Pro Se Divorce Filing Cuts Costs
Key Points
  • For a simple uncontested divorce, filing without a lawyer, "pro se", has become a very popular option in order to save money.
  • Options available online to prepare your own divorce papers makes the tougher part of doing your own divorce very easy.
  • Some divorce lawyers will offer limited legal representation options, where he or she will just review your self-prepared divorce papers for a set fee which is a fraction of the cost of full traditional representation.

In some cases, spouses who make an uncontested filing a goal can avail themselves of a pro se filing. Pro se means "for oneself." It's ideal for uncontested actions, where no one wants to prove fault and in short-term marriages with no children, easily distributed assets and both spouses working together.

In a pro se filing, one spouse usually completes all the necessary divorce paperwork, and the other spouse agrees to the divorce. The paperwork can be obtained from a variety of sources, including state websites and online divorce companies.

In some jurisdictions, states offer what are called summary or simplified divorce actions that lend themselves to easy pro se filing.

Nothing in a pro se divorce prohibits either spouse from asking a lawyer to review the terms and conditions of the action.

A summary or simplified divorce filed pro se is the least expensive route divorcing couples can take to end a marriage. By definition a summary or simplified divorce is uncontested; formal service of process can be abbreviated; there is no discovery; and the court moves the action through as an administrative procedure. In most jurisdictions, a pro se divorce can be accomplished for a few hundred dollars.

Many couples file pro se using materials obtained online, with software and/or a web-based (online) service that helps divorcing spouses complete and prepare divorce papers, forms, and/or documents for court filing. Their divorce is a more affordable option because they file for divorce without a lawyer.

Uncontested divorces make it easy for a person to appear pro se, but even with this, it is a good idea to review the work of the divorce with a lawyer: It does not make for savings to have an inexpensive divorce and then have to return to court later to renegotiate a livable child support agreement, and a poorly planned divorce that ends in bankruptcy for one or both partners after it is final can more than offset the savings of a pro se divorce.

Other remedies for indigent people include federally funded programs that provide free legal help in civil cases to low-income people, and some bar associations have pro bono programs staffed by attorneys who've agreed to provide free legal representation to eligible clients.

Useful Online Tools

Suggested Reading
The Property Division Handbook The Property Division Handbook
This book will explain in detail the property distribution aspect of divorce and separation. It will focus on the rights each spouse has under certain laws, situations, and circumstances, and how the division of the property will be decided by the court or through negotiation.

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