DIY divorce mediation – also known as do it yourself divorce – is an alternative to using a divorce lawyer to obtain a legal dissolution of marriage. This method allows couples to save thousands of dollars on attorney fees, while avoiding the stress that lawyers and court appearances create.
Understanding how DIY divorce works
Do it yourself divorce simply means that a couple prepares and submits their legal divorce paperwork and marital agreement on their own, without engaging a family law attorney to represent their divorce case.
DIY divorce is valid and legal as long as the divorce paperwork and filing fees are submitted correctly, with the approval of both spouses.
Online DIY Divorce
With the advent of legal software and technology, DIY divorce proceedings can now be completed through an online divorce service like It's Over Easy. Online divorce services simplifies the legal process through easy, guided questionnaires embedded in an online divorce navigator that enables couples to generate family law forms with the click of a button.
Using an online platform like It’s Over Easy, you and your spouse can file your petition for divorce, complete your divorce paperwork, negotiate your marital settlement agreement and submit your final divorce package to your local family law court. Our platform can help you include all settlement terms into an enforceable judgment to file divorce papers with the court in your jurisdiction.
Determine if you qualify for DIY Divorce
In order to start the do it yourself divorce process, you and your spouse need to understand how the overall divorce proceedings work and determine if you meet the eligibility requirements.
You and your spouse must apply for an uncontested divorce.
Both spouses must be in agreement about the decision to divorce, with neither party contesting the marriage dissolution. An uncontested, no-fault divorce stipulates that both parties are in 100% agreement on ending the marriage.
Spouses must be able to communicate with each other, and able to work together in an amicable, collaborative divorce.
Although the idea of working together to get divorced may seem contradictory, do it yourself divorce requires couples to engage with each other.
Communication between spouses is often done through family law attorneys during contested divorce proceedings. However, because DIY divorce does not involve divorce lawyers, couples have to navigate complex issues like alimony, child custody, parenting plans and community property on their own.
This means that both parties must:
- know the physical address of their spouse
- be able to speak to each other by email, phone or written correspondence
- communicate in a calm, amicable manner
Without communication, discussions on how to end the marriage can trigger arguments and derail your uncontested DIY divorce. A breakdown in communication can result being forced to hire lawyers, spend thousands and battle the case in family law court.
You and your spouse must agree on all important issues like child custody, support payments and finances.
Even as a couple is ending a marriage relationship, they must work closely as a team in order to successfully separate, achieve an amicable divorce and move on to the next chapter of their lives.
In addition to being able to communicate, you and your partner need to work with each other like a team in order to navigate complicated legal issues.
You and your spouse are required to work together to draft a Marital Settlement Agreement (sometimes referred to as a Stipulated Judgment)
In addition to completing all the required divorce forms, DIY divorce necessitates that spouses negotiate their marital settlement agreement without the assistance of lawyers. This separation agreement, or "Deal", will contain the terms of the divorce that you and your spouse have negotiated and agreed upon.
The agreement will include specification on how the issues below will work after the marriage is dissolved:
- Spousal Support
- Asset and Property Division
- Division of Debt
- Child Custody
- Child Support
In most cases, as long as you and your spouse are on the same page and sign the agreement voluntarily, your divorce case can be finalized without having to appear in court. A family law judge will need to approve the marital settlement and issue a divorce decree in order for the dissolution to be finalized.
As long as the judge determines that the agreement is fair and does not blatantly favor one spouse over the other, the marital settlement is likely to be approved by the court. Once your divorce has been approved, the court will send you a copy of the approved divorce judgment and notice of entry of judgment in the mail.
Both parties are required to have complete financial records and paperwork, including tax returns, bank statements and pay stubs.
The do it yourself divorce process will go smoother if both parties' documentation is well-organized and easy to access. These documents will be necessary when completing your family law forms. Depending on your location, the court may also require that you exchange financial documentation with your spouse and verify the date and method of exchange.
You may need to hire a QDRO attorney if you or your spouse own qualified retirement or pension accounts.
QDRO, or "qualified domestic relation order", is a separate legal order that specifies how retirement benefits should be allocated to a spouse, child or dependent. The order guarantees a spouse's legal right to a portion of their ex-spouse's retirement benefits. Once drafted, the QDRO is submitted to the plan administrator.
Many retirement account plan administrators will require a valid QDRO before paying benefits to a former spouse. QDRO agreements are specialized documents that will need to be prepared by a licensed QDRO attorney.
Beware of using someone that calls themselves a "QDRO specialist" but is not a licensed attorney to draft the order. Also avoid using a QDRO template provided by your plan administrator. This could cause you and your spouse considerable money and loss of benefits in the future.
If you and your spouse own significant real estate, assets and/or debts, it is advisable to work with a financial advisor or accountant to calculate tax impact.
Before finalizing your marital settlement agreement, you and your spouse should understand the tax consequences. Working with an accountant or financial advisor will ensure that you have accurate information about taxes you may have to pay in the near or long-term future. You can also visit www.irs.gov to review information provided by the Internal Revenue Service on tax issues related to divorce.
DIY Divorce requires that you and your spouse have a basic understanding of the required family law forms that will be submitted in your divorce package.
While the DIY divorce mediation process may seem simple, it involves hours of time in completing dozens of legal forms, formalizing mutually agreed negotiations between spouses, serving and filing legal papers in court. Additionally, paperwork is often rejected by the court because the forms are not completed in the correct way.
Depending on your state and county requirement, you and your spouse may be required to pay filing fees when submitting your divorce papers in court.
Some jurisdictions require one or both spouse to pay a filing fee when submitting their divorce package. Fees can range anywhere from $200 to $800, depending on the state and county. This filing fee does not guarantee that the divorce will be approved in court.
Both parties should be open to the possibility of seeking legal advice if complicated issues arise.
Even though a DIY divorce service allows couples to avoid using attorneys to represent their divorce case, issues may arise which necessitate seeking legal advice on specific issues.
For example, you and your spouse may need legal counsel on issues like child custody or community property. This should not be seen as a negative, but instead is an effective way to ensure both parties' wishes are fairly and accurately outlined.
Modifying the final divorce decree.
Most people assume that once their divorce settlement agreement has been filed and approved by the court, the terms of their divorce are set in stone. However, this is not always the case. It may be possible for a party to seek a modification of some or all of the terms of a divorce settlement agreement. Parties usually seek modifications of divorce judgments if new circumstances arise that could change child custody, child support, or spousal support arrangements that were reached in the original agreement. For example, if one party has been ordered to pay support, but then loses his or her job, the terms of the agreement might be modified temporarily to account for the change in income.
If both spouses agree to change certain parts of the settlement agreement, they can do so without having to go to court. If a spouse does not voluntarily agree to change a settlement agreement, a motion to ask to change the agreement, or certain parts of it, can be made to the court.