Can You Do Your Own Divorce?

QuestionMy husband and I are talking about getting a divorce after six years of marriage. We don’t have any children, and he thinks we can do it ourselves. What do you think?

AnswerDoing your own divorce makes sense if your case is not complicated, your marriage was of short duration, you and your spouse have no substantial assets, you have no minor children, and you and your spouse can reach a fair and amicable settlement yourselves. If you or your spouse own a business, have hard-to-value assets, are engaged in other legal proceedings, or have assets which are not clearly either separate or marital property, you have a complicated divorce on your hands, and will need the help of an attorney skilled in family law matters. You definitely will want specialized advice if one of you is in bankruptcy, or is headed that way.

Even if you do your own divorce, you may need help from a professional such as an accountant, financial adviser, mortgage broker, real estate agent, banker, mediator, and others. There are many decisions that you must make that will affect your financial future, and in your emotional state you may not be thinking clearly about your situation.

Several unusual situations can make divorce more costly, frustrating and time-consuming, including having a spouse out of state, out of the country or out of his mind. Divorce may also be complicated if one of you is in the military service or is a non-resident alien. And as much as you may wish it at times, divorce can become devastatingly complicated if your spouse dies during the proceedings.

Comments

  1. My husband suffers from bipolar. I dated him for 3 years and he was charming. It is certainly going to end in divorce as his behavior is difficult for me to deal with. I am facing major surgery in one month and he has the family health insurance policy through work. We live in Michigan. He is threatening to drop my coverage prior to surgery. Are there laws to prevent this until after the divorce?

    • I don’t know the laws in Michigan, so I don’t know whether he can discontinue your health insurance. But he is putting himself at financial risk if he does so. That’s because you are each responsible for the other’s support, care and debts. So if you have a major illness or injury, he is financially responsible. If and when one of you files for separation or divorce, then an automatic order will probably go into place against canceling any insurance until further court order.

  2. My husband and I have been married for almost 20 years. I was going to proceed with divorce, but then he got laid off from an academic institution that he worked at for almost 30 years. We hired an attorney to litigate his case to negotiate severance pay. This happened 1 week ago. So my question is, am I entitled to his severance? He will likely get a large sum of money. I’m self-employed and have not had any income for the last 6 months so he’s been in complete control of the money. In fact, he took everything out of our joint account and opened a personal account so that I don’t have any access. I have to ask him for money to buy every little thing, even a coffee. I feel stuck. What are my rights? He claims that everything is “his” money since I have not contributed to the money pot in 6 months. I’ve been selling my own stuff on eBay just to have a little cash.

    Thank you for your help. I was going to do mediation, but this may be more complicated. I may need to hire an attorney, but I’m not sure how I can even pay for assistance when I have no access to funds.

    • Mediation still might be your best avenue. In mediation, the mediator can talk about your rights to share in the funds, his duty to support his family, and perhaps get him “calmed down” so he doesn’t hold the pursestrings so tight. You are likely entitled to part of the severance, either as a property distribution or as funds available to pay you support.

  3. I want to file a divorce and I don’t want any things from him. We owned the house. What is the procedure for that. We don’t have kids.

  4. What happens if your ex SAYS he will agree to everything but then on the divorce paperwork lies about even working and where the kids really live?the lawyer can’t accept that paperwork right?or if they do the divorce will become contested?and what happens if the other party can’t or won’t hire an attorney?

    • These are questions you should ask your attorney. If your ex signs paperwork under penalty of perjury that you can show is not true, then the court will look very unfavorably on him. If you and he don’t agree on things, then your divorce is contested. If your ex won’t hire an attorney then he will be representing himself in the divorce action.

  5. Leslie says:

    I have been waiting for approximately 7 month for my ex to “correctly” fill out the judgement papers so our divorce can be finalized. He keeps saying that the courts keep sending back the papers to him with corrections needed. We have been going through a divorce for almost 5 years now and I the man I am currently seeing has been waiting patiently for a year to marry me. At this point I want to hire an attorney to finish the paper work but it almost seems pointless since everything is done, just his lack of competence. How can I speed up the process? By the way, we went through the Los Angeles Superior Court.

    Thank you

    • You can request that your marital status be terminated, even if the final paperworrk isn’t yet done, which would enable you to remarry. And you can ask to see ( or take over) the paperwork process and where it stands.

  6. Alice Dressen says:

    My husband has a pension he says he needs every penny of – even though he is only 50 something, he retired from another job. He does not want me to have any of it, though I am raising our 14 year old daughter on a part time college professor salary. I did not ask for alimony or child support as I assumed I was entitled to part of his pension and eventual social security. We lived in NJ, but I am now living in NY with our daughter. I can’t really afford an attorney. Thanks.

  7. My wife and I are seniors and have a wonderful personal relationship. We have been married for 34 years. We are facing the real potential of protracted financial difficulties due to my tax situation which could effect her dramatically creating financial hardship for her for many years to come and even long after my death. she has no direct connection or obligation to that tax situation. We have always lived separate financial lives and own nothing together. We live in California and the Community Property laws threaten her immediate income and her financial future if my tax situation goes South. Terminating our legal marriage is an option if it will help this situation. We have no minor children and could easily agree on terms. Do you feel this would be a possible solution.

    • You’ll need to consult a tax specialist to see what your best course of action is. That expert can assess your particular situation to see if a divorce would end your wife’s legal involvement in your tax problems.

  8. My husband and I were married outside the US in 2008, I came to FL in 2009. We have lived together for 4years, we have no kids and I am a housewife. We have a property under both our names. I will ask for a divorce soon but I want to know if the property is going to be equally distributed between the two of us, knowing that I don’t have a job and I didn’t financially contribute in it.

  9. My husband left me over two years ago..I had no job no car nothing I cant afford a lawyer and I dont work now because I take care of my mother so Idk where to turn to or what to do can you help?

  10. Jan Jordan says:

    I am 59 and in poor health, bypass and vascular surgery in 2013, and in need of other vascular and cervical surgery as soon as I have health insurance. My husband of 41 years has left to live with his girlfriend. He will be 62 next month and is working, although not making a great deal of money, I believe around $25k annually.
    I have applied for SS Disability but have not received a determination. My husbands household consists of himself, the girlfriend who does receive SSD and also his sister who receives SSD. I receive temporary disability for three months at a time, and then have to re-apply and wait for approval (benefits are not paid during this wait time.)
    He has asked for an uncontested divorce. We have no joint marital assets. He has threatened that if I ask for any support or maintenance he will cut off contact. My adult children agree with their father because he does not make a lot of money. But at times, like the end of this month I will have zero benefits until I hear from SSD. My medical bills are enormous and monthly RX costs exceed $400. I could not afford to continue COBRA.
    Under this scenario do you fell I am entitled to maintenance, and any guess what that would be?
    I’m hopelessly still praying for a reconciliation but I’m on my own with that wish. He continues to ask for an uncontested divorce and plans to marry the other woman.
    I’m in disparate need of advice. Thank you.

  11. Nancy Beals says:

    Hello and thanks for your help. I have been married for 25 years. We have no children. Marriage was okay at first but steadily declined. He has always had control of the money. We have never had a joint account on anything, even a checking account; everything is in his name. There is so much to tell but I won’t go into it here. But after so many years of rotten behavior, I did research and found that he fits the profile perfectly of someone with narcissistic personality disorder. I have always felt sorry for him and have stayed with him because I cared for him, but I just recently realized that he doesn’t love me at all; in fact I believe he hates me. Just a little background. I worked as a medical transcriptionist for 25 years; however, that job is no longer viable (done now by machines, electronic medical record). We live in Tennessee where there are no jobs. I’ve sent hundreds of resumes and applications to no avail. I’ve asked if we could move so I could find work but he only does thinks that are expedient for himself. But I still listen to him constantly griping that I’m a no-good layabout because I don’t work. As it stands now, I am trapped. I am in the house 24/7, have no vehicle and have no money. He is not likely to give me any money to hire a lawyer for a divorce. He gives me 10 or 20 dollars every now and then. I am 58 years old and need to get established somewhere, somehow; I am afraid I will be on the street. I have no family to speak of. Having said all this, because we have no children and because the assets are pretty cut and dried – house (which he has already had offers on), he has a 401K, and we have a car that is worth some money, can’t I file for a divorce on my own with the assets just split down the middle? Tennessee is an equitable state. I don’t need spousal support if I can just take what is rightly mine and leave to go where I can find a job. I don’t want any furniture – he can have it all. However, I know that when it comes to money (which he thinks is all his and rightly so) and any kind of authority telling him what to do, his true nature comes out – that of the devil. Thanks again for any help you can offer.

    • If you and he are in agreement on all issues, you can have a paralegal draw up the papers. If not, then you’ll probably need to have a couple of mediation sessions to get things figured out. Since it is cut and dried it shouldn’t be difficult to resolve. But in most states you can’t just make a decision yourself and proceed, he’ll need to participate. If he won’t, then you’ll need to get a judge to decide the division.

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