When you make the decision to file for divorce on your own, you will realize quickly that there are a lot of things that have to be done. Once the court has the paperwork, your next step is to get your spouse served. Some states have process servers and some states just have law enforcement serve them. But the good news is that it is not something you will have to do. I worked with a process server and my husband was served within hours of me filing the paperwork because I knew that he was leaving the state and things would be a lot harder as well as expensive with him so far away.
He did call me after he was served and assured me I would get my answer. Of course, I am still waiting. There is a time limit for your spouse to answer the petition and it is usually 20 days or less, but if they miss that deadline, then your case will go into default and you will more than likely get what you’ve asked for. It does take a little longer to do it all on your own and without the other party participating but the savings and lack of contact make it worth it.
There will be a case management hearing; I had two, so that the court can make sure that you have all of your paperwork in its entirety and that you have done everything you needed to do. If your spouse is involved in the divorce they will be there also.
If you can both agree on the terms of the divorce, it goes a little quicker. But if not, just do your best to relax and know that it will come to an end sooner than later.For example, I filed for divorce January 10 and my final hearing was supposed to be August 24th (this didn’t go as planned, so the new final hearing October 8, 2018). It has been a long wait but I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
We were both court-ordered to take a parenting class in order for the divorce to go through. Some states make it mandatory and some don’t. Most states want you to take the class in person but if there is some reason you can not attend an in-person class you can file a motion with the courthouse and ask the judge to approve you taking the online class but you will have to have a reason other than you do not want to. Because of my anxiety and C-PTSD, being in a room full of strangers while I was still stuck with the verbal and mental abuse was not an option. I actually took the class first and asked for permission later. Luckily my judge was understanding and it was accepted.
We have covered how to start the process of the divorce and also having your spouse served.
Now to start the waiting game. There will be a lot of that. My county has a web page for the clerk’s office that you can look at to see the activity on your case. Every page you filed is on there and you can keep an eye on it to see if your spouse has done their part.
Divorce is stressful any way you go about it. Know that you are a survivor and this is just another bump in the road. You have overcome so much more. Good luck SPANily! I look forward to hearing about your experiences along the way. You never know who your experience can help.
Check out our new sister site, Divorce Your Narcissist for more resources and information on divorcing your narcissist.
I know it is time.
I know they are toxic.
Divorce is so expensive.
I can’t afford an attorney.
I don’t know enough about the legal system to be able to do it alone.
Have those thoughts crossed your mind? I know they crossed mine when I was preparing to leave my narcissist. But as I stressed over these things, I realized something HUGE: If you have a simple divorce, with or without children, you are capable of filing a divorce on your own.
Even though my education is as a paralegal, filing for divorce was so daunting, partially because I had not worked in the field since I stopped working 11 years ago to raise my family.
Can I do it alone? How much is it going to cost? What if my spouse gets an attorney?
I have some things I would like to share that I learned along the way while filing for my divorce. Now that I am nearing the end of this journey that seems impossible, I have gained a lot of confidence in myself that I had been lacking from the years of abuse – and no matter the outcome I know I did right by my children.
Is money the issue?
If money is the issue that holds you back, you can go to the clerk’s office and ask to file indigent status. After filing my paperwork, spending half my rent money that was due and that I would struggle to replace, I learned the hard way that you can file your divorce at absolutely no cost to you if approved by the clerk of courts. I ended up being approved at a later date, but they did not return the $500 I already paid out.
You can also find a local domestic violence center near you. They may have a listing of pro bono attorneys that would be willing to take your case if you meet their criteria at no cost to you. There is a ton of help out there; you just need to figure out where to find it.
Where to begin?
You can start with an online search for your county and state in the US along with legal forms. I apologize that I have not learned about the process in other countries, but a Google search is still a safe bet to begin. After reading the instructions and figuring out which form best fits your situation, print out all of the pages you will need. This is usually not too hard to figure out.
After printing out the paperwork, complete every question. If it does not fit your situation you can put N/A on the line so the court knows it does not apply to you. It is very important that every line and every page is filled out in its entirety.
Once you have taken your time to fill out the paperwork, you return them to the clerk’s office to have them filed. You can also pick up the paperwork from the clerk’s office already printed and in order and it can be done with a small fee if you are unable to print them.
Even though filing for divorce alone without representation from an attorney seems impossible, the court system has made it a lot easier. And, if you get lucky, your spouse won’t respond and you more than likely get what you’ve asked for. If not, you have a little more work on your hands but so does your spouse – and you will be two steps ahead.
If you are thinking about starting the process of filing for divorce and you have any questions on how to start or help in finding what you need, please leave a comment and I will help in any way I can.
Stay tuned for more in this series!