then the judge will order you and your spouse to trial. There may be a number of hearings and legal proceedings before a trial occurs, so you will probably need an attorney to guide you through the process. Before the trial, your and your spouse’s attorneys may engage in evidence requests, witness interviews, and negotiations. This may be a lengthy and complex process that could cost you a great deal personally and financially.
STEP 3: CONTESTED OR UNCONTESTED DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE?
Contested Divorce (High Cost)
If you and your spouse are cannot come to an agreement on issues related to the divorce, you will have to endure a long and costly legal process that will include a jury or bench trial. Because your spouse will probably hire an attorney to protect their interests, you should also hire one. Keep in mind the following about a contested divorce:
- Attorneys possess considerable experience that will make the entire divorce proceed more expeditiously. Their prior knowledge of court procedures will also help prevent you from making a mistake that could risk the outcome of the trial.
- Although an attorney may help you complete certain legal obligations, there is no guarantee that their involvement will shorten the process. They may engage in a process of investigation about claims made by you and your spouse, or negotiate with your spouse’s legal team in a process that could drag on for weeks or months.
- However, if you have a lot of property to divide, or complicated issues to resolve, an attorney may provide reliable strategies about obtaining the most rewarding outcome.
- Because most divorce lawyers charge by the hour in a contested divorce you may expect to pay quite a bit more if you and your spouse engage in a protracted legal contest.
Uncontested Divorce (Low Cost)
In many states, if you and your spouse agree on all of the issues related to the divorce and meet certain criteria, you may proceed through an expedited, uncontested divorce process that is simpler, faster and usually cheaper. This process allows you to file a divorce settlement agreement that details division of assets and debts, spousal support and child custody. This process may be completed much faster if you use an online divorce filing service (Best online divorce services).
If your state does not offer a special procedure for uncontested divorce, you may still use the normal divorce process.
- There is no need for a trial, but the judge may order you to appear at a hearing.
- Because you and your spouse are not in conflict, there may be no need for legal representation. In many cases, you can complete the entire process on your own, saving you time and money.
- In certain circumstances, you may be able to complete an uncontested divorce in the minimum amount time required by law.
STEP 4: WHICH OPTION IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
Self-Representation (Lowest Cost)
By far, the easiest and cheapest way to complete the divorce process is if you are in full agreement about major issues with your spouse and you represent yourself; you may also be able to use an online divorce process for uncontested divorces. That is why you should make every effort to come to an agreement with your spouse prior to starting the divorce procedure. You will save a lot of money and effort by filing a divorce settlement agreement and fulfilling the court’s requests without legal counsel.
Mediation (Medium Cost)
Many states require or encourage couples seeking a divorce to use a mediation service prior to finalizing the divorce. Mediators are conflict resolution experts, often with legal training, who attempt to help couples come to an agreement on ongoing issues. Mediation is not legally binding, but it may help shorten the divorce process or make it unnecessary. On average, mediation is 20-50 percent cheaper than a traditional divorce.
Divorce Trial (Highest Cost)
In cases where you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement on major issues, the judge will schedule a bench or jury trial that will require you and your spouse to present arguments supporting your respective positions. In the vast majority of trials, it is the attorneys with trial experience that do most of the arguing and presenting evidence. In addition to the legal fees paid to the attorneys, there are usually many court costs involved in a trial and pre-trial proceedings.
STEP 5: RESOLVING THE MAJOR ISSUES
Most divorcing couples that can’t reach an agreement usually have conflicts regarding property division, alimony or child custody. If you plan on filing for divorce, you should be aware of how most courts typically adjudicate these issues.
One of the most divisive issues of almost any divorce is property distribution. The vast majority of courts use the principle of equitable distribution which means that assets should allocate fairly; although some states still use a guideline of a 50/50 split. Although each state has its own history, many courts use some or all of the following factors to determine asset allocation:
- each spouse’s income and property when they married as well as when they filed for divorce
- the duration of the marriage
- each spouse’s age and health
- the need of the parent with child custody
- the pension, health insurance, and inheritance rights either spouse will lose
- spousal maintenance (alimony)
- future financial circumstances of each spouse
- the tax consequences to each spouse
- any other just and proper factor
In almost all U.S. states, the determining factor for child custody is the best interests of the child. Many courts prefer to confer joint custody, while some feel that primary custody by one parent with generous visitation rights for the other is preferable. The court will often take into consideration the following criteria before making a determination:
- the wishes of the parent
- the preference of the child
- the strength of the relationship between each parent and the child;
- the relationship of the child with either parent, siblings, and other persons who may significantly influence the child’s best interests
- the child’s attachment to home, school, and community
- maintaining continuity of a stable, satisfactory environment
- emotional attachment to an existing or proposed custodial home
- the mental and physical health of parties involved
- the child’s cultural background
- any history of domestic abuse
- the willingness of each parent to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact with the other parent with the child.
Throughout the country, alimony or spousal maintenance is available as temporary, short-term or long-term. Temporary alimony includes payments made during the course of the divorce proceedings, while short-term involves a limited period following the divorce. Long-term spousal maintenance is essentially permanent, but most courts rarely award long-term alimony. In most cases, alimony is short-term and is intended to allow the dependent spouse to obtain skills to sustain themselves. The court will often consider the following when awarding alimony:
- the marketable skills and employability of the dependent spouse,
- the time or expense the dependent spouse needs to acquire education or training for employment
- dependent spouse’s contribution to the other spouse’s education, training, professional licensing or career
- the ability of the supporting spouse to pay support
- the marital standard of living,
- each spouse’s obligations and assets
- the duration of the marriage
- each spouse’s age and health
- any documented history of domestic violence
- the immediate tax consequences
STEP 6: FINALIZING THE DIVORCE
If you and your spouse agree on the terms of the divorce online or in person, and filed a joint Petition for Divorce, then you may or may not need to attend a court hearing so that the judge may issue the final divorce decree. If you have minor children but still have an uncontested divorce, the judge will likely schedule a short hearing to discuss details of child custody before issuing the final decree.
If you and your spouse disagree on key issues, the judge will schedule a trial. Following the trial, the judge will consider all of the evidence presented and issue a judgment and a Final Decree of Divorce.