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Is an online divorce legit? What the experts say

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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.

Keep reading to learn more about the legitimacy of online divorce, or get started with our No. 1 divorce paper company, 3 Step Divorce, with its money-back guarantee that your divoce papers will be accepted by your local courthouse.

Get a $50 3 Step Divorce rebate if you file within 1 business day >>

Is online divorce legit?

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, as well as the download of printable divorce forms from your state or county court’s website. Ultimately, all divorce documents are filed in a courthouse, in paper form, for all of time.

Online and DIY divorces apply to couples who can mostly work out the terms of their divorce settlement between them, or with the help of a mediator, or with an attorney to sort out some details —  but do not require lengthy litigation or even negotiation.

Susan Guthrie, a Chicago based family law attorney, mediator and coach who serves on the executive council of the American Bar Association’s Section of Dispute Resolution confirms that online divorces are just as legit as those initaited in paper form.

“The answer to the question, ‘Are online divorces legal and legit?’ is,  ‘Absolutely, if done properly,’” Guthrie says. “A divorce itself is a legal process that is conducted through the filing of a civil lawsuit. That lawsuit is essentially procedurally the same as a car accident personal injury case or a breach of contract case. Each court requires certain paperwork to be served, filed and processed through the court. That is essentially what online divorce services do: help people to find, fill out and file the appropriate paperwork to process the legal action.”

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

3 Step Divorce provides all the legal documents you need for a divorce in your state, ability to download the divorce papers PDF immediately, detailed instructions for filling them out and filing them online, for a total fee of $299 — or get started for as low as $84. You can also store your documents online, share them with your spouse or an attorney (for final review), and know the company has an A+ Better Business Bureau rating.

Check out 3 Step divorce now and get a $50 rebate if you file for divorce within 1 business day >>

How does online divorce work?

Typically, either you, or an online divorce service like 3StepDivorce 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:

With pandemic quarantines, many divorce attorneys and mediators are 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 while other states, such as Connecticut, usual did want one or both there for the final hearing.  Again, Covid has changed the landscape and with the courts closed in so many states, the process has been simplified 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.

Filing for divorce 101 — the basics

How quick is an online divorce? How long does it take?

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.

Is online divorce a good idea?

Benefits of downloading your divorce papers online, and filing them online, include:

  • Less expensive than a traditional divorce with lawyers
  • Faster
  • Less drama and conflict. If you and your spouse can come to terms without a judge or attorney, everyone wins!

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 to come to an agreement so that they can finalize that paperwork. 

See how else you can get a divorce without a lawyer.

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

If you think you may need additional support untangling your marriage, mediation may be the next level up (before hiring big-gun lawyers). Divorcenet's mediation service will help you settle your divorce within a few hours with the help of a trained, neutral professional. See if mediation is a better fit with Divorcenet's free 30-minute consultation >>

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:

  1. Identifying what issues must be finalized and all the sub-issues that go with them
  2. Having rational discussions about how they will resolve those issues and coming to agreements
  3. 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:

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

Bottom line: Is online divorce a good idea?

Benefits of downloading your divorce papers online, and filing them online, include:

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. Both spouses will also need to find a way to come to an agreement so that they can finalize that paperwork. 

Before signing on with an online divorce service, ask:

  • Do you operate in my state?
  • Do you offer consultation with a divorce lawyer?
  • Is that included in the initial fee — or extra?
  • Is that consultation by phone or email?
  • How quickly can I expect a response?
  • Will you file my divorce papers for me?

Is online divorce legit?

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.

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.

How quick is an online 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.

Is online divorce a good idea?

Benefits of downloading your divorce papers online, and filing them online, include: less expensive, faster, and less drama.

Is online divorce easy?

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.

Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist, author and expert. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, Elle, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker," her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. As an expert on divorce and gender, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality and multiple state legislature hearings. More about Emma's credentials.

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