Written by Laura A. Wasser, Esq. It's Over Easy C.E.O.
So what happens when you know it’s time to move on from an unhappy marriage, but you’re not sure how to pay for it, or if you can even afford to do so?
You may be asking yourself, is divorce only for the wealthy? Absolutely not.
In fact, many people do not even need an attorney to get divorced.
How to get a divorce with no money
The easiest way to proceed if you have no money is to have an online uncontested divorce. A second and less easier option is to just appear in the court and tell the judge what you've already agreed on with your spouse.
Online dispute resolution without attorneys extends to divorce and is a far less expensive path to a legal and binding divorce. For example, at It’s Over Easy online divorce service a full-blown divorce costs $950 plus filing fees. We also provide education and information to give anyone—rich or not—an idea of what to expect in the dissolution or marriage process in every state. Our site also walks people through each step of the process, completes the divorce papers for you, and files the divorce forms with the court. Plus, we educate along the way with articles, blog posts, transcripts and podcast interviews with celebrities and experts all about relationships and Family Law.
Our goal is to make divorce less mysterious, less confusing and less expensive. If a case is extraordinarily complex, however, or there are allegations of domestic violence, it is unlikely that the parties will be able to work things out through online dispute resolution. In this case, legal aid facilities like the Harriett Buhai Center in Los Angeles, divorce workshops like Second Saturday, or pro bono services may be available.
Top 5 Frequently Asked Questions People Have About How Much Divorce Costs
What if I am the stay-at-home spouse/parent and don’t earn the income or control the funds?
There are many myths surrounding stay-at-home moms and dads, including the one that they sit around all day eating bon-bons. Just like the idea of the candy-eating spouse, the concept that anyone is prevented from filing for divorce because they don’t earn an income is ridiculous. The bare minimum cost of any divorce are the filing fees and in many jurisdictions, fees can waived based on financial need. Check your local court website and search online for pro bono divorce services.
What if my spouse has totally depleted our bank accounts and left me with zero or limited cash?
There is a silver lining in a situation like this, and that is that you have a paper trail of the financial activity. Your bank statements may become relevant in your request for spousal support (alimony). Divorce is not something to be entered into without planning. If you are in a situation that is unsafe or may become unsafe, you will need some type of emergency plan that may require some amount of money. As you create your plan, you may also consider enlisting the help of a friend or family member whom you can stay with for a short period of time if it is no longer safe for you to remain at home. We also recommend that you reach out to the national domestic violence hotline to find some local support.
What if we can’t afford a divorce lawyer and we don’t qualify for any of the legal aid programs we have researched?
You can use the online divorce service It’s Over Easy. The cost for a divorce on It’s Over Easy starts from as low as $9 per month, depending on where you live. Alternatively, you can try filing on your own at your local courthouse. The drawback is that you would be responsible for completing your forms accurately on your own and they are notoriously difficult. It’s Over Easy fills the forms out for you and files them with the court on your behalf.
Our money is in a joint account. May I use those funds?
A joint account is used by most households to maintain the community based on mutual agreements of that community. With that said, parties may agree to use the money from a joint account for divorce (dissolution of marriage).
My spouse is dragging out the divorce and says we will go bankrupt before it’s over, what do I do?
The simplest solution (and the least expensive) is to come to an agreement by yourselves. Hiring separate attorneys to represent each of you adds significant cost to your divorce, as does hiring mediators. We encourage families to look at divorce as a business decision. It is fiscally irresponsible to waste; money in a business. We feel the same way about lawyer fees, when they’re not necessary. The more parties argue, the more money the divorce attorneys make, and the less you have for your children and for your next chapters.
Family Law & Self-help
Many Family Law courts also offer self-help programs with tutorials at the courthouse and fee waivers for individuals whose annual income is below a certain amount. Keep in mind that every state has different laws about the character of funds owned by one or both parties. Therefore, it is important to understand whether the state where you live and are filing for divorce is community property or equitable distribution; terms like “joint” (or community) as opposed to “separate property” are important to understand as well because they relate to how spousal support (a.k.a. alimony) and child support are determined, both of which are based on the income and expenses of the parties.
If you’re reading this article, you’re already doing research. Continue to seek information. If your screen time is limited, visit your local library or college/university which usually has computers with full-size monitors available to the public. Search Divorce laws in (your state). Here are a few common search terms that will help get you started: child custody, child support, spousal support, division of assets and responsibility for debt, service of court papers on a spouse, divorce decree, divorce judgment
All of this can seem overwhelming, we know. Take it step by step and gather information before you begin. The more you know, the easier it will be for you to master your own destiny.
Considerations for the Non-earning Spouse
For the non-earning spouse, as you consider your next move, it’s important that you also look for options for employment in your area. If there are job service listings, apply and see who is receptive. Seek assistance creating a budget so that the amounts you receive either as support or employment income can be best used and even at some point reserved for savings. If you don’t have an idea about your finances now, you will once you initiate divorce proceedings and discovery (which is the requesting and production of information incident to a legal proceeding). Your next chapter will be one of knowledge and the possibility of a better, more secure financial future.
Generally, before anyone actually files for divorce, we encourage them to seek counseling and to try working on communication to improve their relationship in other ways. If, however, that proverbial ship has sailed, or there is simply no saving the relationship, there is no point throwing good money after bad. Your limited funds may well be spent moving forward towards your next chapter.
Take some deep breaths and remember, this too, shall pass.
The interesting thing about Family Law in nearly all 50 states is that full disclosure is required – under penalty of perjury. You and your spouse must exchange any and all financial information that either of you has which includes: what you have, what you owe, what you earn and what you spend. This cannot be avoided and if one party is not willing to disclose information, he or she can be sanctioned by the court. Supporting documents can also be subpoenaed from banks and financial institutions like credit card statements and paycheck stubs.
In 2013 I wrote a book called It Doesn’t Have to be that Way – How to Divorce Without Destroying Your Family or Bankrupting Yourself. I wrote it because although I had been practicing Family Law for nearly 20 years, I knew that most people (including myself and the majority of my friends) would never be able to afford the services of a firm like the one where I worked. The book provides general tips and basics of Family Law and instructs people on the questions to ask in different states and legal jurisdictions.
The next step in my mind was to expand the information and put it online, which became It’s Over Easy online divorce service. At the core, It’s Over Easy is a place where people can go to actually file for and complete the divorce process. We’ve added value to this by also providing a list of resources people can use to find and connect with business and professionals who can help with financial, child related, organizational, wellness and other issues which generally arise during and after a separation or divorce. The reason for all of this was my concern that there was not adequate access to justice for those in need.
Divorce, freedom and new beginnings are not exclusively for the wealthy. You too can have access to the legal system. You just may need a bit of support. Hope this helps to point you in the right direction.
About the Author Laura A. Wasser, Esq.
Attorney Laura Allison Wasser is an author, entrepreneur, and Family Law expert with over 20 years of experience. Having handled a number of high-profile, high-net-worth divorce cases, she and her team have developed an intuitive and simple process for uncontested divorces available to everyone. Laura has represented celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Ryan Reynolds, Anna Faris, Jimmy Iovine, Maria Shriver, and Stevie Wonder, but she maintains that divorce is the great equalizer — it terrifies everyone. She has made it her mission to change this by creating It’s Over Easy, which gives divorcing couples an accessible and affordable resource to dissolve their marriage in all 50 states. She is changing the face of divorce by providing education, tools and support for families going through the process and making them available to everyone.
Go to this page about online divorce to learn more.