Can we divorce our own damn selves?
July 9, 2020 10:39 PM   Subscribe

My ex and I are trying to finish getting divorced. After a year of struggling with a bad lawyer, we have a signed and notarized settlement agreement. Am I correct in thinking we can finish this process by ourselves, instead of paying more money to the aforementioned bad lawyer?

We're in New York City. Looking at this site, it SEEMS like from here, we can complete this process by ourselves without a lawyer. Am I missing something or misunderstanding?

FTR, the lawyer is the "never replies to requests for estimates of future fees, doesn't give us enough information for us to make informed choices that would allow us to avoid future fees, seems well-intentioned but scatterbrained in a way that's costing us thousands of dollars" kind of bad. We're both fine with the actual settlement.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by Homer42 at 4:07 AM on July 10, 2020 [7 favorites]


I just did this, in a different state that had a similar court website. Mine had a self-service option that helped me fill out the forms and e-file, and they also offered clinics and help sessions (both in-person and virtual). The forms got confusing at times, so I wound up poking through a lot of legalese to try to decipher how best to fill them out. My marriage was very brief with no major assets in dispute and no children, and my spouse and I were in agreement about how to handle everything. Most people will likely have a more complicated situation and filing on your own may not be recommended, but it doesn’t hurt to look into it a bit. At the end of the day, my divorce cost me about $400 in filing fees and was approved 14 days after I initially submitted the forms.

Extra tip: I also found that using the term “pro se” in my google searching helped get much better results about the process. Good luck!
posted by JannaK at 5:14 AM on July 10, 2020 [2 favorites]


Yes, you can.

You have found the correct website.

You fill out some forms and take them to the county courthouse where they will be looked over by a clerk. I don't know whether COVID-19 will affect this step.

Don't be frustrated if the clerk points out something to be corrected, because the correction will be doable.

If your website doesn't have blank forms linked to it, the Nolo forms will be appropriate. Or, possibly, you may have already received papers from your lawyer that may work.

Hang in there.
posted by JimN2TAW at 7:07 AM on July 10, 2020


Seconding the Nolo books as great references that are pretty much written for this sort of situation, ie the processing of paperwork that shouldn't really need a lawyer to do. They walked me through the minefield of US Immigration so well we were the only people without a lawyer in the interview the waiting room & we had no problems at all with the process.
posted by wwax at 7:12 AM on July 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


My ex and I had a few meetings with a mediator, which I think was useful money spent to make sure we were not forgetting about any financial issues, but she told us we could find an attorney to draw up a settlement agreement to reflect our agreement and step us through the actual filing process but that we were more than capable of doing it on our own. The information provided at the county clerk's office was the most important piece to the puzzle (moreso than Nolo, esp. if you have the settlement written up already). Despite every effort to make things more user-friendly, it's still confusing, but the staff were very very helpful both with general questions and with pointing me around to the right windows and offices every time I had to go to the courthouse. It's formalities at this point, and those are going to be specific to your local circuit/county.
posted by drlith at 7:12 AM on July 10, 2020


Yes, DIY divorce in New York City is relatively simple, for people who don't share assets or who have already worked that part out. This is the website you want: https://www.nycourts.gov/courthelp/diy/divorce.shtml
posted by babelfish at 8:47 AM on July 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


Yep! Make sure you go over all the details with a fine-tooth comb, or you may find out years later that you're still married and the court never bothered to let you know that there were paperwork errors! Ask me how I know.
posted by sugarbomb at 9:44 AM on July 10, 2020


Yes, you can, and the DIY site is fairly straightforward, as others have said. I have used it and just filed my final paperwork this week. Another friend is using it and has done the initial steps to file.

Fair warning: the instructions can be a little confusing. The biggest thing I learned is to make sure you file the Summons with Notice and purchase an index number before you sign or date anything else. The defendant has to get their papers and sign and notarize the Affidavit of Defendant after the date that the County Clerk gives you the index number. This is not mentioned in the instructions.

If you're in New York County, keep in mind that this jurisdiction only started allowing e-filing of matrimonial issues in May of this year, so the e-filing portion of the process isn't documented well in the DIY instructions either.

Feel free to MeMail me if you have questions about the DIY divorce site.
posted by bedhead at 10:40 AM on July 10, 2020


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