Here's the truth you probably already know but needs repeating…
Divorce is one of the toughest life events you will go through.
It’s already such an emotional process why would you want to drag it out longer than it has to go?
Nobody wants to keep that much negative energy in their life because it is unhealthy and can cause serious problems for your mind and body.
Divorce is also expensive.
You don’t want to deplete your future financial security by paying high attorney fees, if you can avoid them.
Well, guess what? Divorce doesn't have to be a long drawn-out process that costs you a lot of money.
If you just want out of your marriage so you can end it as soon as possible without breaking the bank, there are options for you to pursue.
Generally speaking, there are 2 types of divorces.
- Contested Divorce – (typically long and expensive) this type of divorce is where you and your spouse can not agree on all the terms of your divorce (division of assets/debts, child custody & support, alimony, etc) and need the court systems to intervene.
- Uncontested Divorce – (quick and cheap) this type of divorce is where you and your spouse agree on ALL the terms of your divorce and just need the court system to finalize your divorce.
When people refer to cheap and quick divorces it is usually an uncontested divorce that falls into this category but in some cases a contested divorce can be relatively cheap and relatively quick.
But contested divorces are almost never as quick and cheap as an uncontested divorce.
Cheap Divorce Options
Thankfully, there are options that can make your divorce more affordable, especially if you do the proper research and can do some of the legwork.
Here are 5 options for a cheap and quick divorce:
- Do-It-Yourself Divorce
- Online Divorce Services
- Divorce Mediation
- Attorney Limited Representation
- Legal Aid or Pro Bono
Below is a table to show you how each of these options rate in terms of being “fast”, “cheap” and “easy”.
Here is what each “emoji” represents.
👎 = No
🤷 = Maybe
|Online Divorce Services||👍||👍||👍|
|Attorney Limited Representation||🤷||🤷||👍|
|Legal Aid or Pro Bono||🤷||👍||🤷|
We will dive into each of these options below.
1. Do-It-Yourself Divorce
In an uncontested divorce situation, you can often prepare and file all of the legal paperwork on your own.
You may need a notary, but you won’t need the help of an attorney.
This route can help you save a considerable chunk of change, as your only expenses will be any related court fees.
Pros and Cons
Make sure you weigh the pros and cons before committing to a DIY divorce.
The prime benefit of a DIY divorce option is the savings it could net you.
If money is a consideration, keeping the divorce as cost-effective as possible is beneficial for both you and your spouse.
Hiring an attorney can be extremely expensive; contracting attorneys for divorce cases can start in the thousands to tens of thousands.
By doing the paperwork yourself, you will avoid or at least reduce the upfront cost of legal fees.
Another benefit is the savings in time.
If everything is agreed upon by both you and your spouse, there’s no need to draw things out and worsen the emotional burden or even potentially sour the relationship between you.
A DIY divorce allows the paperwork to be done on your own timelines and lets the court handle the rest.
With a DIY divorce, however, there are a few drawbacks to consider.
If you’ve never gone through a divorce before, you won’t know if you’re missing anything or what part of your paperwork could create a legal holdup further down the line.
A divorce attorney can point out things that could become potential issues.
If you want an attorney to review your filings rather than having to contract with them outright, you may be able to just pay their hourly rate for them to review your documents.
Another potential issue is fairness.
If you and your spouse have reached an agreement, things may seem fair, but you could be entitled to more benefits than you realize.
Differences in income or the presence of children are just a couple of factors that can lead to inequity for one spouse.
But the emotions of a divorce can blind you to those inequities.
Enlisting the help of an attorney can help both parties get a fair outcome.
2. Online Divorce Services
If DIY-ing your divorce sounds too daunting, you can still save money by using an online divorce service.
Many online divorce services cost under $400, and you can take care of your paperwork from your computer or even your smartphone.
Online divorce services provide any state-specific forms you need and give you instructions on filling them out correctly.
For added fees, some online divorce services can even have a professional review your documents or file them with the court.
Pros and Cons
Online services are a valid option for a cheap divorce, but make sure you compare the potential benefits and drawbacks.
Although it does have some costs associated with it, using an online divorce service can still be very cost-effective.
You can ensure that you have all the correct forms to file, all while avoiding paying any expensive attorney fees.
Many services are a-la-carte, as well, so you can add on certain services based on your specific needs and finances.
Going back to having the correct forms, this is another perk.
You don’t have to spend valuable time searching for your state’s forms and worrying about whether you have the correct ones.
If you use an online service, all the proper documents are provided to you, so you can be confident you’re not wasting your time or money filing.
The good online divorce websites will provide instructions to help you file your forms in your local courts system and offer a money back guarantee if they are not accepted.
But while you won’t have to worry about vetting your forms, you may have to worry about vetting the website you choose to utilize.
There are always scams being run online, so it’s vital to ensure that the online divorce service you choose to use is legit.
There are many reputable online divorce services out there.
The best ones have a guarantee that the court will accept your paperwork or they will help you resolve or process a full refund.
Some of the Best Online Divorce Options Include:
3StepDivorce.com is highly regarded as the best online divorce option you can choose.
Overall, they are a legitimate online divorce business and you will find their website to be very easy to use, affordable and your divorce documents can be completed quickly.
CompleteCase.com is one of the best online divorce options you can choose, it is not the cheapest or the best overall in our rankings (they are #2) but still a very solid choice.
ItsOverEasy.com is positioning itself as a premium online divorce service for those that want more hands-off options.
Because of the premium “white-glove” service they offer, they also have a premium price tag. Keep in mind, the cost is still far below what using a divorce attorney would cost.
3. Divorce Mediation
If you and your spouse are struggling to reach an agreement that would allow your divorce to be uncontested, you may be able to use mediation rather than immediately jumping to an attorney.
Divorce mediation involves having a third-party mediator help you and your spouse reach an equitable decision.
After reaching a decision in mediation, your mediator or mediation service can help you create a formal contract and advance it to a judge.
Pros and Cons
Let’s look more closely at what mediation involves.
Although mediation can cost money, one of its benefits is that it does cost significantly less than using an attorney and courtroom hearings that come with contested divorces.
Many courts even require couples to attempt mediation before they hear a divorce case.
Using a private mediator can be expensive, but court-appointed mediators are relatively cheap or even free.
You can choose to pay an attorney to be present for mediation, but it isn’t necessary, making the process even more cost-effective.
Going to multiple hearings also takes up a lot of time, so a massive plus of mediation is that it can make things go much faster.
Mediation negotiations are less formal and take up less time than those in court, and it’s much easier to arrange a separate meeting than to try and schedule time in court.
Generally, if mediation goes smoothly, you’ll only need to attend one court hearing so that the divorce proceedings can be finalized.
Minimizing any time spent in court will save both time and money.
However, divorce mediation can have its drawbacks, and you’ll want to keep them in mind should you choose to go that route.
One issue is that mediation does not provide legal advice.
Mediators are simply meant to act as neutral third parties; this is a crucial distinction to keep in mind.
Any decisions reached through a mediator are only meant to be fair for both parties.
If you choose not to have professional legal guidance, you may unwittingly make decisions in mediation that have ramifications further down the road.
Another problem that you may not be able to avoid is an obvious one: mediation may not work for every couple.
Hopefully, the only reason you and your spouse can’t agree is because of something small.
But this isn’t always the case, and situations are not always ideal.
If your spouse is threatening, manipulative or even exhibits narcissistic warning signs, it may be best to consider an alternative route.
4. Attorney Limited Representation
It can be helpful to have an attorney represent you in a divorce case, but perhaps you don’t need them for every part of the ordeal.
Some lawyers offer “unbundled services” or limited representation to their clients.
This allows you to save a bit of money by working with your attorney only as you need to.
With limited representation, you may be able to avoid paying costly unending hourly rates to an attorney and instead only pay a flat fee.
This could be a good option if you file your own paperwork and want a professional to review it or if you want advice following mediation.
Pros and Cons
Full representation from a lawyer can be costly, but sometimes, there’s no replacement for expertise, so this option can be a cost-effective compromise.
As with most alternative legal options, the most significant benefit to limited representation is the benefit to your wallet.
While limited representation is not the cheapest route you could go, it is still much less expensive than contracting full representation with an attorney.
Limited representation can be an excellent option for some situations and can be used in a wide variety of circumstances.
You can use an attorney’s services for something as simple as reviewing an uncontested divorce or as complex as advising you on what you are entitled to when it comes to time with your children.
It’s a beneficial choice for someone who needs some legal advice but can handle a good deal of the rest of the case for themselves.
A downside to limited representation, however, is that it doesn’t work in all situations.
Some divorces present complicated issues, and one spouse may not be able to navigate it on their own or may not be able to emotionally separate themselves from the situation.
In cases like this, having full representation from an attorney may be the best decision, even if it costs more.
With limited representation, you also need to have realistic expectations as a client.
This can be an issue if you don’t; if you’re not fully clear on what limited representation entails, you may find yourself in a problem that your attorney can’t help you out of without full representation.
Carefully consider what you want your attorney to assist with and the scope of what they’re willing to do in a limited representation situation and go from there.
5. Legal Aid or Pro Bono
If finances are tight, you may qualify for legal aid from your state.
A legal aid service can help you by giving you necessary court forms, instructions, and other information.
You may even qualify for having a lawyer from a legal aid organization assist you in your divorce proceedings, especially in cases of abuse.
A legal aid service can also help you find an attorney who will take on your case “pro bono”—essentially, for free.
Your state bar association may also be able to point you toward lawyers who would offer this service.
Pros and Cons
Getting free legal assistance is an incredible benefit, especially during a time as tumultuous as a divorce.
Not having to worry about the burden of hefty legal fees can relieve a lot of stress and concern and save you a lot of money.
Both legal aid and pro bono offerings do not apply to everyone.
Only certain individuals and circumstances merit legal aid.
Seeking out a lawyer to do pro bono work may prove difficult because not all attorneys are willing to take on cases for free.
Another disadvantage of having a pro bono lawyer is that you’re not necessarily choosing your representation.
If you’re forced to go with the first attorney who offers free services, or you use one picked by legal aid, you won’t know their experience level or what they specialize in.
They may lack the competence to handle your specific issues or not even have enough time to devote to your case.
Having a lawyer on-hand free of charge is helpful, but it can also come with some unseen costs.
Why You Should Work Together If You Want To Divorce Quickly and Cheaply (If Possible)
It’s beneficial if you and your spouse are on the same page when it comes to getting a cheap and quick divorce.
This certainly isn’t what everyone wants to hear, and it isn’t always possible, either.
But if there’s a chance that you and your spouse can come to a peaceful agreement, reaching that should be a priority.
Legally speaking, the ideal circumstance for a divorce would be an uncontested one.
In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree on all the divorce-related decisions, such as how to split up assets and how to address parenting.
In contrast, a contested divorce is one in which the spouses cannot agree on these or other decisions.
In this case, going to court may be the only way to resolve the matter, although there are other options.
In the US, many states have a streamlined approach for handling uncontested divorces, usually without even requiring either spouse to see a courtroom.
If you and your spouse can come to an agreement and have an uncontested divorce, you could both save yourselves a whole lot of time, money, and heartache.
This is why it’s essential to work together as much as you can, even though you’re splitting up.
Now you know what options you have available to you for getting a fast and cheap divorce.
But you might have lingering questions about the process.
Below are answers to some frequently asked questions.
Using low-cost divorce options can help keep your costs down and move you through the divorce process quickly.
These are options that are used successfully by people every day, and the financial savings can be huge.
But it’s important to remember that there is a certain amount of risk involved and that all divorce situations can vary.
These are some issues that could arise where having legal counsel may be advisable.
For one, any of the methods listed previously could help you, but they could also harm you.
If you choose an online divorce service or get stuck with a pro bono lawyer that isn’t able to provide the right help, you could wind up struggling with even more issues than you were previously, and you may even owe more money than when you started.
You always have the option to research the services you plan to use, so make sure to take time for that.
Getting the right help is crucial; it’s important to make sure that whatever service you choose is capable of dealing with the issues you’re facing.
For instance, an online service can help with an uncontested divorce.
But if there are complicated assets mixed in and you and your spouse are arguing over how to divide them, an online service may not be the best route, actually you would not even qualify.
Some situations are complex and require more than you may think, so be honest with yourself.
Another area that is notorious for complexity is the court itself.
Legal proceedings can be extremely complicated for the average citizen, and you may not be aware of all the minutiae that come into play for things to be done legally.
Certain timelines for filing and other actions must be adhered to, so it’s important to pay attention and make sure you’re not missing any details.
But if you’re not familiar with all that the law entails, you could miss something.
Unfortunately, no, it’s not possible to get a free divorce.
However, you can do it relatively cheaply if it’s an uncontested divorce.
While hiring an attorney takes the stress off of you and online divorce services fill out the paperwork for you, both of those options cost money.
You can most likely find all of the necessary paperwork online, from an official state government website.
Download these forms, fill them out, and print them.
If you don’t have access to a printer, you can try to get copies of the forms from your county clerk.
You can also fill out a form that proves you don’t have the financial means to pay for the divorce.
If you’re already doing the paperwork on your own, this means the court will waive the filing fees, the cost of copies of the finalized agreement, and any necessary mediation or co-parenting classes.
To waive these fees, you need to prove that you don’t have the funds to pay for the divorce.
Different states will ask for various proof, but it’s typically things like:
- Social Security information
- proof of income
- any welfare or assistance you receive
- tax returns
- proof of outstanding debts
Your state might also have no-cost or low-cost legal aid available.
Each department has specific guidelines for who can use their service, but if you’re near the poverty line, you’ll probably be eligible.
In some states, you can! Hawaii allows a judge to grant a divorce immediately if everything is in order.
Illinois is another state without a waiting period, though some counties require both parties to be present at the same-day hearing.
If you live in Maryland, you can get divorced immediately if both spouses sign a separate settlement agreement.
Other states with no mandatory waiting period include:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Most other states require at least a 30-day waiting period, if not longer.
It’s possible to get an uncontested divorce even if you and your spouse have children.
Therefore the cheapest way is either to do it yourself, with forms from your state government, or to use an online divorce service.
Some online divorce services cost more if you have children.
This is because the software asks additional questions for extra forms.
So while you’re paying more, you’re getting more from the service.
It completes the parenting plan and child support agreement for you.
You can file paperwork for a financial waiver even if you have children.
This can help offset the cost of the divorce without negatively impacting the custody and child support agreements you and your spouse have signed.
No, you don’t need a lawyer with an uncontested divorce.
Technically, you never need an attorney for legal services, as you can represent yourself.
But thankfully, with an uncontested divorce, you probably won’t even have to show up in court.
If you can fill out the paperwork on your own, you can access the forms from your state’s website.
Complete them, file them with the court, and after the waiting period, the judge finalizes your divorce.
Instead of completing the documents yourself, you can pay for an online divorce service.
While this isn’t free, it’s much more affordable than attorney’s fees.
You’re still basically doing everything on your own, though the software fills out the paperwork for you.
You’ll still need to file the paperwork in your county’s circuit court, but there’s no need to have a lawyer do that part for you.
You just pay the fee and the clerk takes care of the rest.
Once the waiting period ends and the judge signs your paperwork, you’re divorced.
Filing for an uncontested divorce doesn’t mean the court finalizes your divorce as soon as you sign the documents.
After you file the paperwork with the court, you might have to wait up to 30 days for finalization.
This is due to the nature of all of the caseload courts have to work.
If your state asks you to attend when the judge signs the decree, you’ll have to wait a little longer as they schedule your appearance.
In some states, there’s a waiting period for your divorce, even if it’s uncontested.
Several states have 60 or 90-day waiting periods, while California requires you to wait six months.
In Hawaii, Illinois, and Maryland there are no waiting periods at all.
Some states impose waiting periods only if you and your spouse have children.
In Kentucky, for example, there’s no waiting period for a couple without children.
If they have children who are minors, however, there’s a 60-day waiting period.
There are also some states that require you to separate before you divorce.
In Louisiana, couples without children must live separately for 180 days before the court will finalize the divorce.
If they have children, the couple must live apart for 365 days.
If you can prove that you’ve done this before filing for divorce, there’s no additional waiting period.
You can find specific information about your state’s residency requirements and waiting periods here.
Double-check the information you find with your county’s circuit court.
Uncontested divorces are cheap because you save a lot of lawyer costs.
Since most of the divorce terms are decided between the couple, you don't need to hire a lawyer to represent you for negotiation.
You can go ahead and fill out the paperwork yourself as well.
There’s no need to hire an attorney to complete the documents for you.
However, if you’d rather not bother with the paperwork yourself, you can find a decent attorney to take that task off of your plate.
Many family law attorneys offer a fixed price for an uncontested divorce.
You’ll want to interview them before you hire them, just to ensure they’ll do a good job and get you what you need.
Otherwise, you’ll only have to meet with them once or twice to give them the necessary information.
The attorney then inputs your data into the state’s divorce paperwork and files it with the court.
Because their part of the divorce is so basic, they only need to charge a certain amount.
One reason that contested divorces are so expensive is that you visit or contact your attorney often.
You have to keep them informed about what’s going on with your spouse.
They have to put in a lot of work trying to decide what you’re likely to get in the settlement.
Then they’ll actually have to go to court to fight for you.
This adds up to a lot of billable hours, which can make a contested divorce incredibly expensive.
It’s easy to get a cheap and quick divorce if your marriage ended on amicable terms.
By working together and agreeing on the terms of your divorce, you’ll avoid a lot of extra costs, extra time and extra STRESS!
An uncontested divorce is quick because you don’t have to fight it out in court.
It’s cheap because you don’t have to pay for an attorney (unless you need one to help you).
Depending on your state’s specific requirements, the court could finalize your divorce in as little as a month, and you could only have to pay the filing fees.
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