In this post, I am going to show you EXACTLY how to finish your divorce case that you started without a lawyer.
We have helped hundreds of people through the process of finishing a divorce that they started without having an attorney.
So if you want to save yourself the time and agony of trying to figure this out on your own, read this post.
Let’s dive right in….
Step 1. Realize that there is no convenient or super fast way to finish a divorce without a lawyer.
The fastest way is to hire a lawyer using the steps below (don’t shoot the messenger, we didn’t create the legal process).
If you cannot hire a lawyer due to costs (also discussed below) then the first step you need to take is go to talk to some local free help.
There are a couple of resources in town that will tell you what you need to do next in your case:
First, if there is a local law library in the courthouse, the librarian will sometimes offer some free guidance.
Second, you can ask the district clerk’s office for help.
I recommend going in person because they do not readily help people on the telephone.
Third, you can ask if there is a “staff attorney” in your county that you can talk to.
This is a person who is paid by the city to assist with legal questions, and may be able to offer some guidance.
Keep in mind that there is an actual law that counties must enable people can get divorced without a lawyer.
So, each county has a process that has to be set up, by law, to enable people to completely handle their divorce without a lawyer.
So, the trick is to get to the courthouse in person, and ask enough people until you are directed to the actual process that your particular county uses to enable people to finish their divorce without a lawyer.
The district clerk is almost always the starting point so Google “district clerk”.
Ultimately I strongly recommend that you do hire a lawyer, since it is much easier, if you hire one the smart way, as explained below:
Step 2: Make a quick chart on google sheets or any spreadsheet software
You are going to use this chart to keep track of the information you need to gather in order to hire the right law firm to help you.
The chart needs to enable you to track the following questions and data points:
- Law firm name
- Law firm number
- Quote amount
- Contract or written reassurance that finalization service will be provided within a specific time period (the amount of time you want your divorce done in)
- Online reputation (does this law firm have any ratings that show they regularly do divorces in my area)
- Does this lawyer work in my county?
Step 3. Call some lawyers, and track their responses in your spreadsheet.
Some lawyers are hard to reach in the beginning, and then they can stay hard to reach when you need them for your case.
Call a service that gets back to you. Call ten places if you need to.
Do not overlook the questions that you need to ask from the previous step.
This way you are making sure to hit on the important things that will get you divorced faster.
Explain on the telephone consultation that you need to finish a divorce that you started on your own (i.e. pro se). You will need to tell the law firm the following pieces of information, which will impact your price:
(if they do not ask these items on the consult, then you may not be getting an accurate price, so make sure to read your contract carefully).
- How long ago was the divorce filed;
- What is your divorce cause number;
- Has your spouse signed and filed a global waiver (the waiver that allows you to finish the case without him/her);
- Do you have a decree of divorce written?
- You lawyer will want to know what terms of divorce you are wanting to have in your decree.
- Does your divorce decree divide real estate?
- Does your decree divide retirement or investment accounts?
- Does your divorce decree involve children
- Has your spouse signed your decree of divorce.
Step 4. Pay attention to whether the firm wants to see your divorce decree when giving you a price.
This office that you may hire should ask to see a copy of your decree.
Then, in light of this decree, the office should give you a price.
Note that instead of evaluating these details, the office may just tell you an hourly rate that it would charge to take over the divorce.
It is great if you can have them evaluate the decree (or lack of decree) first and then tell you a fixed fee to finish the case.
Step 5: Analyze the fine print of the “price” given to finalize your case
The price should range from $500 if you already have a completed and signed divorce decree to $1400 if you need a divorce decree and your spouse is willing to sign it.
If you have retirement to divide or more than 1 piece of real estate, the price will be higher than $1.400.
If your spouse is missing or unwilling to sign the decree, then finalizing the divorce will cost the same as litigating a divorce, which ranges from $4,000 or more.
Note that regardless of the circumstance you should get $400 off the price of your divorce for having started it yourself, so there is a savings for having done some of the work on your own.
If these price points are out of the question, then plan to handle it alone (see paragraph 1).
If the free resources fall short for you in paragraph 1, consider hiring a lawyer for $300 for one hour of his/her time to guide you through the exact forms and steps that your particular situation calls for.
Since there are hundreds of things that may be needed for you to finish the particular case that you have, having a lawyer for one hour to help can really move you in the right direction faster.
Note that unless your spouse will sign a decree with you, it is unlikely you can get a fixed fee to finish the divorce.
Note also that if you need a decree of divorce written, that this will require the lawyer to take on substantial work for you and the price will be higher than if you have a decree already written. Make sure to ask whether the price is flat fee or a by the hour service.
Make sure the deal will include in writing a promise to do the work within a set time-frame (the time-frame that you need the divorce done in).
Add the price details to your chart.
Step 6: Assess which firm seemed to have the best set of data overall for your case needs.
Remember that making a choice on price alone is unwise in the legal field, so check the other data points too.
Then, hire a firm.
Step 7: Your lawyer will review your case for all steps that are needed to make sure the judge will grant the divorce
When you have a lawyer on your case, they want to make sure to avoid the embarrassment of not having your divorce case granted due to a technicality.
So, they are going to look at all of the papers in your file and make sure that nothing is going to prevent the court from permitting the divorce to go through.
They will write any remaining documents needed, and send you signing instructions.
Step 8: It’s time to go to court and finish this case out.
Your lawyer will then coordinate a date and time to meet at the courthouse and present your documents to the judge.
At the courthouse, your lawyer will show the judge the items and request that your divorce will be granted.
You will be asked about one minute worth of easy question and the court will sign your decree.
If you hire a lawyer for this finalization process and you already have a decree in hand, your case can be done is a little as 1 week.
Now, I’d like to hear from you.
There you have it.
That is the guide to finishing a divorce that you started alone.
Which step do you think will be the easiest?
Have you gotten stuck on something that the post did not mention? What is your plan?