What's the easiest way to get a divorce if it's amicable?
April 15, 2012 5:56 PM   Subscribe

My wife & I have decided to divorce. It's totally amicable, we don't have much to split. What's the cheapest, easiest way to do this?

Short version: Got married young, grew apart. We already split the bank account 50/50, I took my stuff and she took hers. We're friendly and in contact with each other. Basically, we're looking to do this as inexpensively and painlessly as possible.

We got married in New Jersey, I currently live in California and she lives in Illinois. We were married for 5 years.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total)
Might want to check LegalZoom. Barring that, google "uncontested divorce attorney" in your area, and have her do the same in her area. Whichever one is cheaper and easier, hire that attorney and do it in that state.
posted by Etrigan at 6:11 PM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had a similar situation 6 years ago. We purchased all of the legal papers from LegalZoom for about $300. I filed the initial round of papers and we and represented ourselves. We were both in NJ and I think it cost another $150 or so in filing fees.

We were only in court together on the actual day of divorce, so the respondent might have to fly to the petitioner's court. We had to stand up and tell our sides of the story, which was much harder than I anticipated.

I'm very sorry for your situation. You'll hear "at least you are friendly" or "at least you don't have kids" but it still will hurt in unexpected ways. (But it gets better!)
posted by ladygypsy at 6:15 PM on April 15, 2012

I went through this exact situation (I live in MD, my ex-wife in VA). I ended up contacting a divorce lawyer through Divorce.net who did all the paperwork for $1,000, then walked me through the steps of filing, etc, for myself. I considered Legalzoom, but went with a lawyer because he could specifically say "Go to this window, give them this form..." and so on.

If you're smart and savvy, you can do a lot of it on your own, but I would suggest the "uncontested divorce lawyer" approach to help point out any potential areas where you might get tripped up. Feel free to Memail me.
posted by arco at 6:17 PM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

My parents were in California and were able to do a mediated dissolution. I know nothing about NJ law, but they both found the CA process as pleasant as it really could have hoped to be under the circumstances. You may not ever need to appear in court.
posted by SMPA at 6:34 PM on April 15, 2012

*Correction: I found my lawyer through Divorcenet.com. YMMV, but it worked out well for us.
posted by arco at 6:46 PM on April 15, 2012

If you're in California there is a text on Doing Your Own Divorce. This is, by far, the cheapest way to go. Get the book, it has the paperwork and guides for working out a settlement.

For the second cheapest, there are third parties who will work with you with the How To book and make sure that every i has a dot and every t has a cross and every paper is filed at the right time with the right check.
posted by plinth at 7:03 PM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

In Illinois, in order to file a no-fault divorce (on grounds of "irreconcilable differences"), you have to have been separated for two years. Now, in practicality, there are ways to work around this (in my Illinois divorce, for example, I filed on the grounds of "mental cruelty," which was kind of squicky but didn't require any proof beyond me saying that it had happened and him not contesting that claim. You can also file on the grounds of adultery if either or both of you are poking someone new). Still, you might find it easier to file in California just because there's no waiting period when filing for a no-fault divorce.

The County Clerk's office should have information packets for people who want to file pro se, which is the least expensive way to do it. There are also state-specific and general do-it-yourself divorce books out there that are a big help, such as Nolo Press's How To Do Your Own Divorce in California.
posted by drlith at 7:09 PM on April 15, 2012

If you've lived in California long enough (I don't know what the length of time is), you can do it through California for free. It only takes a few hours total at the county and if it's uncontested, no charges involved. It takes 6 months to become legal though (until then you're legally separated); if time matters, it may be faster in another state.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:13 PM on April 15, 2012

If you've lived in California for more than 6 months you can do it in California courts. I'm not sure where DoubleLune is, but in the county I live in, it's NOT free. The fees in my county are less than $500 if you do it yourself (in pro se) and there are a number of helpful free guides online, published by the State.
posted by quince at 7:45 PM on April 15, 2012

Unless the law in Illinois has changed in the last 8 years, it's not 2 years for a no fault divorce, more along the lines of 6 months to 1 year. (personal experience)
posted by bibliogrrl at 8:18 PM on April 15, 2012

I lived in California when I got divorced. I was in a similar situation to you--(reasonably) amicable, married just over 5 years--and did it all myself using the Nolo Press book mentioned above. It ended up being free because I wasn't employed at the time, but I think it would have been around $500 otherwise. The courthouse (in Sacramento) offered a few different workshops on doing the paperwork yourself, and it was relatively painless.

If you file as petitioner (i.e., initiate the divorce) then it doesn't matter if your wife lives in another state. My ex-husband was in China at the time, but signed the papers when he visited. Neither of us had to go in front of a judge.

Basically I filed the papers, then hired a process server to serve him (actually at his parents address on the US). Then we hashed out an agreement, signed it and had it notarized, and I filed that with the court. Then a few months later I got something on the mail saying it was finalized.

California makes things a little more complicated if you have been married more than 5 years, but that is explained in the Nolo book and on the family court website.
posted by apricot at 8:50 PM on April 15, 2012

Look up Lincoln County, Washington. You may be able to use their mail in divorce. Apparently it's cheap, easy and very popular with folks all over the United States.
posted by jennstra at 9:51 PM on April 15, 2012

When my sister attempted this a while ago (in Nebraska), she was able to just print out a state form and fill it out. It cost her about $100 to file it with the state and the spouse had 30 days to respond or counter-sue. If the spouse didn't contest it, it just meant one court date to show up and have the judge make it official.
posted by ninjakins at 5:56 AM on April 16, 2012

The term you are looking for is "collaborative divorce" - this is a divorce where both parties and their respective attorneys meet outside of the court system to come to a mutual agreement about the details of their divorce. It appears that both California and Illinois have these options.

I occasionally do office work for one such lawyer (not in either of these states, however) specializing in collaborative divorce. Honestly, these are the happiest clients this lawyer has come through the office! It's a much more sane way of going about divorce and it keeps you and your personal life out of the court system.
posted by kuppajava at 7:13 AM on April 16, 2012

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