What is a do It Yourself Divorce?

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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 24 July 2019
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A do it yourself divorce is a divorce completed without the assistance of attorneys. Instead of hiring lawyers to complete divorce proceedings, a couple reaches their own agreement about the divorce and files the papers themselves. After divorce papers are filed, the spouses represent themselves in court. Occasionally, if one spouse has gone missing, the abandoned spouse may also file a do it yourself divorce on the assumption that the absent spouse is not going to initiate a court battle. While some spouses may consult an attorney during the process, the attorney simply acts in an advisory role.

When couples are generally in agreement about getting a divorce and how they want to settle their affairs, a do it yourself divorce can save time, money, and emotional energy. Many spouses have found that the presence of lawyers in a divorce can actually exacerbate acrimony and contribute to both the length and cost of the proceedings. If the couple is still on good terms, their mutual goodwill can cause them to create an agreement that serves the needs of both parties as well as their children. Not all jurisdictions may be amenable to do it yourself divorces, so this may not be an option for all couples.


Couples who get a do it yourself divorce often obtain the appropriate forms for filing divorce at their local courthouse or through the courthouse's website. There are also services that specialize in preparing these legal forms for couples. These services may be operated by an attorney or by paralegals who are familiar with how to appropriately fill out divorce forms. One risk of a do it yourself divorce is that a couple who is not experienced in legal matters may make mistakes in completing necessary forms. This can delay the divorce and cost a couple money.

Do it yourself divorce is generally an option only for those entering an uncontested divorce. If a divorce is contested, which means that the spouses are in disagreement over whether to get divorced, the grounds for divorce, or child custody issues, a purely do it yourself divorce could prove disastrous for one or both parties. In such cases, it is best to at least solicit the advice of a divorce attorney who can inform a spouse about his rights and what he can reasonably expect of the divorce process. Without this legal advice, a spouse may find herself in a very bad, and sometimes permanent, situation in which she is required to financially support her spouse or loses property to which she might otherwise have a right.



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