Can't Afford A Divorce Attorney? Here Are Some Tips For Pro Se Divorces
Getting a divorce is not only a very hard time emotionally, but can be very costly as well. During the divorce, your finances will be up-ended, and you may end up splitting assets and property that leave with far less than you had as a couple. While many attorneys are able to work with clients to help them afford their services, sometimes there is literally no way to afford even the least expensive attorney fees. For those who need to file for divorce themselves without children (which makes the process far more complex) involved, here are some tips to help make this often confusing and painful process easier.
Research State Laws
Each state has its own specific laws regarding divorce and division of property. Most states will have an official website that will tell you whether you live an equitable distribution or community property state. Also find out if your state is a no-fault state. Both the property distribution and fault or no-fault will affect your divorce.
Additionally, most states will have very different laws concerning how long you have to be separated before you can even file for divorce. In some cases, you will also be required to set your trial date yourself, so research your state laws exhaustively so as to not misfile.
Before you separate physically from your spouse and your shared home, make copies of all financial and business papers, including:
- Bank statements
- W2 and tax forms
- Titles for cars, boats or other property
- Retirement or 401K
- Mortgage papers
- Marriage certificate
Most self-completed divorce papers (which can often be found online for free through your county courthouse website) will need the following information:
- All property and asset information
- Cost of living, including rent, utilities and even child care costs
- List of all assets, both sole ownership and joint
Find Pro Se Friendly Judge
Not all judges are equal, and if you are indeed filing a pro se divorce without legal representation, you may be able to ask for a judge who is familiar and comfortable with pro se divorces.
You may be able to call your local courthouse and inquire as to the availability of a pro se friendly judge. In most cases, you will only be allowed to file either in the county where you live now, where your spouse lives, or in the county where you once lived together, so your judge options may be limited.
Filing a divorce on your own is hard, but good preparation and online research can make it possible. You can also speak with a divorce attorney for a free consultation, or may even share an attorney with your ex if the divorce is amicable.