Knowledge About Divorce Without Hiring an Attorney

Updated on September 09, 2008
A.L. asks from Gaithersburg, MD
24 answers

I would like to know who I can get help on advising me how to get a divorce without paying expensive expense to a divorce attorney. Do I really need a divorce attorney to get out of the marriage? Please help.

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K.S.

answers from Richmond on

I don't have any advice, but I wish you the best of look. If you get any good suggestions, please share. I have a sister with similar needs.

K.

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B.W.

answers from Washington DC on

Please try the Women's Center in Vienna. I have another friend facing the same costs of divorce attorneys. She has had luck with pro bono attorneys offered at the Center. Look on line first to access info regarding this kind of help. As well, it will provide the phone number to the Center, where you can speak with someone about seeking legal help and how to procede.

There is light at the end of the tunnel!! Good luck and stay strong.

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M.W.

answers from Washington DC on

Anne, the MD courts will assist people who want to file family law issues pro se (representing themselves.) Here is the information off the MD courts site:
MONTGOMERY

The Family Division of the Montgomery County Circuit Court operates their Pro Se Program with three full time attorneys and a full time paralegal (fluent in Spanish). Legal information is available to everyone, but only qualified, low income parties may receive legal advice. The contact person is Avi Sickel ###-###-####.

As you can see, if your income is low, you can get legal advice for free. If you don't qualify for the free legal advice, they will still help you fill out forms and not give advice, the legal information they talked about, as well as tell you what the divorce laws of MD are. But if you think that your divorce will be contested, or if there are significant property issues, or if child custody will be a problem, then you really need an attorney to protect your rights. Many attorneys will allow you to pay over time and most will give you a free half-hour consultation. Sometimes one party can be ordered to pay the legal expenses of the other, but it really depends on the specifics of your case and what the judges in your area normally consider to be fair.

Only an attorney can give legal advice, and since the laws of each state are very different for divorce, it is important to get some source of legal advice in MD to help you. Those web sites that promise to be an inexpensive substitute for an attorney are not good sources of legal advice. The other way that an attorney can help you is that once there is an attorney, your husband has to send all communication about the divorce issues to your attorney, you are shielded from any potential anger or manipulation.

I filed for divorce pro se, but I wound up using an attorney. There were domestic violence issues in my marriage, and it was very helpful to have someone there as a buffer.

My divorce attorney is based in Annapolis, so she's a little far for you, but if you want her name and address, just message me.

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S.B.

answers from Washington DC on

Unless your husband is rich, There really isn't a need for an attorney. You should sit down and think of everything you would like out of the divorce for example if you all have property together, The property (cars, furniture) thing could get messy. But if you want full custody make sure you include this in your decree as well as child support (which is another subject altogether) Who gets the children on what days and holidays. it's important for you to have time for yourself unless your husband was abusive to the kids. Also, health care is important, make sure you bring this issue up. The best place for you to start is at Barnes and Nobles or your nearest public library. There are a wealth of resources. You file the papers yourself at your local courthouse, make sure you follow the instructions carefully. Make sure if you all have debts together that he pays half, so you will not be responsible.

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L.L.

answers from Dover on

I don't know firsthand, but I've heard that you can use a court mediator. But only if you and your husband agree on everything and are on friendly terms.
Everything the mediator does is legally binding and filed with the court, so I don't think you have to worry about your husband going back on any promises he made.
Good luck!

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S.K.

answers from Washington DC on

Check out Brilliant Exits: http://www.brilliantexits.com/New_SS.php

They have "Second Saturdays," which is a chance to ask an attorney questions. It is VERY affordable. There are many other divorce services, too. Good luck.
S.

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D.J.

answers from Washington DC on

It may depend on the state, but in PA there is a No-Fault divorce. It is much less expensive than hiring an attorney only thing is...Both of you have to agree on the divorce and you split things up between the 2 of you without the court saying who gets what. If you own property you have to be able to agree who gets the property or that it is sold and the profit from it split between you.

If you can split things up without fighting, you can use the No-fault divorce and save big money. I had one and it is leagal.

As for the kids... that can also be settled out of court if you can agree on custody. It doesn't have to be part of the divorce decree. Write up an agreement on who has primary custodian or that you share custody and who has them when and then send it through the court for a nominal fee.

If you want child support...Domestic relations decides on the amount and who pays who what. This doesn't have to go through the divorce either.

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A.D.

answers from Washington DC on

Hi A.. I recently went through a custody case with my son's father (never married). My original plan was to seek mediation on our own. I let my family talk me into hiring a lawyer. Through my employee assistance program I found an attorney at 25% discount, but I would not recommend this as I was not a priority case it seemed. The case went on and we showed up in court for "Scheduling Conference" 2 almost 3 times. At this point you are paying enormous fees for your attorney to show up in court. Finally, we were ordered by the court to go through mediation. We were given 2, 2-hour sessions at $150 per person, per session. In 2 hours, my ex and I completed our agreement in only 1 session. I highly recommend mediation. My advice prior to mediation though is to be sure that you and your ex have a list of things that you know you want or you know you want to talk about. The mediation is structured so that nothing is forgotten and all subjects are covered, but if you already know what you want it makes it easier. I also recommend, if possible, that you and your ex discuss your wants and needs prior and this makes it even easier/quicker.
Here is the best part about mediation: you and your ex decide what happens in your future and no one else. The mediator is there as an unbiased person to guide you, not steer you. Through the court system I was also ordered to a Family Law Orientation Workshop (more or less a parenting workshop). Mediation vs. litigation was explained to us this way: in mediation you decide what happens, in litigation someone else gets to make the decision about your life.
Currently it has been almost 2 months since our agreement was reached and it is working very well. In my opinion, it is working so well because we designed the agreement to fit our lives. I know the money on the attorney was not wasted, but I wish I had thought more about my decision to hire one before I actually did.
I do know that there is also a Pro Se office at the courthouses and this will give you a lot of information if you decide to move forward with the court system without an attorney.
Good luck!

L.M.

answers from Dover on

As long as no one is contesting the divorce and you are agreeable (or at least willing to compromise), no attorney is typically needed. You didn't post if you were in MD or DE so laws vary slightly so you should ask someone at family court for the paperwork you will need. In DE, although you may mention custody/visitation with you divorce, that is is a separate application (as is child support)...both are have standard arrangements unless you agree to something different on your own (so if you go that route, be sure you cover things now while you're agreeable BEFORE there is a issue down the road). Good luck.

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V.K.

answers from Washington DC on

Hi A.,

I am an attorney and a person who (prior to becoming an attorney) obtained a divorce without the aid of an attorney. My divorce w/out an attorney was very easy, largely due to the fact that we had no children and no real property disputes. Getting a divorce without an attorney is easy and possible, IF AND ONLY IF there are no real issues and the parties get along VERY VERY well. Since you have a child, I would not recommend going this alone unless you are far more certain of your soon to be ex than most. There are also ways, even with an attorney, to make the process short and sweet, but cooperation is the key!

Good Luck,

V.

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M.F.

answers from Washington DC on

I was divorced once and did most of the divorce papaers myself. I got this book (unfurtunately I don't have it anymore) that is for VA, MD, DC laws. This books has all you need to know and includes a lot of forms. I copied samples from the book and made changes to the separation agreement. This included kids custody, house, insurance coverage and savings. We both signed with a public notary. I waited a year (VA laws) and went to see an attorney to file for divorce. I only paid $400.
My advise is to go in the internet and search for books/publications for your state. I know they are out there.
Good luck!

M.

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T.H.

answers from Norfolk on

there are papers you can file to have this done without a lawyer if both you and hubby are agreeing on everything. ts called a non contested divorse. you can also pay a lawyer 200-500 to draw up papers for you and that would be it s he would handle it. if you and huby dont agree on everything then you wil need a lawyer to do it for you. the papers i think can be found online for the one you do yourself. i got some about 6 years ago but i cant remember where at now.

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K.H.

answers from Washington DC on

You can go to the court house and file your own papers. They have forms that you fill out and file yourself for a minimal fee. It really cuts the cost.

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E.M.

answers from Washington DC on

Check out The Women's Center in Vienna; they sometimes sponsor (free!) divorce seminars, and they're a good source of advice...

http://www.thewomenscenter.org/

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M.C.

answers from Washington DC on

Hello,
Although I am not an attorney, I am married to one. What I am about to say is quite general because a lot depends on the state that the divorce is taking place in. First, in most states you must go through a period of separation. You might be able to contact a lawyer for a free consultation (most do that & only change once they have decided to take a case). Find out how long this period of separation needs to be & what the state's "legal definition" is for separation (ie, different places of residences, different finances, etc.). Also, I know that soem states have what is called (I believe) uncontested divorces, which usually means that there is no dispute over who is getting what.

However, given that you have a child, I think the best advice for you is to get the lawyer to protect the interests of the child if your husband is the child's legal guardian. In addition, divorce can be a every emotional thing to go through. If the divorce is contested, you might benefit from having the logical advice from the lawyer who is not emotional involved.

Also, sometimes there are things that need to be filed that you could take care of (instead of your attorney doing it) that might help cut down on the legal expenses. Again, a lot of this depends on the state you live in.

I hope that this helps.

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T.B.

answers from Parkersburg on

When my husband divorced his ex-wife I did his. It may be more difficult with a young son as there are child support issues to contend with. Go to findlaw.com or the county website, sometimes there are forms there you can fill out. Let me know if I can be of further assistance, I am not an attorney but will try to do what I can. [email protected]____.com

T.

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K.B.

answers from Norfolk on

I would have attorney look at your separation agreement. I learned the hard way. My ex passed away two days after we were divorced and I lost everything that was at his house and the life insurance that was left to me. I, also, lost my military benefits that we had agreed to in our separation. Please really consider having an attorney.

Good Luck!!

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J.W.

answers from Richmond on

You ABSOLUTELY need a lawyer, unless you and your soon to be exhusband agree on everything. And even so, who knows how long that will last or if someone will change their mind about something down the road.
In a divorce, people are looking to get out and look out for themselves. You have a child together. He will have certain obligations to that child. You need a lawyer to make sure you're getting what's in the child's best interest.
I know it's expensive. But it could be lots more expensive in the long run if you don't get one.
Good Luck,
J.

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C.D.

answers from Norfolk on

The only reason I'm going to tell you to get an attorney is because you have a son, and you do absolutely want someone who knows what they're doing to help you fight the custody/child support battle. You need an agreement written in stone that will take going back to court to change; my sister made the mistake of not doing that, going through a mediator instead, with a flexible unwritten visitation agreement, and her ex sued her for custody 4 years later(he never showed up at the hearing, it was just to yank her chain). Most attorneys will do a free consultation. I don't know what MD law is regarding property(assets) distribution or if MD is a no-fault divorce state. Good luck.

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E.K.

answers from Washington DC on

I did not read any of the responses, but I went to the Pro Se office for Anne Arundel County. It's in the Court House on Church Circle. I hope that everything goes well in this process.

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T.A.

answers from Norfolk on

Hi A.,

I'm so sorry you're in this position. Unfortunately, in Virginia, an attorney is necessary in the dissolution of marriages involving children. Many attorney's will offer a free consultation, and the husband generally is responsible for payment of fees - but not until the divorce is finalized.
If you're a military spouse you can consult an attorney on base, to get an idea of what you're entitled but they're unable to represent either you or your husband.
There is a firm in Virginia Beach that represents ONLY women, Hofheimer/Ferrebee. The firm offers a free divorce book at www.FreeDivorceBook.com and they also have monthly seminars (used to be $20.00) VERY informative and you can ask lots of questions. All the best to you and your son.
T. A.

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S.M.

answers from Washington DC on

My husband tried to go to his divorce court date with all his papers in order that he had learned from one of the Divorce Books and he was rudely excused by the judge and told to go get an attorney. All it proved to do was delay the divorce and in the end cost him more.

Having been through this before a couple times myself here's what I know.

1 You can shop for an attorney that will file the basic documents for you for a price you agree upon at the beginning.

2 You and your Ex should do your arguing and setting settlement agreements in a Therapists office BEFORE you go to an attorney (I did this the last time and got my Attorney fees down to $750.) Any time you are on the phone with a lawyer or talking to them in an appointment - even if you have a quick question to ask - The little clock to charge you is running.

3 The 1st time I divorced in 1993 I paid a retainer of $3000 and got scr$%&d. The last time was in 2003 ($750) and my ex and I agreed upon everything with a Therapist and just took the info. to the Attorney to draw up. The lawyer appeared in court without me. I'm glad I had done it that way. My Ex was agreeing to things to me and then in front of others he would change his tune. I brought the Therapist into the middle to write down the agreements and at times would even go to the lawyer for a vital document to present to my ex at the next therapy session. Then he could not go back on things that were promised.

If you have any questions I'd be happy to answer them for you. Divorce can be such a contentious situation. I always said "You never truly know someone until you divorce them" I hope your experience is different than mine! Blessings, S.

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A.G.

answers from Erie on

Get an attorney. Prior to my daughter being born 18 months ago, I worked as a paralegal working for an attorney whose primary practice was malpractice while his partner handled divorce and custody matters. I have seen so many people try to handle legal matters on their own and it has never been a good idea. A lot of attorneys will provide a free consultation if you ask. And many times you are paying the lawyer by the hour which means that if you and your husband are agreeable on most things, it shouldn't take the attorney a lot of time to do the work. And, the attorney should be able to give you an estimate on how much it will cost you. Being prepared for your meetings will also help. Divorce is never easy and it's going to be a stressful time for you; trying to handle the filing of the appropriate paperwork properly is not going to help. Any attorney you hire should be sending you monthly billing statements which will allow you to keep an eye on how much you're actually spending. If you feel you're starting to pay too much, talk to the attorney. You would be surprised how many attorneys are willing to work with you to get you the help you need. Most importantly though, always check the background of any attorney you hire. Good luck with whichever route you take.

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D.E.

answers from Washington DC on

A., I filed an uncontested divorce and it cost me less than $300. The lawyer was based out of Fredericksburg. It was quick and painless procedure.

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