Nolo Review - DIY divorce

Nolo's DIY legal books, software, and online tools help you finalize your divorce quickly, inexpensively and with as little heartache as possible. Nolo has a Better Business Bureau rating of A+ and nearly 50 years in business. Learn more about Nolo now >>

Here are two facts:

Fact 1: The divorce-complex is designed to make your breakup far more contentious than it probably needs to be, and lots of people make a ton of money from that reality.

Think about it:

  • Your lawyer (and your ex's lawyer) has ever financial incentive to create drama and conflict in this process, which means that you rack up more very (very) expensive attorney fees.
  • States are incentivized to run and enforce child support programs since the federal government provides matching and incentivized funds for these programs.
  • There are dozens of types of professionals who work for the family court system, who have financial incentives for divorcing spouses (and separating parents) to duke it out in court: custody evaluators, guardian ad litems, any number of mental health professionals, and child advocate attorney — not to mention forensic accountants, divorce coaches, real estate and mortgage brokers and other professionals who understand the financial bonanza

In other words: divorce is big business, and there are literally billions of dollars being made at the hands of families at their most vulnerable, every single year.

Fact 2: Thankfully, there are alternatives to high-conflict, traditional route, including a move to mediation, in which both partners share a single divorce mediator to help untangle the relationship and set a new path. Since you are paying for just one mediator — opposed to two battling attorneys — legal costs can be cut in half or more. Collaborative divorce is also on the rise. In these cases, each party gets their own attorney who has signed on to the “collaborative” ethos, which promises to work towards the best interest of the couple, and not their own bank accounts.

Also, there is a surge in DIY divorce. This can work for many divorcing couples, but there are some guidelines and caveats.

Related: Top 10 DIY divorce companies online

What is Nolo?

Nolo is a publishing company that offers legal ebooks, online forms, software and other information products to help you help yourself on legal matters. One of their major specialties is DIY divorce, as well as starting a business and estate planning.

How can Nolo help with divorce?

The more you learn, the better prepared you’ll be to decide whether you really need a lawyer. If you’re able to go the DIY divorce route you’ll save a ton of cash – money that can help build a healthy financial future for yourself and your children.

How does DIY divorce work?

Doing your own divorce typically involves the separating couple amicably agreeing to the terms of their divorce. Buy and download the divorce forms specific to your state, and fill them out.

These forms must be officially filed in your state's court system.

In most states, you can file directly with the courts yourself.

It is often advised you pay for a few hours of a divorce attorney's time to go over the forms and ensure that all the details are buttoned up, and then do the filing in your behalf.

This can be a good way to ensure that all important elements of the divorce are settled and that the technical parts of the filing are being handled by a professional — and your divorce does not get hung up in court for stupid technicalities, and you can just get on with it already! 

Who should DIY divorce?

Needless to say, not every couple is a good candidate for do-it-yourself divorce.

Those who do it themselves, in what is called an uncontested divorce, are typically on friendly terms, do not have a lot of money or other assets that need to be divvied up, and both spouses can support themselves easily after the breakup.

Agreement to equally share parenting, in the case there are children, also makes these low-conflict breakups easily, as does the absence of any children, or kids who are grown.

Here are some scenarios when you should absolutely seek professional divorce guidance in an attorney or mediator:

  • You don't know where your spouse is (kinda hard to negotiate over the kitchen table if he's MIA).
  • History of abuse
  • Recent history of addiction (if there are children involved)
  • You have considerable assets between you, especially businesses or real estate that cannot be easily divided
  • You suspect your spouse hid or stole money from you
  • Joint ownership of real estate one party cannot easily afford on their own — and therefore need to agree on a sale or other arrangement
  • A recent or impending bankruptcy
  • Disagreements over basic parenting arrangements, including one parenting wishing to relocate far away, one parent demanding unequal parenting time or sole custody, or a disagreement about religion, education or other major decisions.

Are there any good DIY divorce resources?

There are several sites and companies out there that will help you get a divorce — they are mostly designed for an uncontested divorce, in which both parties agree on most issues in the breakup and don't need to go to court to finalize the divorce. DIY divorce resources provide users with documents you need per your state, and provide you with what amounts to a walkthrough.

You pay them for the ease of having all your resources in one place, and you still have to pay court fees, which tend to run between $300-$500 — all depending on where you file. One that stands out is Nolo.

How to divorce amicably using Nolo

Nolo produces books and other content products for people who have uncontested, amicable divorces that they would like to manage themselves, without the cost, conflict and stress of using attorneys.

Struggling with finances during your divorce? Most people do! Read How to get through divorce without going bankrupt

What are Nolo’s products like?

Nolo has dozens of ebooks for purchase.

It’s a simple online checkout process, and you can download them as ePub or PDF depending on what kind of device you’ll be using them to read them.

You can also get most of them as physical books, in which case you’ll also have access to an ebook with your purchase.

Here are some of the topics and titles:

  • Divorce & Money
  • Essential Guide to Child Custody & Support
  • Mediate, Don’t Litigate
  • Divorce After 50
  • Building a Parenting Agreement That Works

I bought a few of Nolo's most popular DIY divorce ebooks. Here’s a look at what you’ll get:

For starters, each ebook provides detailed and thorough information on what to expect and complete for your divorce.

Nolo’s Essential Guide to Divorce, for example, is more than 500 pages long, and it’s updated regularly — in fact, its seventh edition was published in May 2018. It covers topics like how to divide property, spousal support and health insurance, how child support works, how to choose a mediator, and preparing and filing legal divorce papers for an uncontested divorce.

Learn more about all the divorce papers you need

There’s a lot of useful advice in here, like this caution about keeping a cool head:

“Divorce is a traumatic experience, and your decision-making skills are probably not the best they’ve ever been.

Although you can’t put off all decisions including some that you’ll have to make with your spouse, like who will live where — try to minimize the number of long-term decisions you commit to in the first few months.

If you really have to settle something, at least sleep on it, and try to find someone you trust to help you think through your options.”

How property is divided in divorce — what you need to know

Nolo vs. Rocket Lawyer

While Nolo is a series of books, there are other online divorce services that help with the actual legal process.

RocketLawyer is a quality online divorce service that allows you to buy single legal documents like a divorce settlement agreement, or parenting plan agreement, for $39.99. You can also buy a 30-minute lawyer consultation for $59.99, or ask an attorney a question for $49.99. Learn more about RocketLawyer >>

And read our RocketLawyer review.

Nolo vs CompleteCase

CompleteCase breaks the DIY online divorce process for you, with 100% of the divorce papers you need for your state, plus detailed instructions on how to file your divorce yourself. CompleteCase price is $299, all included. A rated by the Better Business Bureau. 30-day money-back guarantee. Check out CompleteCase now >>

And read our CompleteCase review >>

Nolo vs LegalZoom

LegalZoom is a hybrid product that connects you with a legal consultant who customizes a divorce process based on a series of interviews with you and your soon-to-be-ex spouse, creates all the legal agreements, parenting plan and other divorce documents for you, and gives you instructions for how to file your divorce papers online or at the courthouse in your state. LegalZoom costs $499.

Learn more about LegalZoom >>

What does Nolo offer for free?

Nolo has hundreds of legal articles covering a lot of content, including divorce and family law. While it’s always good to do your research in more than one place, Nolo does cover many important and commonly asked topics, like:

  • No fault vs. fault divorce
  • Child custody, child support and visitation
  • When to get a lawyer
  • What to know about alimony
  • Whether to choose divorce court, mediation or collaborative divorce

Does Nolo have a good reputation?

Nolo has been in business for 47 years, which is refreshing. Many companies that offer help with DIY divorces have only been in operation during the Internet era. Nolo is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau, but it nonetheless has an A+ rating.

Nolo started in 1971 when two San Francisco Bay-area lawyers realized there was a lack of resources for people who couldn’t always afford legal help but didn’t quite qualify for free legal aid. So they started publishing books to help folks out — the first one was called How To Do Your Own Divorce in California.

Today, Nolo is a reputable enterprise that offers many DIY legal books, and is owned byInternet Brands, which also owns Divorcenet.com and AllLaw.com and some other big names to create what’s known as the Nolo Network.

There are more than 50 web properties in the network, all dedicated to providing legal info for the everyday person.

Also, Nolo’s been covered by The New York Times, Newsweek, The Washington Post, USA Today and Time Magazine, among other leading publications.

Are there any other perks with Nolo?

A major benefit of Nolo is the sheer scope of their products. The depth of information available for free or for an affordable fee is very thorough.

 You can also listen to podcasts that feature the authors discussing issues related to the book, and you can check out videos of helpful overviews of legal topics related to divorce.

However, the site takes care to point out that its legal e-guides and software products aren’t substitutes for lawyers if you actually need that level of legal advice — which most divorcing couples do.

Nolo will, however, help you connect with a lawyer through their directory of more than 1,000 lawyers that will compete for your business.

Also, the books come with some extra perks. For example, each ebook has its own page on Nolo, which you can check to stay up to date when new information is available for no extra fee. This is important since the law changes frequently. 

How much do Nolo products cost?

Prices for Nolo’s divorce products vary, but none of them are super expensive.

It’s worth noting that some websites that offer DIY divorce walkthroughs charge anywhere from $130 or so to several hundred dollars — and some of them even have recurring fees.

Just using the book I just referenced, Nolo’s Essential Guide to Divorce, as an example: An ebook costs $24.99 (though is currently discounted to $17.49), and a book/ebook combo costs $24.99 (and is currently discounted to $19.99).

Another popular book, Divorce & Money, runs $34.99 — with the ebook alone discounted to $24.49 and the book/ebook combo discounted to $27.99. Obviously, there are too many books to do a price breakdown for each one, but they’re all pretty reasonable.

Who competes with Nolo?

There are many companies that offer DIY divorce help. A few of the major players are LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer and CompleteCase.

How can Nolo help with starting a business?

It’s tempting to want to stretch your start-up fund by doing a lot of the legwork yourself. But the average person knows little or nothing about topics like business taxes or incorporating a company.

Nolo offers advice and products that help you get your business up and running in an affordable, secure way. The site promises its products are “written in plain English”; cutting through the jargon helps entrepreneurs build their businesses easily and effectively.

What kind of business should you start?

Many entrepreneurs set up shop as limited liability companies (LLCs), which has several major advantages:

  • They’re simpler – no board of directors, stock sales, etc.
  • An LLC can protect your personal assets in case of debt or lawsuit.
  • It’s eligible for “pass-through” taxation, which lets you deduct as much as 20% of LLC income. (This provision is scheduled to end after the 2025 tax year.)

How does Nolo help with starting an LLC?

Nolo’s “Form Your LLC Online” uses a simple question-and-answer format to  walk you through the creation of your LLC. It also files the paperwork with the state where you live.

This doesn’t have to be done all in one sitting. You can work on your LLC formation for up to 90 days. After you’ve finished and paid, Nolo will save the information for one year.

How much will it cost to start an LLC?

Nolo’s Online LLC has three different price points:

Basic service is $79 plus filing fees, which vary by state. It includes a customized operating agreement and the creation/filing of articles of organization.

Standard service costs $249 plus filing fees. You’ll get the services from the Basic package plus access to NoloCloud Legal Forms, the IRS application for tax ID, and the 30-item Business Forms Bundle.

Express Premiere is $299 plus filing fees. It includes the features from the other two options plus an LLC seal and a personalized LLC records book.

How long will it take to start an LLC?

That depends on the kind of Nolo LLC service you buy and how long your state takes to deal with LLC paperwork.

With the Basic service, Nolo files within five business days and sends you the finished LLC package within 10 business days (barring any delays from your state).

The Standard service takes about the same amount of time as Basic.

The Express Premiere service files within one business day and sends your finished package and records within five business days.

How does Nolo help with incorporating?

While an LLC is simpler, it sometimes makes sense to form a corporation.

For example, incorporating is better if you plan to raise money publicly or have multiple investors, or if you want to offer a sizable benefits package to employees or owners.

Here’s how Nolo can help:

  • Free website articles
  • Two books: “LLC or Corporation? How to Choose the Right Form for Your Business” and “Incorporate Your Business: A Step-by-Step Guide to Forming a Corporation in Any State”
  • “Form Your Corporation Online with Nolo” service

How much will it cost to incorporate?

The online incorporation service is available at two levels: Basic ($99) and Express Premiere ($249). Filing fees vary by state.

You could also buy one or both books and do the paperwork yourself. Given that Nolo will do it for you for as little as $99, it makes sense to let them.

How long will it take to incorporate?

That depends on the level of service you choose and on the speed of processing in your state. The Basic service takes three to four weeks, while Express Premiere takes as little as eight business days.

What kind of resources does Nolo have for operating a business?

Nolo offers several resources focusing on LLCs and corporations.

Its “legal encyclopedia” articles

Books and ebooks on LLC and corporation topics

Legal forms. Buy a 30-form bundle or order a la carte

What business resources are free?

The legal encyclopedia is free, as is the Nolo blog.

Nolo also has a “Free Forms Library.” Some of these would be useful to small business owners, such as “Cell Phone Policy,” “Pre-Incorporation Agreement,” “Employer’s At-Will Policy,” “Consent of Shareholders” and “Expense Reimbursement Form.”

How much will Nolo business books cost?

Generally the cost ranges from $20.99 to $39.99 per book; some bundles are available.

Nolo regularly offers discount codes for its products; see the “New Arrivals & Coupons” section for current deals.

How can Nolo help with estate planning?

Everyone should have a will, to make sure their final wishes are carried out. For parents, it’s essential to have a will that spells out who raises the kids if you die.

If you share custody with an ex-spouse, the children will likely go to live with that parent. But if your ex is unreliable or no longer in the picture, the court decides who will raise your children.

Make your wishes known by writing a will. Some parents also opt for a living trust, which protects your kids in three ways:

  • Faster availability, since property in a living trust doesn’t drag on through probate for months
  • No court fees and possibly no lawyer fees, which means more money for your children
  • Financial privacy, because a living trust doesn’t have to be a matter of public record

While a living trust does involve a fair amount of paperwork, it’s not much more work than a regular will – and thanks to companies like Nolo, you might not  need a lawyer for either one.

How to create a will or living trust with Nolo

Some people do need lawyers. For example, if you have a lot of property, a contentious relationship with your ex, or a child or other family member with special needs, then it’s probably best to get an attorney on board.

If not, Nolo offers two products to help.

“Create Your Online Will” walks you through steps such as:

  • Choosing an executor and a guardian
  • Building a complete asset list
  • Providing all relevant information about your kids and any other beneficiaries – and, maybe, anyone you want specifically excluded from the will

“Create Your Online Will” costs $59.99.

“Nolo Living Trust 2020” offers advice on decisions like:

  • What property belongs in the trust (and what doesn’t)
  • Choosing a trustee
  • Transferring property to your trust
  • Property management in case of incapacity

Nolo Living Trust 2020 costs $69.99.

Can you create a will or trust online with Nolo?

As the name suggests, “Create Your Online Will” is an online product. Once you’ve finished the document and paid, Nolo will store your information for one year. (You can have it deleted before then, though.)

“Nolo Living Trust 2020” is a downloadable product. You can revise it at any time as your wealth grows or when other changes take place. It’s password-protected so your choices remain private in case someone else uses your computer.

What documents are needed to create a will or living trust?

Start by listing all your assets. Include items like your house/condo and its contents, your car and any intellectual property (such as your successful blog or any books you’ve published).

Depending on what property you’re putting into the trust, you may need:

  • Life insurance policies 
  • Titles and deeds to any property
  • Stocks and/or bonds
  • Jewelry appraisals

Including jewelry in your trust? Here’s what you need to know about appraisals

How you “fund” the trust, or transfer the property into it, depends on the laws of the state where you live. Nolo Living Trust 2020 will guide you through the process.

Pros and cons of Nolo

Pros

  • You get a lot of information, prepared in expert fashion, in an easy-to-digest format.
  • If you ever need to go back and double-check something, the Nolo books are a quick reference that will save you from hunting around the internet.
  • The price is reasonable for what you get, and there are many other resources available to you through Nolo, not to mention customer support.

Cons

  • Nolo’s not a substitute for a lawyer, even though they’ll help you find one.
  • If you’ve got time and drive, you can find pretty much all of this information on your own.

Final word

Nolo is a reputable source of thorough information on divorce and related topics. Between the affordably priced ebooks, free resources, and connection to vetted attorneys, Nolo is a solid resource to completing your divorce — even if you end up hiring an attorney.

Get started with Nolo now >>

Read More: 

LawDepot for DIY legal forms and advice

A review of My Divorce Papers (DIY divorce online)

GetDivorcePapers Review


 

Nolo

9

Overall

9.0/10

Pros

  • You get a lot of information, prepared in expert fashion, in an easy-to-digest format
  • The price is reasonable for what you get
  • Deep library of legal documents, apps and software for divorce, LLC formation, estate planning and more
  • Attorney directory
  • A BBB rating

Cons

  • Not a substitute for a lawyer, even though they’ll help you find one
  • Most of the info can be found for free online

About Emma Johnson

Wealthysinglemommy.com founder  Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist and author. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, MONEY, 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. A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Emma's Top Single Mom Resources.

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