What Is an Online Divorce and When Is It a Good Idea?

Thanks to ever-evolving technology, practically everything today can be done online. From getting a university degree to drafting a will or renewing a driver’s license, the internet has seemingly endless possibilities. In several states it is also possible to get an online divorce. The advertisements for online divorce may be appealing to some. For example, they often claim the couple will have no lawyer fees or court dates. 

Divorce lawyers, know of many couples who tried the process of an online divorce and failed to get anywhere apart from garnering unnecessary debt. This is not to say that online divorces don’t work, but rather, that you should understand what you are getting into before you participate in a DIY online divorce. Failure to weigh out your options could result in you overlooking your rights and interests or agreeing to something you did not understand. Choosing to end your marriage is a major life decision and could impact your life and that of your children. Therefore, how you get a divorce deserves due care and attention, regardless of whether you choose to do it in person or through the internet. 

Understanding Online Divorce
An online divorce does not mean that you simply complete the form and press a button that will dissolve the marriage. Rather, it is similar to the standard process. The difference is that you will be responsible for most of the work instead of hiring a divorce lawyer. You will begin by downloading and completing various forms. Without a divorce lawyer, this can take some time. Once the petition for a divorce is filled out, you will need to submit it to the county courthouse. Only select courthouses will take this paperwork online. If this is not allowed at your courthouse, you will need to appear in person. 

After this, a summons will need to be served to your spouse. You can hire someone to do this if you are uncomfortable to do so. It is very important that you complete this process correctly; otherwise, your spouse might claim they never got the summons. If this should happen, a judge could rule the divorce as being invalid. Proof of the summons will need to be submitted. 

If children are involved, an application for child custody and visitation will need to be completed and submitted. You and your ex will also need to establish a parenting plan. In general, this can be difficult with a divorce lawyer present. 

To finalize an online divorce, both you and your spouse will need to complete the final disclosure forms. These documents must be submitted within 60 days from the date of the petition for divorce. Depending on the circumstances of your divorce, further documents might also need to be submitted. If your spouse agrees to the petition, it is possible for a judge to sign off on the divorce without you ever going to court. If your spouse does not agree with the petition, or you are unable to come to an amicable divorce terms, an online divorce will likely be impossible. 

Who is an Online Divorce For?
Online divorce might be convenient; however, it can also cause unnecessary challenges. This is particularly true for couples who have anything more than a straightforward case. In an online divorce, you will not have a divorce lawyer to support and guide you, and you will lack someone who can answer your questions. All you will have is the internet and a lot of general information. That said, if you believe any of the following apply, you should not pursue an online divorce:

  • You have been in a long-term marriage
  • You have a bad relationship or there is domestic violence involved
  • The divorce is contested
  • The divorce includes more than one state
  • You are divorcing someone who was in the military
  • There are high value assets involved
  • You or your spouse owns a business
  • There are minor children
  • You are seeking spousal maintenance

If your spouse has already hired a divorce lawyer, you may be unable to divorce online. However, if there are no debts, the relationship was short lived, there are simple assets, there are no children, and both of you are ready to work together, an online divorce may be suitable. In all other matters, it is advisable to hire a divorce lawyer.