Info on Pro Se or Do It Yourself Divorce

Filing for divorce is one of the significant legal steps in a person’s life. For common people, it is difficult to understand the legal formalities of a courtroom and thus they choose to hire a lawyer to represent them in the court. The biggest negative aspect of hiring a lawyer is the huge fees that you need to pay for the legal services offered by the lawyer. This is one reason why people are opting for Pro Se or Do-It-Yourself (DIY) divorce process.

We all know that divorce is an expensive procedure and thus couples who want to save money, choose DIY divorce. In fact the rate of such cases according to the US divorce statistics has gone up from 50% to 80% in the last few years.

What is DIY or Pro se?

It is a form of divorce where you represent yourself in court, rather than having a lawyer to represent you. This is a best possible way for a couple to legally end their marriage in an equitable way and that too without worrying much about the enormous legal cost of a divorce.

In the US, all the states have the provision for DIY divorce but the laws vary from one state to another. But it is a truly simple process where both parties agree fully to all the terms that will be acceptable to most judges. DIY is the best option for couples without children or there is no issue related to division of property.

The person who files for DIY is called the Petitioner and the other person is known as the Respondent. If you are the petitioner, you will file an “Original Petition for Divorce.” If you are the respondent the petition will have been filed, you will have been served and now you will have to respond.

Here is a complete overview on how DIY takes place:

Learn the basics:

DIY is inexpensive but not at all easy and simple way to end your marriage. Without a law degree, you may find it difficult to understand the process and basic requirements of DIY. There is more than just filing the papers in the court. So, it is must to first gain some knowledge regarding this legal process. To represent yourself in the court you must be familiar with your state divorce laws, the current version of your states Rules of Civil Procedure, Family Court Codes and the rules that are followed in your local court. You can check the official website of the state where you want to file your petition to gain appropriate knowledge. Else you can gain knowledge from someone who knows about this process.

Draft the petition.

All divorces must be granted by the court. You have to ask the court to end your marriage by submitting a petition. The petition have detailed information regarding who you are, what you are asking the court to do, and the reasons behind your decision that can range from adultery, abandonment to drug use and so on. Obtain a petition form from a local court. You can obtain the petition from the state in which you were married or from your current home state. But when you reside in a different state from that where you were married, you need to fulfill residency requirements that depends upon the state where are currently living and its laws. In most states, you have to be a resident of the state for at least six months to a year before you can file for divorce. Also most of the US states offer the forms online that you can download from their official site.


Fill the Form:

Once you have the DIY petition form, you need to go through the form once. In case of any difficult, you can ask the clerks available in the court or some of your friends or family members for guidance. In most of the US States, this petition form is simple and easy to understand where you need to provide your name and address and your spouse’s name and address. It is essential to mention your spouse’s contact information so that the petition may be served on your spouse.

Prepare the divorce order:

In a DIY divorce, both you and your spouse must have mutual consent regarding the terms of divorce. You are asking the court to agree to your request, and must provide the court a proposed order that can be signed by the judge. The order will list the terms of the divorce and ask the court to make it official. In this order you need to mention it clearly about who gets what property, what alimony is to be paid, who gets custody of the children and any other issues relevant to your case.

File the petition:

Cross check the petition and the list of documents that need to be submitted and then sign the petition. Now file the petition with the civil court clerk in the court. Be sure to contact the clerk beforehand, as your court may require a specific number of copies or local forms to be filed with the petition. The clerk will stamp them with the date and file the original with the court. With the DIY petition, you will also have to pay some fee which varies from state to state.

Prepare summons:

As divorce is a civil complaint, it is important to notify the opposing party that a complaint has been filed with the court. This is done with the use of a summons. Typically, summons can be delivered either through the mail or by having the sheriff serve the documents in person. In either case, you’ll have to draft a proposed summons to file with the divorce papers. On receiving the summons, your spouse can respond to the statements in your petition.

Final step:

Now that you have filed the petition for DIY and had the respondent served you need to file a notice of hearing to set a date for the final hearing. In some of the US states you need to serve a waiting period before a final court date will be set. On the hearing date, the judge will examine all the evidences and then a judgment will be passed.

Well, this is all about how DIY divorce takes place in most of the US states. When it comes to DIY, there are certain common assumptions such as both partners will communicate in a rational way, be fair to any issues that need further attention and generally act in a civilized and mature fashion. This is why the overall rate of DIY cases has gone higher in recent years.

Some Important Points:

  • DIY is not a good choice for couples having high emotions.
  • It is not a suitable choice for couples with children as disputes over children custody may arise.
  • When there are a lot of contested issues, it is not a good decision to opt for DIY.
  • When there is a mutual agreement on all issues (property, custody, and support) between husband and wife, then DIY is a good choice.
  • DIY is possible when all your assets and debts are relatively simple.

To conclude, like any other divorce types, DIY also has its own pros and cons. Also we must not forget that anyone has the right to represent themselves in the court and thus anyone can opt for DIY in the US. However, as the divorce process can be complex it is advisable to hire a lawyer if your budget allows it.

Leave a Reply