How to Divorce
Tips to Do It Yourself

  • With a Do It Yourself Divorce you will still have to file a divorce action and submit legal papers to a Court in a format required by your state. Each state has specific requirements for resolving divorce actions. Your first step should be to learn your state's requirements

  • Review Your Circumstances. -- Most people spend many months planning a wedding, but little to no time planning their divorce. Honestly assess your situation

  • Determine what temporary orders you will need to obtain if domestic violence or child or spousal support is an issue,

  • Get hold of copies of all deeds to property, vehicle titles, recent bank and checking account statements, insurance policies, retirement accounts, mortgage statements, credit card bills, and copies of any other important financial information.

  • There are two sets of rules you must follow when filing for a divorce. The first is state and the second is local. You can find a copy of the state rules at any law library and at some public libraries. Your courthouse should have a copy of their local rules.

    Or you can purchase a book online for $20 to $30. See Links to Divorce Resources. NOTE: The editors at, one of our links, have warned against so-called "national divorce books" which are "supposed" to be good in all 50 states, because divorce laws are highly state specific and these books aren't.

  • Gather all the necessary documents like insurance policies, bank and credit card statements. Even if you settle amicably, one of you will have to file a petition with the Court. That is file a legal document, structured in numbered paragraphs following a specific format.

    The statements in the paragraph are called allegations or averments. There are specific allegations that must be made in the petition to give the court jurisdiction over you, your spouse, your children, your property and your divorce.

  • Information about what must be in a petition can be found in your state's domestic relations laws or you can purchase pre-printed forms that contain the necessary averments. (Please check links for further information on all "Tips.")

  • Along with the petition, you will have to file other documents that are required by state or local laws, rules, or practice. For example, most states require a Statement of Income and Expense, a Statement of Property, a Filing Cover Sheet, and a Basic Parenting Plan if you have children.

    Each state has specific requirements with which you need to comply. You will also need to pay a filing fee to the Court Clerk.

  • Sometimes the Court will have preprinted forms that you can use for some or all of the documents that are required. Ask the Court Clerk's office for a list of the documents you will need to file and for any preprinted forms that you will need.

  • Once your divorce is filed you will need to serve your spouse with the Court papers either personally and through a third party. There will be a court rule explain how to do this. Your spouse must respond to the petition and provide copies to you.

  • Ask the Clerk how you set your divorce for a hearing before the judge. Generally, this involves waiting for a set period of time set forth by state law, then obtaining a court date from either the judge's clerk or from the Court Clerk for a non-contested hearing.
    When you have the date and time, you file a document called a Notice of Hearing. When the date arrives you need to show up on time, ready to be divorced.

  • Some courts can grant a divorce by Affidavit so your spouse won't have to appear in Court. Ask the Court Clerk if this is possible and if there is a preprinted form and instructions.

  • During your divorce hearing, you will need to have all of the necessary papers ready for the judge and be prepared to answer certain questions, which provide the judge with the authority to either grant or deny your divorce.

  • One of the documents you will need to present to the judge is called a judgment or a decree. Check to see if your courthouse uses preprinted forms for this. If not ask the Clerk for a sample of a judgment or a decree which you can use as a model.

    If one isn't available, go to the law library and look for a set of books that contain forms and information about your state's practice and procedure. The librarian can help you. A forms package purchased online should include all the necessary legal documents.

  • Even if you and your spouse have agreed, a judge can still refuse to let you get divorced if the judge believes that your divorce settlement is unfair, inequitable, not in the best interests of your children, or unconscionable.

    After the divorce is granted, the judge will sign the divorce judgment or decree. You might not get an "official copy" at the time of the hearing so be sure to ask for a photocopy or take extra copies to the hearing. Check with the Clerk's office to find out how to obtain a "certified copy" of the divorce judgment.

  • Finally you put into effect the terms of your Settlement Agreement.

Consider Using Outside Professionals Piecemeal

  • Lawyer to provide information on legal rights, responsibilities and requirements; to review the final settlement agreement to ensure it is in the proper form and will be acceptable to a court of law.

  • Mediator for issues you and your spouse can't resolve on your own.

  • Counselor or therapist to help and your children with the emotional part of the divorce.

  • Accountant or financial planner to educate you on short and long term financial aspects and tax consequences of your divorce.

  • Paralegal to help fill out forms and type your agreement, NOT FOR LEGAL ADVICE.

If you decide to file your divorce yourself, there are many online divorce services available to help you generate the legal divorce forms you need. We recommend, Click here to find out more.

For the rest of this article, please go to: Do It Yourself Divorce.

For more about divorcing collaboratively, click on one of the links below.

To learn more about other conflict resolution topics, click on any of the links below.

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