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Yes, you can get a divorce without a lawyer.

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Getting a divorce doesn’t have to be an overly expensive or drawn-out process. In many cases, you can get a divorce legally, fairly, and quickly without hiring a lawyer.  

Christine Michel Carter of Baltimore, Md., initially consulted with an attorney before she divorced her husband in 2017 but ultimately decided it would be easier to handle on her own.

“I used a downloaded Maryland Settlement Agreement, divided our assets, had my aunt as a witness, and got our agreement notarized,” Carter says. “I made the entire process more than fair — the courts even increased the amount of child support awarded to me.”

If you’re looking to get divorced without a lawyer, you can use an online divorce paper service like 3 Step Divorce, which offers a 100% money-back guarantee and a $50 rebate. 

Start the divorce process online for just $84 now at 3StepDivorce.com >>

Or see if you qualify to divorce without a lawyer in your state:

AlabamaAlaska
ArizonaArkansas
CaliforniaColorado
ConnecticutDelaware
District of ColumbiaFlorida
GeorgiaHawaii
IdahoIllinois
IndianaIowa
KansasKentucky
LouisianaMaine
MarylandMassachusetts
MichiganMinnesota
MississippiMissouri
MontanaNebraska
NevadaNew Hampshire
New JerseyNew Mexico
New YorkNorth Carolina
North DakotaOhio
OklahomaOregon
PennsylvaniaRhode Island
South CarolinaSouth Dakota
TennesseeTexas
UtahVermont
VirginiaWashington
West VirginiaWisconsin
Wyoming

Experienced divorce attorney’s take on getting a divorce without a lawyer

According to Molly Rosenblum, founding attorney of The Rosenblum Allen Law Firm in Las Vegas, Nev., where she and her team focus on family law, criminal defense and civil cases. Rosenblum is a member of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, a certified parenting coordinator, and an award-winning pro bono volunteer with the Southern Nevada Legal Aid Society:

“In cases where spouses decide the marriage is over, and they have acquired no community property or community debts — and they have no children — a DIY divorce can be quick and painless. 

The other circumstance is when spouses have agreed on everything, including dividing assets and debts, alimony, and children. In this circumstance, we still recommend having a lawyer look over the paperwork, but when spouses agree, it may not be necessary to hire separate lawyers.

In circumstances where there are contested matters such as alimony, child support, child custody or division of assets and debts — or any time there is a business involved — we recommend hiring an attorney. If there are complicated issues such as special needs children, enforcement of a prenuptial agreement or divisions of pensions/retirements, hiring a lawyer is a good idea. 

Overall, if the case is contested and/or complicated, it is best to hire an attorney, even if it is just  to review the paperwork you drafted yourself.

In Las Vegas, for example, our family court offers the Ask-A-Lawyer program, which gives participants 15 minutes with a divorce lawyer to ask questions and have paperwork reviewed for free. Also, our law school, Boyd School of Law at UNLV, teaches classes in association with Legal Aid on child custody and divorce that is offered to the public for free.”

Can you get a divorce without a lawyer?

According to Rosenblum, you can absolutely get a divorce without a lawyer — as long as your circumstances are uncomplicated (i.e. you don’t have kids, don’t share property/debt, or you generally agree on how to split assets/co-parent your children). 

Rosenblum recommends divorcing couples at least consult with an attorney (many offer free consultations) to become familiar with their state’s divorce proceedings before moving forward without a lawyer.

Christina Russo of Beaufort, S.C., has been divorced for three years. She and her ex-husband decided to get a divorce without a lawyer because of their amicable relationship.

“It was easier, cheaper, and neither of us wanted to argue about money or property, so we didn’t see any need to involve any third parties,” says Russo, who remains friends with her ex post-divorce. 

She says the whole process of divorcing without a lawyer went smoothly, and she recommends it to anyone who wants to avoid paying expensive legal fees, “provided you and your partner aren’t at each other's throats.” 

Who should seek a divorce without a lawyer?

Rosenblum typically recommends a divorce without a lawyer when couples: 

  1. Do not have children
  2. Do not share property or debt

OR  

  1. Have agreed on how to divide their assets and handle debts, alimony, and child custody

AJ Silberman-Moffitt of Pompano Beach, Fla., didn’t hire a lawyer when she divorced her first husband because they were young and didn’t have any children or shared assets. She did, however, hire a paralegal to guide her through the divorce process and serve her ex-husband with the divorce papers. 

“I compare my divorce situation to doing my income taxes,” AJ Silberman-Moffitt says. “I could get the paperwork from the IRS and submit the taxes myself, or I can hire a professional accountant and have them do them for me. Instead, I pick the middle ground and pay for an online tax service that guides me through the process of submitting my taxes.” 

Another “middle ground” option for filing for divorce is using an online divorce service like 3 Step Divorce, which uses an online questionnaire to fill out your divorce papers for you. Then, you can print, sign and file the papers with your local courthouse.

3 Step Divorce has been in business for 25 years and has been featured by Forbes, CNN, USA Today and NPR. They have a 4/5-star rating on Trustpilot, with 90% of reviews rating them Great or Excellent. 

Get started with 3 Step Divorce for $84 today >>

When should you consider hiring a divorce attorney?

Overall, if the case is contested and/or complicated, it is best to hire an attorney, even if it is just hiring the attorney to review the paperwork you drafted yourself, Rosenblum says.

These are some circumstances that a divorce attorney can help divorcing couples navigate: 

  • Alimony
  • Child support
  • Child custody (including custody of special needs children) 
  • Division of assets and debts
  • Division of pensions/retirement savings
  • Joint business ventures
  • Prenuptial agreements

5 steps for how to get a divorce without a lawyer

If you plan to get a divorce without a lawyer, Rosenblum recommends following these steps: 

1. Familiarize yourself with the laws in your jurisdiction. 

This is some basic information you should know before filing on your own: 

  • Whether your state is a community property state, where nearly all assets acquired during the marriage (property, debts, income, etc.) are split 50-50
  • Whether your state considers fault in divorce, which can affect how property is divided and whether alimony is granted
  • How child support is calculated
  • Whether your jurisdiction has a preference for joint physical custody
  • How your state handles dividing pensions/retirement savings

In most cases, you can find the answers to these questions on your state or county courthouse website or by searching for the answers on Google for your specific county/state — for example, “Is Pennsylvania a community property state?” or “How is child support calculated in Orange County, California?”  

These answers may be listed on attorneys’ websites, state or county websites, or websites of nonprofit organizations that help people in your area through divorce or family courts. 

“We often see clients who try to go it alone mess up their case permanently because they simply didn’t know the law,” Rosenblum says.

She says she is currently trying to correct a custody order for a client who assumed his ex would automatically get custody of their children so he filed his own paperwork agreeing to it.

“The idea that moms always get primary is a total myth, but because he wrote in his paperwork mom could have primary, he is now stuck with that,” she says. 

Learn more about divorce requirements in your state:

AlabamaAlaska
ArizonaArkansas
CaliforniaColorado
ConnecticutDelaware
District of ColumbiaFlorida
GeorgiaHawaii
IdahoIllinois
IndianaIowa
KansasKentucky
LouisianaMaine
MarylandMassachusetts
MichiganMinnesota
MississippiMissouri
MontanaNebraska
NevadaNew Hampshire
New JerseyNew Mexico
New YorkNorth Carolina
North DakotaOhio
OklahomaOregon
PennsylvaniaRhode Island
South CarolinaSouth Dakota
TennesseeTexas
UtahVermont
VirginiaWashington
West VirginiaWisconsin
Wyoming

2. Review required documents in your jurisdiction.

To find the documents you need to file for divorce, search “YOUR COUNTY/STATE divorce forms,” then click on the link to your county or state’s judicial website (these websites usually end in .us, .gov, .org, or with your state’s abbreviation — i.e. .pa or .ca). 

You can also get divorce documents by visiting your local courthouse in person (search “courthouse COUNTY/STATE” to find the address). 

In most cases, you can download the forms from these sites for free, though you will have to pay the corresponding fees to file them with your local court. If you cannot afford the filing fees, you may be able to have them waived after showing financial eligibility. 

You can also use a third-party site like 3StepDivorce.com to fill out your divorce papers. We put together a list of 16 online divorce services with reviews and pricing info. We also did more in-depth reviews of: 

Even if you don’t plan to use an attorney to settle the terms of your divorce, Rosenblum recommends asking a lawyer to review your forms, which may be included in a free consultation. 

Cassie Alongi, co-founder of We Buy Any House in California, didn’t have any children but shared property with her ex when she decided to file for divorce without a lawyer. Her local court in Riverside County, Calif., has a self-help paperwork filing department to walk people through their legal paperwork.

“It is a very cost-effective option if and even if it is not amicable,” she says.

3. File and serve paperwork.

In most cases, a copy of the divorce petition or complaint must be filed first with the court — in person or online — then served to your spouse. 

Some states require your spouse to be served in person, typically by a third person not related to either individual or involved in the divorce case. This might be a sheriff/officer or process server, a person who delivers legal documents under a specific direction for a fee. 

Other jurisdictions allow service by mail, which means you mail the documents and complete a declaration to the court stating the date you mailed the paperwork.

4. Wait for your spouse to respond.

Once your spouse is served, you will need to wait the required period of time in your jurisdiction for them to respond. 

If your spouse agrees to the main terms of the divorce, your divorce will be considered uncontested. If your spouse does not agree to one or more of the main terms of your divorce — for example, how to divide shared property, or a custody arrangement — it will be considered a contested divorce and require court or attorney intervention.

Proceeding through a contested divorce will depend on your jurisdiction — some require mediation, while others have a waiting period before finalizing the divorce. Learn how long divorce takes in your state.

If you and your spouse cannot work out the terms of your divorce, you may have to go to court, where a judge will make decisions for you. Alternatively, you can work through the issues yourself, or hire attorneys or mediators outside of the legal process to come to an agreement — which is what the vast majority of divorcing couples do. Very few divorces are heard before a judge.

5. If the divorce is uncontested, complete and submit paperwork.

If your divorce is uncontested, you may be able to submit final paperwork to the judge and be divorced quickly, depending on where you live. 

You and your spouse can discuss and decide the terms of your divorce on your own, or you can work with a mediator, a trained, neutral professional (typically a lawyer) who can help you divide assets, set up custody schedules and child support agreements, and more. 

“Not every case requires an attorney, but it can be helpful to have a lawyer review the terms of the divorce agreement to be sure nothing is missed or to offer advice on clarifying issues,” Rosenblum says. 

Frequently asked questions about filing for divorce without a lawyer

Do I need a divorce lawyer if we agree on everything?

In most cases, you do not need a divorce lawyer to negotiate the terms of your divorce if you and your ex spouse agree on everything, though it may be helpful to hire an attorney or paralegal to review your documents before you file. 

How can I finalize my divorce without a lawyer?

While the process to finalize a divorce without a lawyer will vary by jurisdiction, the process generally involves meeting with your spouse — with or without a mediator — to set the terms of your divorce, then filing your divorce agreement with the designated court in your area. 

“We often encourage our clients to have conversations with their soon-to-be ex to reach agreements — sure is better than having a judge decide your custody, alimony, etc.,” Rosenblum says. 

Can divorce be done without going to court?

In most cases, if you have an uncontested divorce, you do not have to go to court — though laws may vary by jurisdiction. 

“Nevada, for example, allows spouses to submit joint petitions (often referred to as two signature divorces), which is simply paperwork submitted to a judge for signature — no court is required,” Rosenblum says. 

What if I need a divorce lawyer and have no money?

If you need a divorce lawyer but cannot afford one, start by searching for “legal aid centers near me” to see if you qualify for a pro bono attorney through a local organization. 

You can also reach out to a lawyer who offers free consultations for divorces to get enough advice to start filing on your own. 

“Another option, if you find a lawyer you like but can’t afford, ask if they will work with you on payments,” Rosenblum says. “Many lawyers will agree to accept payment plans — you just have to ask.” 

She also recommends contacting a local law school, which may be able to connect you with a newly minted lawyer looking for experience. 

“They may be willing to take your case for free just to have the experience of handling a divorce under their belt,” Rosenblum says.

Learn the cheapest way to get a divorce.

Bottom line: Divorce without a lawyer is possible, but not for everybody

If you want to get divorced quickly without spending a lot of money, divorcing without a lawyer is a great option — but only if you and your spouse can agree on the terms of your divorce or amicably work through any disagreements that may come up.  

A recent survey by Nolo, a company that creates do-it-yourself legal documents, books, and software, found that people who hired a divorce lawyer to handle every aspect of their divorce paid an average of $11,300 in attorneys' fees. The same survey found that people who divorced without a lawyer paid an average of $925. 

Nolo is owned by the same parent company as 3 Step Divorce, a leading divorce papers company, and one of our partners.

If you are ready to file for divorce with a lawyer, we recommend filling out a questionnaire on 3StepDivorce.com, a company with 25 years of experience that offers a 100% money-back guarantee and a $50 rebate. You can get started today for $84. 

Start filing for divorce at 3StepDivorce.com >>

Can you get a divorce without a lawyer?

According to Molly Rosenblum, Esq., you can absolutely get a divorce without a lawyer — as long as your circumstances are uncomplicated (i.e. you don’t have kids, don’t share property/debt, or you generally agree on how to split assets/co-parent your children).

Who should seek a divorce without a lawyer?

Rosenblum typically recommends a divorce without a lawyer when couples: do not have children or share assets and debts. Or, you could if you have agreed on how to divide their assets and handle debts, alimony, and child custody.

When should you consider hiring a divorce attorney?

Overall, if the case is contested and/or complicated, it is best to hire an attorney, even if it is just hiring the attorney to review the paperwork you drafted yourself, Molly Rosenblum, Esq. says.

Do I need a divorce lawyer if we agree on everything?

In most cases, you do not need a divorce lawyer to negotiate the terms of your divorce if you and your ex spouse agree on everything, though it may be helpful to hire an attorney or paralegal to review your documents before you file.

How can I finalize my divorce without a lawyer?

While the process to finalize a divorce without a lawyer will vary by jurisdiction, the process generally involves meeting with your spouse — with or without a mediator — to set the terms of your divorce, then filing your divorce agreement with the designated court in your area.

Can divorce be done without going to court?

In most cases, if you have an uncontested divorce, you do not have to go to court — though laws may vary by jurisdiction.

What if I need a divorce lawyer and have no money?

If you need a divorce lawyer but cannot afford one, start by searching for “legal aid centers near me” to see if you qualify for a pro bono attorney through a local organization.

Leighann Bacher is a writer/editor based in Pittsburgh, Pa. She received her degree in journalism from Kent State University and has since worked for major metropolitan newspapers, marketing firms and city magazines. Leighann was named one of Pittsburgh Magazine's '40 Under 40 Honorees' for spearheading a social media campaign to connect people with COVID-19 vaccines and resources. Her greatest joy is spending time with her two kids and dabbling in her creative passions of photography, dance and art.

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