In essentially all countries of the world, marriage is a legally binding contract. Dissolving that contract through divorce requires a court order and a strict adherence to local law, including the filing of certain divorce paperwork. This paperwork can be prepared by a divorce attorney, but it is increasingly also available for download from the Internet. Online divorce papers are offered by a great many websites as a way to speed up, simplify, and lessen the cost of legal divorce. The services provided by online divorce sites range from the mere provision of generic forms to complete form preparation services, but no online divorce paper provider can actually grant or guarantee a divorce.
Getting a divorce is typically a very expensive process. Between the lawyers’ fees, the court filing fees, and the time lost to meetings and trials, even the simplest of divorces can consume enormous resources. Some online legal service providers have sought to eliminate some of the hassle and heartache of divorce by offering online divorce services, which usually consist of forms, often state or country specific, that can be filled out online.
The promise of an online divorce can be somewhat misleading. While websites are free to offer or sell online divorce papers, no entity but a court can actually grant a divorce, and divorce forms cannot usually be submitted or served online, either. Online divorce papers are simply papers that are available online, but that must be printed out and filed in hard copy with a court. Internet divorce papers are often considered a means to a do-it-yourself divorce, but no divorce can actually be accomplished single-handedly. All that do-it-yourself means is that, if properly prepared, a person can file for divorce without the assistance of an attorney.
Using online divorce papers can be a cost-saving measure for some couples, but the online divorce process must be entered into with a bit of caution. The biggest risk attached to online divorce papers is that they will not be accepted by a court. Courts in all jurisdictions have specific rules about how divorce papers must be filed, and the rules can be very different in different places. Some rules are substantive, like the order of information or the number of facts included, while others are procedural, like the color or size of the filing paper and the location of hole-punches. Filings that do not meet the requirements can be and often are rejected, adding time and often extra cost to the process.
Not all online divorce paper websites are equal, either. Some offer forms that are too generic, or do not really meet the specifications of the jurisdiction for which they are promised; others, even if accurate once, are out-dated and no longer reflect the current governing laws and specifications. Another problem with using online divorce forms is that the forms typically cannot cover complex alimony and child custody situations, and no document service can actually provide advice.
Online divorce papers are best suited for couples amicably filing an uncontested divorce where there are no major disputes and no assets that cannot be easily divided. Most of the time, online document services will advise clients to get legal assistance if there are serious conflicts. Online divorce papers can be an easy way to get the ball rolling on ending an unhappy marriage, but they are not the right place for hashing out spousal rights or child visitation. Anything that requires court settlement, not just court dissolution, cannot usually be accomplished with papers found online.