A DIY online divorce, also known as a “do-it-yourself “divorce, is an alternative to traditional litigation. This method involves filing for divorce online and does not require a divorce lawyer. This process could potentially save thousands of dollars on legal fees. DIY divorce websites offer many online options that save divorcing spouses money, time, and stress involved with an uncontested divorce.
Divorce can sometimes be devastating. However, your divorce does not have to become a soap opera. If you and your spouse can agree on the legal and financial issues involved in ending your marriage, you may avoid the stress and anxiety of a divorce trial before a judge. The uncontested divorce process can be relatively quick and usually much less expensive than a traditional contested divorce.
To get an uncontested divorce in Utah, you must reach a settlement agreement on all of the issues in your divorce, such as:
• how to divide real estate and personal property from the marriage
• how to allocate outstanding debts
• whether either spouse will pay the other alimony and, if so, how much
• child support for any dependent children of the marriage, including the responsibility for health insurance and medical/dental expenses; and
• child custody and visitation.
If you’ve already agreed on these issues at the outset of the process (and you file the proper forms, discussed below), you may get an uncontested divorce as quickly as possible (after a brief waiting period) and without having to attend a court hearing. When this is the case, you can probably go through the divorce process without hiring a lawyer. But it’s often a good idea to have an attorney review your settlement agreement to be sure that it’s fair and protects your rights. And you might want to have a lawyer (or a mediator with financial expertise) help draft the agreement if you have the type of assets that are complicated to divide, like retirement plans or a family business.
Even if you and your spouse still have some disagreements when you file for divorce, you might still be able to avoid a trial if you can ultimately resolve those disputes—typically, with the help of lawyers and/or mediation. In fact, when couples have any contested issues after starting the divorce process, Utah requires that they participate in at least one mediation session. However, the longer it takes you to reach a comprehensive settlement agreement, the more you’re likely to pay for things like attorneys’ fees and experts.
Utah’s Residency Requirement for Divorce
Whether you’re requesting a traditional or uncontested divorce in Utah, you must meet the state’s residency requirements: You or your spouse must have lived in the state, and in the county where you file for divorce, for the three-month period just before you file. If you haven’t resided in Utah or the county long enough, you’ll need to wait until you meet the requirement before you can start the divorce process in the state.
Preparing the Uncontested Divorce Forms
The Utah Courts offer an Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP) to help divorcing couples prepare divorce paperwork without an attorney. There are separate packages of forms for the spouse who initiates the divorce proceeding (the “petitioner”) and the other spouse (the “respondent”). To simplify matters, you might instead use an online divorce service that will complete the proper uncontested divorce forms for you, based on your answers to a questionnaire. Some of these services will guarantee that the court in your state will accept the completed forms, so you shouldn’t have to worry about making mistakes.
When you’re filing for an uncontested divorce, the forms will include:
• the petition for divorce, including a request that the settlement agreement be incorporated in the divorce decree
• the settlement agreement, and
• the respondent’s “Acceptance of Service, Appearance, Consent, and Waiver,” acknowledging that the respondent has received a copy of the petition, voluntarily waives the right to respond to the petition, and agrees that the court may enter a divorce judgment according to the requests in the petition.
If you and your spouse have dependent children, you’ll also include forms showing your agreements about custody and support, including:
• a parenting plan and visitation schedule
• an affidavit of the parents’ income and compliance with child-support guidelines, and
• a child-support worksheet.
The required paperwork to complete a divorce in Utah might vary from county to county. Check with your local court clerk for more information and to determine whether you need to file additional forms. (You can also request a hard copy of any required forms from the clerk’s office.)
Filing Your Uncontested Divorce Paperwork
Once you have completed and signed all of the forms, take them for filing to the court clerk’s office in the district court covering the county where you or your spouse have lived for the past three months. You can find locations and contact information for district court at the Utah State Court Directory.
You will need to pay a fee to file the divorce papers (currently $325). If you can’t afford the fee, you can request a waiver. (For more information, see the Utah Courts page for court fees and waivers.) Because the respondent acknowledged receiving the divorce petition (in the forms packet, there’s no need to complete formal service of process.
Completing Your Uncontested Divorce
After the divorce petition is filed, Utah has a mandatory 30-day waiting period before the process can be finalized. The waiting period may be waived only under extraordinary circumstances. Also, before the court may enter the divorce decree, couples with minor children must complete two educational courses: a divorce orientation course and a course on children’s needs during divorce. Because the responding spouse has agreed to entry of the divorce decree under the terms of the settlement agreement, there’s usually no need for a court hearing to finalize your uncontested divorce. Instead, a judge (or court commissioner) will review the paperwork to ensure that it’s complete, reasonable, and in your children’s best interests. If so, the judge will sign the final divorce decree and judgment, which will incorporate your settlement agreement.
Why Opt for Uncontested Divorce?
Uncontested divorce usually requires less time
In a fast-paced world, there are several reasons for choosing an uncontested divorce. The process is generally quicker than a contested divorce because there is no need to appear in court. Although divorces in Utah do require a minimum of 6 months to be finalized, avoiding court will save significant time, money and heartache in any state. The pre-trial process, the appearances in court, the trial itself and the significant delays inherent in any court system, regardless of jurisdiction, add significant time and impediments to receiving a final judgment on your marriage. Settling your issues outside of court is especially helpful if you have children, as you can avoid the tension and trauma of dragging your children though the court’s costly and time-consuming child support and custody proceedings.
Uncontested divorce is cheaper
Because of the speedier nature of an uncontested divorce, the costs are dramatically lower than the costs of a contested divorce. The average cost of a contested divorce in the United States is around $15,000. Conversely, non-attorney uncontested divorces can cost as little as the filing fees.
Retain control and privacy during the process
Another overlooked advantage of an uncontested divorce is the ability of the divorcing couple to maintain privacy and control over the process. Relinquishing control to attorneys and judges forfeits a couple’s ability to be masters of their own destinies and shape the outcome of issues like alimony, child support, and co-parenting.
How Do I Handle Finances In An Uncontested Divorce?
Pro Tip: The difference between common-law and community property
Whether you are getting a traditional divorce, an online divorce or a divorce recourse, it is highly recommended that you seek advice from an investment professional or financial advisor. It is never good to handle investments and finances alone during your divorce. Look for a “Certified Divorce Financial Analyst” in your area. These individuals often act as mediators for both parties, even in uncontested divorces.
In addition to working out the best possible outcome for you financially, divorce experts will help to keep you and your spouse calm during your financial negotiations, especially in discussions related to child support and spousal support. Considering the fact that many couples let their emotions get the best of them during a divorce, this is extremely beneficial for everyone involved. Analysts are used by many individuals worldwide, both during traditional divorces and online divorces.
Figure out if you live in a Community Property or Equitable Distribution state
The geographic area you and your spouse reside has a big impact on how assets and debts will be allocated after your divorce.
Community Property states – Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and U.S. territory of Puerto Rico – determine that any assets or debts acquired before the marriage are considered personal property, and anything acquired during the marriage is community property.
All other US states follow Equitable Distribution, which requires a judge to decide what the fair split of community property should be. This usually results in the higher-earning spouse getting two-thirds of the property, and the lower earning spouse getting one-third.
Understanding which financial process you and your spouse are required to follow based on where you live is the first important step to managing your finances in a divorce.
Pro Tip: How Divorce Can Impact Your Inheritance
Identify Assets and Debts Acquired Before Your Marriage
Take time to conduct an audit of your finances to identity what was acquired before and after your marriage. This will enable you to assess your personal property independently of your community property. Unfortunately for those who learn this after the fact, it may already be too late. Asset difficulties are one of the most common issues couples face after splitting up.
Educate Yourself on Divorce and Be Realistic
The divorce experts instead of trying to get everything done quickly, it is important that you spend time educating yourself and being realistic about your financial needs. Often times, individuals who have lived somewhat lavishly find themselves nearly broke after their marriage ends – even if they use more cost-efficient options like an online divorce or divorce recourse. This is usually because couples do not understand how the laws of their state will mandate the division of community property. Yes, it is possible to file your own divorce and complete the process without the aid of an attorney. However before you commence a do-it-yourself (DIY) divorce, consider these tips.
You’re probably a good candidate for a DIY divorce if:
• you and your spouse are in agreement on all issues (division of property, custody, and support);
• you’re satisfied that you have complete information about your family’s assets and debts and these are fairly simple; and
• you’re comfortable with the arrangements for your children in terms of custody and support, and shared parenting time. In other words, you believe the settlement is fair and reasonable.
Do You Have the Time and Temperament?
Sure, you want to save the money, but do you have the time to research your state’s law, gather the documentation, and follow through with court filings and appearances? At the same time, you will need an even temperament to deal with the roller coaster of emotions that may be in play even if you and your spouse are in complete agreement as to the process.
If only one or two issues are standing between you and your spouse attempting a DIY divorce – say, for example, visitation rights don’t give up. You and your spouse may achieve consensus and resolution through the use of a divorce mediator, a professional who can bring closure to many controversial divorce issues. Similarly, if emotional issues are creating a wedge, a counselor may be able to facilitate an end to the gridlock.
Mediated Divorces Save Money
Divorce mediation is a great way to handle a divorce if you and your spouse can’t quite agree on all the important terms. There are serious and long-term tax considerations for some divorces. Before signing off on a DIY divorce filing, you may want to consider consulting an accountant, financial advisor or tax preparer who can alert you to the potential tax issues post-divorce. And don’t forget www.irs.gov, where the IRS offers free information about all the tax issues related to divorce.
Avoid DIY If There Is Anger or Deception
If your spouse is a cauldron of unresolved anger, such that the spouse is a danger to you or your children, then a DIY divorce is not appropriate. It’s also not appropriate if you have a reasonable belief that your spouse is hiding money or transferring joint assets out of your control.
Start With Your County Clerk
Although counties differ, most county clerk’s offices provide you with some of the basic information required when filing your own divorce. (Sometimes this is available at your county clerk website so check there first.) The clerk cannot give legal advice and may refer you to a county law library if one is available. State court websites should provide information about where your local court is, which branch you should use, clerk’s hours, and sometimes filing fees. (You can find state court sites here or here.)
Check out Legal Document Preparers
In some places, there are businesses that prepare the paperwork for uncontested divorces. These folks may be called paralegals but are commonly referred to as legal document preparers, or LDPs. Legal document preparers aren’t allowed to give you individualized legal advice. (Only licensed lawyers can do that.) However, they can prepare forms, using the information you supply, and file them with the court. So when you visit a document preparation business, you’ll get a questionnaire that asks you for the information the preparer needs to fill out court forms for your county. The LDP will transfer the information onto the forms, and then either you or the LDP can file them with the court. The fee for doing the paperwork for an uncontested divorce varies from about $175 to $700, depending on where you live, whether you have children, and whether you need a separate settlement agreement (which depends on how your state’s forms are structured). Because the quality and reliability of such services can vary greatly, do a little checking before settling on one.
Web-Based Divorce Services
Some document preparation services interact with customers only through the Internet, which may be a boon to you if no walk-in service is available close to where you live. You’ll answer questions on the website, and the forms will emerge from your computer or be mailed to you a few days later. You’ll need to file the forms with the court yourself.
In some cases, the web-based service will arrange for the filing. The cost is usually a few hundred dollars (typically between $200 and $500) and differences in price often relate to the speed with which the documents are prepared. Again, a little research about the service can help, particularly any online reviews. Some sites display a seal for the Better Business Bureau online, which means you can check on a report for that company at www.bbbonline.com. Not having the seal doesn’t mean that the product isn’t good, but use your judgment and spend some time looking around for what will work best for you. And while getting your documents immediately may seem appealing, check to be sure they’re being reviewed before you get them.
Lawyers Have Their Advantages
There’s a reason why lawyers charge high fees. They’re often aware of long-term concerns that you may not consider, for example, whether a court will “impute” future income to a spouse who has bright financial future. Lawyers also offer a shield – all correspondence and contact can be directed through the lawyer’s office if things get ugly. And lawyers may have a better bead on child custody issues and what the court considers as a parenting plan that has the child’s best interests.
Talk to Some Lawyers First
If you’re not sure that a Do-It-Yourself divorce is the right choice, talk to some divorce attorneys first. Initial consultations are often free, and offer you a chance to explain the circumstances of your case to a professional. You may be able to get some good information quickly to help decide if you need the guidance and protection of a lawyer on your side.
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It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!
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