Looking for help with divorce paperwork in LA.
July 30, 2013 7:30 PM   Subscribe

I haven't seen my wife in almost two years. We decided to separate in late 2011 after 5 years of marriage. It was totally amicable, we got married too young, etc etc. For many reasons, neither of us pursued a legal divorce. Largely it was a matter of cost- She's a PhD student, I'm a Grad student, neither of us had the $325 filing fee. We fell out of touch and it kind of kicked around the back of my head. This year, taxes rolled around and we realized that we needed to pursue the legal divorce. And then we sat on it some more until I finally got one of those DIY Divorce Books. So, great, I got all the forms from the state, filled them out, scraped together the filing fee and then froze.

What I really need is a little bit of legal advice from someone qualified, just to make sure t's are crossed and i's are dotted. I very, very seriously do not have much money to pay for this. The divorce will be a breeze, its just a matter of actually doing it.

To the Q: Is there somewhere in LA I can show a qualified source my divorce paperwork, have them give it a quick look-see and make sure it's a-okay before I plunk down the filing fee? I can pay next to nothing. Most of the legal clinics I found were related to immigration and child custody law, not two idiots who got married on a whim and now want to untie their union.

(As for why we're not pursuing an Uncontested Dissolution- In CA, at least, you have to have been married for less than 5 years. Yipes.)
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Pro-tip: Call the clerk of your court and ask about a "fee waiver." Might nip your whole problem in the bud.
posted by mibo at 7:40 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Hi anonymous,

What you want is to go to one of LA's self help departments and ask them. These are paid for by the government and work hand in hand with the courts.

You can find a list of them here:


They'll help you get sorted away as far as making sure the paperwork will look correct to the clerk, but they won't be able to give you legal advice to make sure you're actually taking the best action. But, with no assets and no kids and no one seeking support you're not likely to go too far wrong.

If you're willing to drive a bit and you can check out the various family law work-shops in at the Orange County family law courts.

You can find information and times for those workshops here.

IAAL, IANYL, but I send people who can't afford my services to these all the time. Good luck, and yeah, look into a fee waiver.

Finally, don't worry that they're going to rip you off on the fee because of some problem with the paperwork. All that will happen is they'll mark where the paperwork is wrong and tell you to correct it. You won't have to pay that fee again unless you disappear and don't correct the paperwork.
posted by bswinburn at 7:49 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you're still a student (or your wife is), it's possible that your student fees give you access to an office called something like 'student legal services' that will look over the paperwork for you and might be able to offer advice the self-help centers can't. It might be hidden as part of the law school if your university has one.
posted by hoyland at 8:01 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

As a supplement to bswinburn's good suggestion, the Ventura court has made some of its divorce workshop materials available as online videos:

Divorce / Legal Separation (Basics & Forms Packet) -- Docs & Video
Division of Assets and Debts of the Community -- Docs & Video
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:05 PM on July 30, 2013

Seconding hoyland. That's how I got my will done.
posted by bentley at 8:43 AM on July 31, 2013

I got divorced in Sacramento county and the family court offered workshops for helping people fill out the paperwork. I'm sure they have something like that in LA county. I was also broke at the time and was easily able to get the fees waived.

I also had a simple divorce that dragged out way too long. You'll feel so much better once you get that filed! Good luck.
posted by apricot at 1:27 PM on July 31, 2013

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