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.
Online divorce options start as low as $139 (plus state filing fees), and most take less than an hour to complete.
Our top choice for online divorce is Divorce.com, which has more than 22 years of experience and has been endorsed by celebrity divorce attorney Laura Wasser (Kim Kardashian, Angelina Jolie, Britney Spears).
If you’re asking yourself, “Is online divorce legit?” The answer is yes. You can get divorced without a lawyer as long as your divorce is uncontested.
We’ll cover the pros and cons of online divorce to help you make the best decision for your situation:
Is an online divorce legit?
Online divorce is a legit option if your divorce is uncontested, meaning you generally agree on how to divide your assets and if there are children involved, how to settle issues like child support and custody schedules.
“If you have a simple, ‘walk away’ divorce, online divorce services can be great,” says Molly Rosenblum, founding attorney of The Rosenblum Allen Law Firm in Las Vegas, Nev. “They are fast, cheap and efficient.”
However, Rosenblum says you “get what you pay for” when you use an online divorce service.
In her Nevada practice, which handles family law, criminal defense, and civil cases, Rosenblum helps people who had difficulty navigating online divorce forms. She says these people end up paying more because their forms are not filled out correctly or were improperly served, among other issues.
That’s why it’s important to read reviews and choose a divorce service — like Divorce.com — that offers a money-back guarantee if your forms aren’t accepted in court.
Rosenblum says you need to gauge the level of support you need before deciding to use online divorce services.
For example, online services aren’t the best choice if you don’t agree on how to:
- Raise your children
- Divide property, debt, and assets
- Handle a shared business
She says you should stay away from options with rock-bottom prices that don’t provide access to an attorney.
“A service that promises a complete divorce for ridiculously low fees is likely hiding costs and not giving you good service,” Rosenblum says. “If you have even a modicum of complication in a case, my suggestion is to at least talk to a lawyer before paying money for an online divorce service.”
Most states allow you to file your divorce papers online, and there are many online divorce paper companies that help with the process — some of them of questionable repute, but several that are very legitimate, with high Better Business Bureau ratings and customer reviews.
If you’re currently shopping around for an online divorce service, we put together a list of online divorce services with reviews and pricing info.
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:
- 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
Rosenblum, who 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, says:
“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.”
Who should seek a divorce without a lawyer?
Rosenblum typically recommends a divorce without a lawyer when couples:
- Do not have children
- Do not share property or debt
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 to fill out your divorce papers for you. Then, you can print, sign and file the papers with your local courthouse.
Can I file for divorce online?
Yes! In most states it is possible to file some or all of your divorce papers online. Nearly everyone who files online has an unmessy, uncontested divorce. Before you sign with an online divorce service, make sure the company has:
- High Better Business Bureau rating
- Some kind of money-back guarantee
- Clear instructions for filing
- Strong customer service
- Clarity about what is included in the fee
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.
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 to fill out your divorce papers.
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.
How online divorce services can help with your paperwork
Legit online divorce services can help you complete and prepare your paperwork for filing in the appropriate court in your state.
Typically, either you, or an online divorce service like Divorce.com or others described below, will download and prepare the documents according to your state guidelines.
But before that, there must be a discussion — typically several discussions — between you and your ex-husband or ex-wife to discuss and agree upon many points of the end of the unhappy marriage. These agreements are then summarized in a settlement agreement, and filed with the court.
Points on a settlement agreement often include:
- Time-sharing of children
- Guidelines and rules for co-parenting
- Child support
- Child custody
- Coparent schedule
- Coparent communication
- Coparent calendar
- Use of a co-parenting app
- Division of any assets, including the family home, jewelry retirement accounts and other investments
- Division of divorce debt
Since the time of pandemic quarantines, you’ll find that many divorce attorneys and mediators are still open to working online and offering services via video-conferencing.
In addition, several states, such as California, have not required parties who have an agreement on all issues to appear in court in most cases.
Other states, such as Connecticut, require the presence of one or both parties there for the final hearing. Again, Covid has changed the landscape, simplifying the process to allow online filing and final hearings without appearing in court or by appearing via video conference.
All in all, the vast majority of couples can process their divorce completely online without ever setting foot in a courtroom and the technology only continues to get better!
My one caveat would be that if you are processing all of your paperwork yourself through an online service, and submitting any type of agreement to the court, it is always a good practice to have an attorney review it first. These are legal documents that will have an impact on your life, and that of your children, for many years to come, so it makes sense to make sure that agreement is what you want it to be.
The good news? You can likely meet with that attorney online and just pay for the hour or two it takes them to review and discuss with you.
How quick is an online divorce? How long does it take?
An online divorce service can help save you some time in the actual filing of the paperwork. But, be aware that it will take you some time to gather all of the information to fill in the divorce forms.
Plugging in the data could take as little as a half hour, depending on the divorce service you use. Once you file, it can typically take about 30 days to complete an uncontested divorce, with very few questions asked.
However, the time it takes to divorce varies greatly by location — even by county. Some states require wait periods of six months or more — and then whatever time it takes the court to finalize the documents (this can take a while if there is a backlog).
Is online divorce easy?
Yes! Filing a divorce online is typically much easier than standing in line at the courthouse to do the same. You are a good candidate for an uncontested, online divorce if:
- You do not have a lot of assets to divvy up
- You do not have a lot of debt
- There is no complicated business that is in dispute
- You can easily come to an agreement about child custody and child support
Regardless if you DIY or go a low-conflict route, the whole process can be a little messy, says attorney and mediator Susan Guthrie.
“In order to finalize a divorce without need for a trial, the parties must reach an agreement on all outstanding issues (generally around their finances and their children), put it all into a properly drafted agreement that is signed by both and submitted to the court, again with the correct accompanying paperwork,” Guthrie says, adding:
“The biggest issue that arises is that people can have a hard time:
- Identifying what issues must be finalized and all the sub-issues that go with them
- Having rational discussions about how they will resolve those issues and coming to agreements
- Putting those divorce settlement agreements into a form the court will accept.
Therefore, there is really much more involved in resolving a divorce in-person or online than just filling out the paperwork, although that is a part of the process. The parties will also need to find a way come to an agreement so that they can finalize that paperwork.”
Which states allow online divorce?
Not every state allows online divorces, and not every couple qualifies for an online divorce. Check out the rules in your state.
Bottom line: Is online divorce a good idea?
So, is online divorce a good idea for you?
Online divorce is a good idea if:
- You are pursuing an uncontested divorce (both parties agree on all terms)
- You don’t have children OR you agree on things like child custody and child support
- You don’t have complex financial issues (such as debt, high assets, or a shared business) OR you agree on how to divide your assets
- You choose a reputable service that offers attorney access and help with paperwork completion and filing
If you have complicated issues or a hard time understanding the divorce process, it may be worth consulting an attorney or paralegal before filing. Some offer a free, initial consultation to help you gain a basic understanding of what’s necessary to file for divorce.
Benefits of downloading your divorce papers online, and filing them online, include:
- Less expensive than a traditional divorce with lawyers [places you can find free or cheap divorce papers]
- Faster than working with a lawyer
- Less drama and conflict. If you and your spouse can come to terms without a judge or attorney, everyone wins!
For online divorce, we recommend Divorce.com because:
- $299 total
- Speak with an attorney for $75 initial fee
- Mediation available for $49 initial fee
- Ready to file within 2 business days
- Edit papers free for 30 days
- Endorsed by celebrity divorce attorney Laura Wasser (Kim Kardashian, Angelina Jolie, Britney Spears)
- A- Better Business Bureau rating (parent company CompleteCase)
- Option to have Divorce.com file on your behalf for additional fee
Yes! Online divorces are just as legitimate and just as good of an idea as filing in-person at the courthouse, if your state allows it. Most states allow at least some of the divorce papers to be filed online.
Yes! In most states it is possible to file some or all of your divorce papers online. Nearly everyone who files online has an unmessy, uncontested divorce.
The time it takes to divorce varies greatly by location — even by county. In some places you an uncontested divorce can be completed within 30 days, very few questions asked. Other states require wait periods of six months — and then whatever time it takes to work through the backlog of your local courthouse.
Benefits of downloading your divorce papers online, and filing them online, include: less expensive, faster, and less drama.
Yes! Filing a divorce online is typically much easier than standing in line at the court house to do the same. You are a good candidate for an uncontested, online divorce if: you don't have a lot of assets, debts, or businesses to divvy up.