Do It Yourself Divorce in Florida – a Logical Plan
Do It Yourself Divorce – Caution !
By reading our website, you have taken the first step to helping yourself through the divorce process. First, I need to tell you this very important thing: get the most comprehensive help you can afford. More comprehensive help = hiring a divorce attorney. Yes, this may be disappointing advice for you to hear, but it is the truth. A Divorce Attorney goes to school for years and then learns the missing pieces from the school of hard knocks. This is a very effective school and hiring a divorce lawyer will always be better than a do it yourself divorce.
OK, the disclaimer is out of the way. If you have read this far without pushing your computer off the table in disgust, reading further will be worth your while.
Divorce – Do It Yourself – Procedures
So you are determined to do it yourself. Most likely, you are forced into this path because you don’t have the money for a divorce lawyer. But that does not mean you must do completely without an attorney completely. Consumer-oriented divorce attorneys are now offering services on an as-needed basis. We are in this category. As needed services can be used to get the help of an attorney, but spend the least amount possible.
1. Initial divorce petition and related documents – preparation
For people with $0 assets, $0 debts, no house, and no children, and no need for alimony – purchase a set of do it yourself divorce forms at the courthouse for approx $20 and try to follow the directions.
For people with some assets, debts, and maybe a house – hire an attorney to prepare all of your forms – ready to file. We charge a very reasonable price and it includes all work done by a divorce attorney – packaged with a personal consultation. We feel the price is an excellent value for anyone that cannot afford the full services of an attorney. This can be a do it yourself divorce that is uncontested or a do it yourself contested divorce in Florida. Another benefit is that we can later be retained for advice or other help if you get stuck.
For people with children where custody, visitation, and support – RUN, DON’T WALK, away from the paralegal (non-attorney) services. They are not only under qualified to properly advise you but they do not seem to be aware of their lack of knowledge. Do it yourself should not equate to “harm yourself.” Beg, borrow, or steal (just kidding!) the money to hire an attorney. It is well worth it.
2. Filing the Petition and Service on your spouse
This is an easy do it yourself divorce procedure. Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando, and Pinellas all have a $408 filing fee – paid to the Clerk of Court when you file your petition for divorce. All you have to do is pay an additional $20 and the Clerk of Court will have the local Sheriff serve the paperwork on your spouse.
3. Wait to see if your spouse files something back or hires an attorney
If your spouse hires an attorney and you get an answer to your petition, now is the time to get a bit of good advice. Do it yourself divorce is on longer in your interest. Here is where only an attorney will do. A paralegal commits a felony in Florida by giving advice, and is not trained to give advice. In any case, paralegals tend to give wrong advice – and the situation is almost impossible to fix later on.
We offer a follow-up to the paperwork package. A half hour of consultation for $150. We have found that a half hour is long enough for all your questions and to get you moving again. If you did not use our low cost package, we will still be glad to accommodate you for a cost of $150 per half hour. In this type of service our main goal is to help you in your do it yourself efforts.
4. Respond to all insane requests that come directly from the Court
OK, the requests are not insane. But they will seem insane because they can be complex to follow. The letters will normally point out something you are missing or tell you to appear on a certain date. Read them carefully, do what they say, and do not try to directly contact the judge. Follow this advice and inevitably you will be pushed through the system. Thousands of people successfully get divorced without an attorney and get to the end. But you are smarter than most if you used partial services from an attorney. Even contested divorces are done almost every day by do it yourself parties.
5. Attend mediation when the letter telling you to go to mediation arrives in your mailbox.
You are in deep you-know-what if you stand up the mediator. So be good and attend mediation when you are told to. And who knows, maybe you will come to an agreement and end all the madness. You also get the help of an good mediator to write up the agreement. This is another opportunity to use a divorce attorney to your advantage. Have the mediator build in a 10 day right of rescission. This means you have time to run the agreement past an attorney before it becomes binding. If you bring it to us, it will take approx 1 hour to review and explain it.
6. Appear at the final hearing yourself or with a one-time appearance by an attorney and be prepared to show your documents and speak your mind.
If no attorneys enter the case directly, you will end up in front of a type of judge called a Magistrate. Magistrates are accustomed to dealing with do it yourself people. Self represented people are referred to by the Court as Pro-Se. That’s Latin and it means you do not have an attorney to appear in Court.
Most Magistrates are knowledgeable, informed, and caring people – who try to do the right thing. At least in my experience. Ultimately, all the decisions will be made and an order will be issues. Without a full time attorney, you will proceed to the end of the process and successfully get divorced. It will be a bit more painful without an attorney – but it is doable none the less. Divorce for a do it yourself spouse is a reality and is possible if you are determined to succeed.
I hope this article on Divorce – Do it yourself was of help to you. If you are doing your divorce yourself, read the rest of this website first. I wish you good luck and a smooth case. If you are inclined to use an attorney for any portion of your case, please consider speaking to us first. I can be reached toll free at 1-800-469-3486.
Divorce Attorney Howard Iken