How To File For & Get A Divorce Online
And what you should consider along the way.
When most people are trying to figure out how to file for and get a divorce, their initial thought is still to find a family law attorney with a brick and mortar office where they will meet and confer about the dreadful process they're about to embark on.
But, just as relationships and marriages are now created via social media, websites and apps from start to finish, so, too, is it possible to initiate and, ultimately, get divorced online.
Swipe Right. Swipe Left.
Once taboo, we now sit on our couches, browsing merchandise and dating sites from the comfort of our own computer or smartphone, as computer-generated algorithms organize all the information necessary to find us just about anything and everything we want.
We connect online. We communicate online. And, when we need to, we breakup online.
So, it's only natural that the family law system is jumping onboard and bringing the divorce process into the digital realm.
New online platforms catering divorcing husbands and wives are springing up more and more frequently in an attempt to provide easily accessible information, support, and services.
If you're thinking about how to get a divorce and wondering if you should file for divorce online, know these 5 things first:
1. There is no one-size-fits-all divorce.
Every person is different, every family is different, and every divorcing couple is different, which means your situation is bound to be unique.
Technology is getting more and more creative in addressing the uniqueness of your family’s situation. However, you need to recognize that just because your friend had success using a particular online divorce platform, your situation and results may not be the same.
Be a savvy shopper and be prepared, because, at some point in the process, you may need to consult with a living, breathing attorney or mediator to help you understand and weight the options that might be best for you.
2. Different sites and apps offer different resources.
There are a variety of resources out there.
Some websites help you complete divorce paperwork. Others help organize papers, budgets, and asset lists and work more efficiently with your mediator or lawyer. Some help you organize your co-parenting communication and information sharing. Others give you techniques to resolve smaller parenting disputes, sometimes with the help of a third-party intermediary, if and when necessary. And others will help you work through a settlement agreement, pinpointing areas where you and your spouse agree and where you disagree.
Basically, do your homework. You may need different platforms and resources at different points along the way.
3. Most divorce technology requires human interaction at some point.
During a divorce, you go through many emotions and you may have a lot of questions. You may be so overwhelmed that you need help. You need someone patient and willing to repeat what you need to hear multiple times as it sinks in.
Much of the technology will incorporate a human to help you at some point, whether it is a lawyer to review your paperwork after you draft it, an intermediary to help you communicate about a parenting dispute or they give you tech support to help you parse through the website or app.
Do not be afraid to ask for help from an actual human when you feel that you need it. Technology is amazing and provides a variety of unique and important services in an economical way. But, depending on your situation, the technology may serve you better by helping you prepare, not finalizing everything for you.
4. Different states have different laws, so buyer beware.
Remember that every state in the U.S. has it's own family law code, along with it's own associated forms and processes.
Be certain that the technology service you are using works with your state and is giving you information specific to your state’s laws, and, therefore, your situation. If you and your spouse have residences in multiple states, you may need to consult a lawyer about how to narrow down the specific state that applies to your situation.
And be aware that whether you are downloading legal templates or filling out court forms, it is absolutely critical that you use the right papers.
5. The best use of most divorce apps and online resources lies in helping you organize.
The utility of these systems remains exciting and resourceful. Couples can now get free or low-cost help in organizing those aspects of their lives that need closure so that the couple can consciously un-couple.
Separating and divorcing spouses should recognize the potential limitations with a certain technology, but there are great benefits to making use of quality resources which allow you handle many aspects of divorce online.
As they continue developing, the availability of online divorce resources will (hopefully) force family lawyers to innovate and change.
These resources are a boon to divorce lawyers. Where they used to spend hours helping clients organize information, they can now spend time focusing on the law. This is also creating a market in which lawyers are being required to become more tech-savvy and efficient when working with clients.
Clients can come into meetings with a lawyer, feeling empowered with information, confident in knowing their own path forward, and better prepared to explain their goals to their lawyer or mediator.
As you're thinking about how to get divorced, be a tech-savvy consumer and understand all the tools now available to you during your divorce process.
Melissa Kucinski is a D.C.-based family lawyer and mediator, as well as the author of "Becoming the Tech Savvy Family Lawyer."