DIY Divorce: Is it Right For You?
Thanks to the internet and easily available resources, more and more people are trying Do-It-Yourself divorce. In Ohio, this process is referred to as a pro se (on your behalf) divorce. Like any divorce, it involves completing paperwork, filing it with the correct court and attending a hearing. But is a DIY divorce right for you?
Who is a Good Candidate?
People wanting to do a DIY divorce are often concerned about the costs involved in hiring an attorney. Not everyone should do a divorce themselves, and several factors can make a difference. You and your spouse are good candidates for a DIY divorce if...
- You’ve been married for a relatively short time.
- You have no children.
- Neither one of you has stocks, bonds, retirement or pension plans or other investments that need to be divided by order of the court.
- Neither spouse is in the military (there are certain requirements for a military divorce best handled by an experienced lawyer).
- You and your spouse agree that you both want a divorce.
- Neither one of you is filing for bankruptcy.
Those who have children can do a DIY divorce as well, but both parties must agree to every issue concerning their children—custody, visitation, and child support—as well as fill out a Shared Parenting Plan and other additional documents required by the state of Ohio.
Who Shouldn't do a DIY Divorce
- Your spouse is abusive or a danger to you and/or your children.
- You suspect that your spouse may be hiding assets.
- Your spouse has already retained the services of an attorney to represent them.
- Neither of you can agree on issues such as child custody or support.
- You and/or your spouse have complicated financial assets.
Doing the Work
One of the reasons you may want to do a DIY divorce is because of the money you can save, but it’s important to remember the time involved. Do you have time to make sure you have the correct forms and documents, research your particular state and county’s laws, gather needed documentation, file papers and appear in court?
Before starting on the process of filling out the required forms, check with the county clerk to make sure you have everything you need. Ohio provides state-specific forms online but your county may require additional paperwork.
Once you are certain you have the appropriate paperwork, take your time filling them out. If you feel that you need help or have trouble understanding a document, you can always pay an attorney, paralegal or legal document assistant an hourly fee to look over your documents.
If you decide to use a paralegal or legal document assistant, remember that they are unable to give legal advice but they can prepare forms with the information you supply and file them with the court. Legal advice may only be given by a qualified licensed lawyer.
The Ohio State Legal Services organization website has helpful informational brochures and packets on DIY divorce.
Required Divorce Documents
To file for divorce in Ohio, at least one party must have lived in the state for six months before filing. Ohio also requires that one spouse resides in the filing county for at least 90 days.
The required documents will vary depending on circumstances and what county you live, but the following is a list of basic paperwork that you will need for most Ohio DIY Divorces. You should photocopy every one of these documents for your records as well.
- A divorce complaint. This document initiates the divorce process and outlines what is being requested in the divorce.
- Summons (Request for Service). This form notifies your spouse that the divorce petition has been filed and sets a time limit to file a response. These papers will need to be served on your spouse by a third party. If you are getting a dissolution, you must sign a waiver that you will not be needing this service.
- Answer to Complaint for Divorce. This is the document your spouse files either agreeing to the terms of the divorce or requesting changes.
- Financial Affidavits (Affidavit of Income & Expenses, Affidavit of Property). Both parties are required to fill out financial disclosure papers.
- A settlement agreement (Separation Agreement). Determines the conditions of the divorce agreed on by both parties.
- Divorce Decree (Judgement Entry). The judge signs this document to finalize your divorce. Be sure to ask for a photocopy and request a certified copy from the court.
If you have minor children, your dissolution must also include the following documents and forms in addition to the ones above:
- Parenting Proceeding Affidavit. This document gives the court basic information about any children.
- Shared Parenting Plan or Sole Custody Agreement. Determines custody arrangements.
- Child Support Worksheet.
- Health Insurance Affidavit. This affidavit is used to disclose health insurance coverage that is available for each child. It is also used to help determine child support.
Each county has its own rules and paperwork requirements. You can find out more information on their websites:
Have questions about divorce in Ohio? Need legal advice? Contact Jack's Law Office at (740)369-7567.