Digital Divorce: How to File for a Divorce Online
Note: There may be topics in this article unrelated to the State of California.
La Jolla, CA – The evolution of internet has simplified things for all of us, in so many ways. Now, you can also file for a divorce online. If you are a busy professional, you can have all the divorce paperwork done right from the comfort of your home or office. You can initiate the online application process for a divorce quickly via e-filing on a court’s website or a third party online divorce service.
A few years ago, all couples who wanted divorce had to go through the lengthy, tedious process of traditional divorce filing.
However, anyone can now access divorce forms online and get the process of divorce filing completed at ease. This means you don’t have to skip office or attend multiple meetings or wait for a call from the family lawyer when you want to get a divorce. Online divorce filing is fast and all the information that you submit online remains saved so that you can get back to it anytime you want, review it and make the required changes to complete the process in an error-free manner.
Am I Qualified for a Digital Divorce?
There are no other criteria to qualify for a digital divorce, except whether the state in which you are living allows digital filing.
In some states of the US, you can easily file a divorce online. But there are some strict requirements that have to be met in this regard. To gather more information on e-filing a divorce, you can visit your state’s court website.
Though a digital divorce is not available in every state or county of the US yet, as time passes and internet penetrates our lives more deeply, you can expect to avail of this facility all across the country very soon. If you have made up your mind to get a divorce and want to make the filing process more convenient for yourself as well, you should get in touch with the clerk’s office in your county.
Even if you are working with an attorney, some states might necessitate to file for a divorce online before visiting the courthouse.
Working Out the Details of Divorce with Your Spouse
Whether or not the state in which you are residing allows e-filing for divorce, you can go ahead and prepare all your documents online using a third party online divorce service. However, you shouldn’t forget that the online application process becomes smoother and stress-free if you and your partner are willing to figure out the essential details of your divorce without going for trials.
If you and your spouse have already reached an agreement on the terms of your divorce, you can file for your divorce online straight away. In the other case, you’ll need to seek the consultation of an attorney or a divorce lawyer to amicably resolve the issues of your divorce. While an attorney will ensure that the interests of both the partners are well-protected, they will also assist you in the online filing of your divorce. In a digital divorce, filling out the divorce forms correctly is a key concern because if you fail to do so, you may need to start all over again.
Given below are some crucial topics on which you’ll need to talk to your partner before you are ready to get a digital divorce.
Distribution of Property
Property distribution rights of couples who intend to get divorced vary from one state to another. And the state courthouse will divide the property between the divorcing couple as per the law of that state.
If you are located in a ‘community property’ state, both you are your spouse have equal rights over all the property that was acquired throughout the period of marriage. This means ending your marriage in such a state will result in the distribution of all the owned property by half. Likewise, any kind of debt that was incurred while you and your partner were still married will be equally shared as well.
On the other hand, a ‘common law property’ state has different legal guidelines for property sharing. If you are getting a divorce in one of these states, you won’t need to share a property with your spouse if the property was acquired solely by you, unless the deed of that property declares both the spouses as the owner. Though all the property acquired at the time of marriage is considered as marital property, any property that was acquired before the marriage belongs to the one who acquired it. However, the presiding judges in the state courts reserve full right to exercise their discretion and divide the property as they deem it fit.
Child Custody and Financial Support
In a divorce situation, the matter with regard to the custody and support of the spouses’ children is extremely crucial.
After taking all the details of the case into consideration, the court decides who will keep the children and how the related expenses will be shared. Judges take a decision that paves the path to a better future for the children after the divorce. Usually, parents are rewarded with a joint custody which means an equal sharing of rights and duties towards the children. Even if the custody of children is given to one parent, the other spouse is asked to provide at least 20% of the 50% of their income for the support of the children. Child custody and support laws vary from state to state, so you should seek an attorney’s legal advice on the matter.
Referred to as ‘alimony’ in legal terminology, spousal maintenance is paid by one spouse to the other after the divorce. Again the laws related to alimony are dependent on which state you live in. When planning to go for a digital divorce, it is a good idea for both the partners to discuss the terms of alimony and decide whether or not spousal maintenance has to be paid.
Applying for Divorce Online
Before you’re eligible to file for a divorce in a particular state, you must be a resident of that state. If you have recently relocated to a new state, you must live there for a certain period of time as demanded by the law to be considered as a resident of that state and be able to get a divorce from there.
Once you have decided from where to file a divorce, you can move ahead with the procedure of online divorce filing.
Log on to the Court Website
Visit the website of the concerned court to fill up all the essential forms. Once you are on the website of the county from where you are filing for divorce, you can navigate to the divorce forms section. The process of filing divorce online involves completing a number of forms, as given below.
Petition for divorce
Summon to your spouse
Notice of hearing
In some states, the court website also provides an additional form titled ‘Answer and Affidavit’, which is used when your spouse doesn’t want to attend the hearings of the court. If she agrees to the conditions of the divorce, she can send her approval and consent in this form.
Complete the Forms
Select the forms that you are required to fill in pertaining to your case. Most of these forms ask you to enter information like your name, your spouse name, the number of children you have from the marriage, date of marriage, date of separation, your full address and the properties you own among others.
If you have any confusion or need clarity on something, you can take help from an attorney or have them fill out the forms for you. After the forms have been filled out, all the information is automatically saved so that you can go back and review them anytime you want. It’s important to ensure that you fill out the forms correctly. Once the forms have been completed, you can have them checked by your family attorney or take out printouts of the same and head straight to the clerk’s office to have your queries or concerns addressed, if any.
Pay the Fees for E-Filing
You may be asked to a pay a fee to avail e-filing. You’ll find this information on the court website where you fill out the forms. If there’s a fee, pay it to complete the online filing process in a smooth manner. Often, the fee for e-filing divorce in most states and counties of the US is as low as $20.
Use a Third Party Online Service (If e-filing is not available in your state)
If your state court’s website doesn’t offer e-filing, you can use a third party service provider to fill out the required forms online. On the web, you’ll find many websites that provide online documents preparation service. However, you should be careful not to fall prey to scamsters. Before you decide to use such a service, make sure to conduct some research and check out their reviews.
Many of the websites that prepare divorce documents for you online also offer reviewing of all the documents. Typically, the online process includes checking whether you qualify, filling out all the required details, reviewing the forms and then filing all the prepared divorce documents. The charges of using an online document preparation service vary between $200 and $500. Online services with 100% guarantee of court approval usually charge more than the rest.
However, it’s not always a good idea to fully depend on such online divorce services and do it all by yourself, as such a service can never be a replacement of an attorney. Also, you need to understand that it can be quite difficult to change the details provided in the forms once all the divorce paperwork has been prepared and filed, particularly in the case of a contested divorce.
Work with an attorney who can guide you on using the right online divorce filing service, help you complete all the required forms correctly and then review the submitted details for accuracy so that you can move ahead with the rest of the divorce procedure in a hassle-free manner.
Following the Final Steps of the Divorce Procedure
A legal notice must be sent to your spouse after you have completed the online divorce filing process. You can serve the notice to your spouse either in person or via a postal service. If you are unable to locate your spouse, you can go ahead and serve the notice by publishing in a daily newspaper circulated in your area. In any case, you should always follow a serving method that is authorized by the law of the state of which you are a resident. If you use an unauthorized way to serve the notice to your spouse, your divorce could be rejected. In case of a dismissal, you’ll need to follow and complete the entire divorce filing procedure again.
Now, the actual proceedings of your divorce will begin. At all times, you should remain well-informed of where your case is headed. Depending on the nature of your case, you may need to complete other crucial documents and attend the hearings or go through a mediation process.
If it’s a contested divorce, you’ll most likely face trials in the court. Make sure you remain on top of your case and do not miss a hearing or a trial. Most importantly, prepare yourself in advance to appear in the court with all the necessary documents, as required in your specific case. If you and your spouse failed to settle the terms of the divorce on your own, the judge will lay out all the terms for both of you in the divorce decree, in accordance with the law of the state.
The decree acts as the proof of your divorce and a certified copy of the same will be required for doing many things in future. So, always remember to safely store a certified copy of the divorce decree.