The entire process of getting an online divorce is incredibly straightforward and completely legit—provided, of course, that you pick a reputable service.
Read on for the 10-step guide to getting an online divorce.
1. Agree on all the details with your spouse
Using an online divorce site is only recommended if your divorce is uncontested, i.e., you and your spouse agree on all the details. If there are any disputes over major issues, then it’s time to consider hiring an attorney. If you and your spouse agree on division of assets, division of debts, custody of children (and pets), visitation rights, and alimony, then an online divorce is all you need to make it official. Child support is usually determined by state-specific guidelines, although it obviously helps if you and your spouse are on the same page in regard to this issue too.
2. Check that you meet the eligibility requirements
Most states have some form of in-state residency minimum requirement, with the only exceptions being Alaska, South Dakota, and Washington. In most states, the minimum requirement is 3 to 6 months, although several states require one year, and Nevada only requires 45 days. Some states also have county-level minimum requirements (which are usually the same or shorter than the state requirement).
Depending on the state, the minimum residency requirement may be reduced if:
- both spouses live in-state
- the cause of the divorce (usually irreconcilable differences or an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage) occurred in that state
- the couple was married there.
Click here for a list of the divorce requirements in your state.
3. Decide whether to use an online divorce service or your state’s court site
State court websites allow you to download and complete divorce forms, but you’ll be left to do all the work yourself. While this is the cheapest option, it does leave open the risk of making mistakes that you could end up paying the cost for in the future. For a small fee, online divorce services do all the work of preparing the forms for you.
4. Compare online divorce providers
If you’ve decided to use an online divorce service, then it’s time to shop around for the best providers. Here are the top things to look for when comparing online divorce websites:
- Usability. The process should be simple and the online questionnaire should only take a few minutes to complete.
- Price. Online divorce services range from $150 to $500, depending on whether you go for the basic package or need extra features such as a consultation with an attorney.
- Money-back guarantee. The best online divorce services are so confident of success that they guarantee a full refund if your papers are rejected by the courts.
5. Sign up for your chosen provider
After choosing an online divorce site, register for their service and follow their instructions on filing for divorce.
6. Fill out the short questionnaire
The first step with any online divorce service is always a short questionnaire. The top online divorce sites personalize the questions to your state as it helps them provide divorce forms that comply with your state’s regulations. In general, you should expect to have to provide information about income, assets, children, and other factors involved with your specific case.
7. Print out the form and sign it
The top online divorce services offer legally binding, state-specific divorce papers based on templates created with the help of licensed attorneys. Therefore, you can expect the papers to be ready moments after filling out the questionnaire. After receiving the forms, all that’s left to do is print them out, sign them, and prepare to bring them to court.
8. Pay the filing fee
Now that you have your papers, it’s time to file them with the county clerk and pay the filing fee. Like most administrative procedures, divorce filing fees vary from state to state and often from county to county. The average divorce filing fee is around $200, although it can go as high as $450 in some counties in California and Louisiana and as low as $50 in some counties in Mississippi. Many states charge a higher filing fee (usually up to $50) for divorces involving minor children, due to the additional paperwork involved.
9. Serve your spouse
After you pay the filing fee, the county clerk will keep the original documents and give you multiple stamped copies. You will need to have one of these copies served to your spouse using a licensed process service, sheriff, or whoever else qualifies as a process server in your state. The cost of a routine serve (a serve attempted within 5-7 days of receiving the papers) ranges from $20 - $100, according to ServeNow, operator of an online process server search tool.
10. Turn up to court on the scheduled date
Not long after filing the papers, you will receive notice of your court date. If you and your spouse have agreed on an uncontested divorce, then the process should be fairly straightforward. Just turn up to court, show the judge that you and your spouse both understand what a divorce entails, and wait for your copies of the divorce judgment from the county clerk.
The internet has made divorces quicker and simpler
Getting a divorce isn’t completely painless, but it doesn’t have to cost you years of your life or tens of thousands of dollars from your bank account. Thanks to online divorce services, getting a legally binding divorce is now surprisingly easy.