Divorce is notoriously painful— emotionally, logistically and financially. However, there is a large and growing movement to help people divorce with as little conflict and expense as possible.
The cheapest way to divorce is to negotiate a settlement and file yourself in your local courthouse.
There are many online services that can help make the process simple and affordable if you want to file on your own, including Divorce.com in your state:
How to get a cheap divorce in 2023?
The cheapest divorce you can get is a $70 filing fee (average throughout the state) in Wyoming — assuming you and your spouse agree to the terms and file yourself without any outside counsel or support.
If you are wondering what makes divorce expensive, the cost of divorce can quickly go up as hourly attorney fees can average $300 or more in coastal cities, bringing even an average divorce bill to $20,000 or more per spouse.
You do not need to pay for divorce papers because you can find free divorce papers at your local courthouse.
Where can I get free divorce papers?
When you are looking for a cheap divorce, you can get divorce papers — often for free — for yourself, by contacting your local courts. Many states provide online divorce papers for free or for a low price.
Whether you print free divorce papers from your local courthouse’s online website, your attorney emails them to print at home, or an online divorce service provides them to you, these are typically going to be the same, official divorce documents that you would get in-person from your local courthouse.
There should be no problem with the state recognizing your divorce papers if you print free divorce papers you get online, as long as they are from a reputable source.
What to know about the paperwork to get a cheap divorce
Divorce papers can be very complicated and hard to understand. Here is what you need to know:
- What paperwork do I need for divorce?
- Which divorce papers need to be notarized?
- How are divorce papers served?
What paperwork do I need for divorce? What divorce papers look like
Each state has its own terminology for the different papers required to file and complete the divorce, but this the typical paperwork:
- Petition for dissolution of marriage — This kicks off the divorce, listing all assets and children involved in the proceedings, and is generally served by one party to the other, with a request for response.
- Settlement agreement to document how all assets and debts will be divided.
- Summons — These papers inform each party that the divorce has been initiated, and tell each party that they should not change insurance policies or joint financial accounts, or sell any property.
- Custody agreement or divorce settlement — Hopefully, you and your spouse will not go to court to settle your divorce, but instead agree to terms of the split either with attorneys or between the two of you. These terms are documented in a divorce settlement, and filed with your divorce papers.
- Marriage license — information about when and where you married.
- Financial documents, including recent pay stubs, tax returns, deeds and mortgages, debts — used to help with property division
- Divorce decree — This is the final, signed and sealed divorce document.
Learn more about the basics of the process in this post, including costs.
If you have hired an attorney or mediator to process your divorce, they will provide divorce papers for you — all while charging you a high hourly rate.
Which divorce papers need to be notarized?
Typically, you will need to get these divorce papers notarized:
- Initial divorce filing
- Financial documents
- Final divorce settlement agreement
How are divorce papers served?
If you and your divorce have an uncontested divorce, you will sit down together or with a mediator and work out the details of the separation and file together.
However, you may choose to file for divorce in your local courthouse and serve your spouse papers. Each state has different requirements for proof of service, so check with a local clerk, but you may document that your soon-to-be ex was indeed served divorce papers by:
- Certified mail
- Process server — this can be a professional service, a local law enforcement office (police or sheriff) or you can ask a friend. Any process server will have to sign and have notarized an affidavit that they served the other party.
- By publication. Take out a classified ad in your local newspaper — this is cold, but may be useful if you do not know where your spouse lives.
Divorce papers fake? How do I know if my divorce papers are real?
You can always get divorce paper forms yourself directly from your local courthouse. Once the divorce is filed, you can check on its status through the clerk, and most states have an online tracking system.
If you are working with an attorney or mediator, that professional should give you the case number so you can track it yourself.
Fake divorce papers are rare, though occasionally a news story appears about local businesses charging divorcing couples to file their papers, but not actually doing so.
Bottom line: How to get a cheap divorce and (relatively) hassle free
Online divorce and 100% DIY divorces are not for everyone. A few pitfalls of this path include:
- You may find the filing process intimidating or even impossible
- It can be easy to make mistakes in the legal process, delaying finalizing the divorce
- Without professional advice, you might agree to a settlement you later regret. That explains why low-conflict, low-cost options like mediation and collaborative divorce, both of which include trained professionals devoted to low-conflict divorce, are gaining popularity.
- This is usually not an option for a contested divorce. Filing online is an option for an uncontested divorce.
However, if you choose to do it yourself, it could result in a low-cost divorce.
Learn more about divorcing online and what services and resources are available should you decide this is the best option for you in your state:
RocketLawyer is an online service that provides dozens of divorce-related paperwork including separation agreements, divorce worksheets, custody agreements, property division worksheets and more. RocketLaywer allows you to either buy individual legal papers for $39.99 each, or get unlimited documents for a subscription of $39.99 monthly.
You can get divorce papers, often for free, for yourself, by contacting your local courts. Many states provide online divorce papers for free or for a low price online.
Typically, you will need to get these divorce papers notarized:
initial divorce filing, financial documents, and final divorce settlement agreement.