The DIY Divorce (You Don’t Need A Lawyer)

divorceSo, you’ve decided to get divorced. To the people who have found themselves here, please feel free to roll your eyes at that incredibly oversimplified statement that makes it sound like it is as easy as deciding what to have for dinner. It’s not. It’s the furthest thing from easy, trust me, I know. But what I’m sharing today is about the logistics of divorce, not the gut-wrenching feelings.

When I finally started sharing that we were planning to get divorced, the first thing that everyone said to me was “I know a lawyer.” Contact info was shared, calls were made, consultations were had. After all that, what I gathered was that to use a lawyer to get divorced was going to cost anywhere from $7,500 to $12,000. Let me tell you that when you are staring down the barrel of selling a house and buying another with a single income, the last thing you want to do is shell out thousands of dollars, particularly when you and your soon-to-be-ex are on good terms and agree on everything.

I understand that not everyone going through a divorce is in the situation that we were in, and sometimes a lawyer may absolutely be necessary for matters of money and especially custody. However, if you are on good terms with your spouse — well, as good as possible considering you’re about to split — then I strongly suggest considering the DIY Divorce.

I’m sure that like me, many people probably assume that it is required that you have a lawyer or mediator to get divorced. It’s not. After hours of research, I realized that the court system makes the forms and requirements confusing on purpose, but if I can figure it out, you should be able to also. Here’s how I did it.

I spent an incredible amount of time on the county Clerk of Courts website reading about all of the paperwork that was required. The paperwork requirements are different for each scenario, i.e. kids, no kids, financial situations, kids from another marriage, etc. Once I figured out our set of circumstances, that kind of determined our “paperwork path,” and I printed the first form and read it in its entirety. That form listed two other forms that were required, and those forms listed several more, and on and on until I had about 26 documents total, all of which were available for PDF download from the Clerk of Courts website. Some of the forms required supporting documentation, the most important and involved of which was the financial affidavits and child support calculation worksheet.

We worked through the forms and questions together, and when we had it all complete, we called a notary to come to our house and notarize the entire stack of documents at one time. A few days later, I went to the courthouse, walked in with the stack of paperwork and a check for $422 — the filing fee — and that was that.

We got our court date a few weeks later and because of COVID, it was done via Zoom call. We had to both state that we completed the paperwork ourselves and that we agreed our marriage was “irrevocably broken” —  I can promise you that no amount of money you save makes uttering those words any easier, but it helped us to work through the entire process together with no bitter legal back and forth.

A few weeks after the Zoom court date, we got our final decree via email, and it was almost hard to believe that it could have been so simple… the paperwork part, anyway. We obviously had struggles — the emotional anguish of divorce is something that I would not wish on my worst enemy. Eight months later we are still on great terms, better friends than we were when we were married actually, and our kids have adjusted so well. And if you can believe it, saving thousands of dollars surprisingly wasn’t the best part of our DIY Divorce. When it was all said and done, I realized that if we’d taken the time to listen to each other, show each other compassion, and work together during our marriage as we did throughout the process of divorce, we probably wouldn’t have had to do it in the first place. Oh, the sweet irony.

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Originally an ATLien, Katie Jones has lived in Jacksonville since 2009 with her super handy husband and their high-strung mutt dog, Maybelle. Katie is a momma of two girls - sweet princess Lila joined the party in April 2015, and little sister (a.k.a. the no limit solider) Lennox made her debut in June 2017. When Katie is not celebrating her love of sarcasm and humor, or writing posts for her design and lifestyle blog, she's busy designing interiors as her full-time job in the residential construction field, or tackling DIY renovation projects of her own. See above: "handy husband." She loves the camaraderie of the Jacksonville Mom team and is thrilled to be part of a community where we can laugh and figure this whole life and motherhood thing out together!

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