What is the basic divorce process for states in the US?
The steps of the divorce process when one uses an online divorce site such as OurDivorceAgreement.com are dramatically simplified compared to what one would go through when engaging lawyers to handle the entire process, because many of the extraneous and conflict-riddled steps are avoided.
The first consideration for a couple seeking divorce is where to file. One files in the county/state of residence, not of the marriage. There are residency requirements and waiting periods involved with all states/provinces. Here is a link to this information for all US states. Waiting periods vary widely, so you will want to find the state that has the shortest waiting period if you have the choice of two different states.
If the waiting periods are equal, we recommend that the person wanting the divorce the most be the one who files in his/her state of residence since this spouse will be the most motivated to see the process through to a brisk conclusion.
Once the couple has decided where to file, they can choose an online divorce site. Considerations for this decision should include how long it takes to complete the site, how long it takes to get the completed documents, price and service. OurDivorceAgreement.com compares favorably in all of these respects, but I urge you to research the field thoroughly to make the best decision.
Complete the documents on the online divorce site. The essential elements of any divorce are summarized in a previous article.
One often misunderstood detail regarding listing your assets and debts is that many couples believe that if they agree on the division of property or their child rights and responsibilities, then they do not need to detail these items in their Property Settlement Agreement and Child Care Plan (if they have minor children.)
We'll give more detail regarding this common misconception in a future article, but this misconception needs to be thoroughly debunked. Generally, anything that was accumulated during the marriage and all child care decisions need to be included in the Agreement. Otherwise, if there were to be a dispute after the divorce, the Court would have no record of the item(s) in question.
Once the divorce documents are completed, they should be signed and notarized (if they call for a notary signature.) Usually, your local bank will notarize documents at no charge if you are a bank customer.
We recommend that each spouse using an online divorce site have separate attorneys review their Agreement to make sure it is in each person's best interest. We believe this is cheap "insurance" to make sure what you are about to sign is truly in your best interest. Many attorneys will be happy to provide an hour or so of pure legal advice if requested. When seeking this service, be sure you clearly state that you have been through mediation (online divorce is a form of self-guided mediation) and that you would like to engage the attorney strictly for the purpose of reviewing your Agreement prior to filing. Make it clear that you have the filing documents and that you are not asking him or her to represent outside of this limited function. We are not aware of this being a legal requirement in any state but we urge you to do so to protect yourself in what may be one of the largest financial transactions of your life. We will speak to this issue in greater detail in a future article.
Once you have signed the Agreement and have gotten a legal review (if you chose to do so), you are now ready to file your divorce papers. We recommend that you take 2-3 copies of all documents to the clerk's office of the divorce court in your county. This court is named differently by state, but if you go into any county courthouse and ask for the court that handles divorces, you will be directed to the correct one.
We recommend that you DO NOT take your documents to be filed first thing on Monday mornings, right before lunch or closing time in the afternoons - especially late on Friday afternoons or late afternoon the day before a holiday. Court clerks are human and they are usually overworked, underpaid and underappreciated. Choosing the ideal time can go a long way towards making your filing experience more pleasant and smooth. Be cordial but firm with the clerk. Act like you own the place (because you do! ;). Your tax money and filing fees keep the office open and operating.
Do not expect the clerk to give you legal advice - or much of any advice for that matter. They operate under strict rules that prevent them from advising you. They should be courteous to you and should answer direct questions about the process. But you should not expect them to be overly helpful. Please express appreciation and maybe even give their supervisor a positive review of your service, if the clerk goes out of their way for you.
Expect the clerk to take some of your documents and to ask you to keep others until the waiting period is over. This will vary by state. Some courts will have a data sheet they will ask you to complete while you are there filing your other documents.
You will pay a filing fee at the time of filing. This averages $150 nationally, and varies significantly by state. Filing fees are usually only accepted in the form of a check, cash or money orders. Some courts are beginning to accept credit cards.
The clerk will tell you whether the judge in your case requires a hearing to complete your divorce. If so, she/he will tell you when that will be or how you will be notified. If the Court does not require a hearing, you will be notified by mail if/when the Court finalizes your divorce.
There are other steps and considerations of course, but we have outlined the major steps of the divorce process when using an online divorce site such as OurDivorceAgreement.com.
For more information, contact mark.stein@OurDivorceAgreement.com or +1 502 897 3020.
(Nothing in this article is intended to be considered "legal advice." An online divorce site can give you the tools to complete your divorce but, there is no substitute for sound legal advice from a lawyer from your jurisdiction looking at your situation strictly from your point of view when seeking a divorce.)