10 Top Tips for Divorce DIYers

Get some to-the-point guidance on whether to handle your own divorce and how to move forward without a professional.

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Do-it-yourself divorce means leaving the attorneys out of the equation and saving money. But not all cases are good for DIY, and how you approach DIY can impact the outcome and your stress level along the way. Before moving forward with your case, check out these 10 tips.

1. Is It for You?

You're probably a good candidate for DIY divorce if:

In other words, DIY could be right for you if you believe the settlement you're looking at is fair and reasonable.

2. Have You Got the Bandwidth?

On the one hand, DIY divorce allows you to save money. But do you have the time for researching state law, gathering documentation, and dealing with court filings and appearances? (Quick note: we've got info below on help with a DIY divorce.) You'll also need a cool head to deal with the potential rollercoaster of emotions even if you and your ex are fundamentally in agreement as to what's fair.

3. Is Mediation an Option?

If there are only a few sticking points between you, your spouse, and agreement, you might want to consider a divorce mediator. Using a mediator takes you out of the true DIY category, but it's a popular route that can spare you full-on litigation. See our section on divorce mediation to find out how it works and whether it's a good option for you. And keep in mind that if emotional issues are creating a wedge, a counselor may be able to help.

4. Have You Thought About Taxes?

Before signing off on a DIY divorce, you might want to think about talking to an accountant, financial advisor, or tax preparer about potential tax issues post divorce. After all, divorce can result in some serious long-term tax considerations. Also, www.irs.gov offers free information on the topic.

5. Is There Anger or Deception?

If your spouse is full of anger, then DIY divorce won't be a good option. This is especially true if you or your children are in any sort of danger. Similarly, it won't work if you suspect they might be hiding money or transferring joint assets out of your control. (For more, see our section on hiding money before a divorce.)

6. Have You Considered Online Divorce Services?

Online divorce services can be handy and affordable. With some providers, after answering questions on the website, you'll print off the forms (or they'll be mailed to you) and file them with the court. Burt some web-based services will handle the filing. The cost is typically $150 and upward. Before engaging any service, you'll want to do your research and read the reviews.

7. What About Legal Document Preparers?

Some other businesses will take care of the paperwork for uncontested divorces. While these legal document preparers (LDPs) can't give you legal advice, they will handle your forms and file them with the court. Their fees typically range from around $175-700. Quality and reliability will vary, so again, it pays to do your research. Before working with an LDP, make sure your state allows LDPs to do this kind of work, dig into how much experience a given LDP has, and read online reviews. If possible, get a reference.

8. Have You Tried Your County Clerk?

If you want to do true DIY (rather than using one of the services above, which do much of the work for you), you'll probably want to touch base with the county clerk's office. Depending on where you live, your county clerk should be able to provide you with some of the basic information for filing your own divorce. (Check their website first to see if that has the info you need.) The clerk can't give you legal advice but may refer you to a county law library.

9. Is It Time to Call a Lawyer?

Lawyers charge high fees for a reason. They're often aware of long-term concerns that you may not consider, and they can act as a shield when things get ugly–all correspondence and contact can go through their office. Plus, lawyers may have a better handle on child custody issues and what the court considers a parenting plan that has the child's best interests. Remember, initial consultations are often free. Talking to an attorney gives you a chance to explain 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.

10. Take a Quiz

If you've gotten this far and feel at all unsure about whether DIY divorce is right for you, why not take our quiz? It'll give you quick feedback on your options when it comes to resolving your divorce.