You might want to act Pro Se:
You’re on a budget and have the time to handle the divorce or family law process on your own. You also would like an easy way to find and file the forms that you need. Plus, you like the idea of having an expert available on demand.
Benefits of a pro se legal process:
With an agreed pro se divorce you have the ability to handle everything outside the courtroom, protecting your privacy.
You handle the majority of the work and only pay for what you need. Plus, it’s easy to estimate the cost of an individual project.
Help On Demand
If you get stuck or have questions our attorneys are a phone call away to help guide you or take care of the challenging parts.
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About the process
What to expect in a pro se divorce?
With a pro se divorce you choose, which parts of the divorce you’d like to handle and what you want from your attorney. If you’d like to file we can do the drafting. If you’d like to draft your documents, we’ll send you the necessary forms. The process is in your control, so you decide how it gets done.
Pro se means that you represent yourself in the case and plan to file the necessary documents without a lawyer. In agreed divorces it is not uncommon for people to choose to represent themselves. That said, people who act pro se often seek advice from a lawyer.
“A do it yourself divorce, also known as pro se or online divorce, is a divorce filed and finalized by a person not represented by an attorney. While the divorce filer is officially unrepresented, they often hire a divorce professional to help with specific parts of the process.”
This method of divorce should only be used in agreed cases, since the risks of self-representation are reduced. This applies to almost all cases, not just divorce. While a person can represent themselves in a contested case, it is risky. Family law and court procedures are complex. If your spouse hired a lawyer you’ll be at a huge disadvantage.
Can you get a pro se divorce when there are minor children involved?
You can get divorced pro se even if you have minor children. However, children make divorce more complicated.
First, most counties require parents to attend a parenting seminar prior to finalizing any divorce. The seminar usually lasts four hours and is available at multiple times and locations. If you’d prefer to skip the class you can file by mail.
Second, a pro se divorce with children is harder because calculating child support is challenging. In order to calculate child support you’ll need to use the Washington child support tables and worksheets. That’s often the most confusing part of the paperwork for pro se filers.
Third, parenting plans should be well thought out and drafted with the goal that they will last long term. The basic form that you can download off the court’s website is fairly bare bones. In order to get the most out of your parenting plan it’s smart to research additional clauses that would be helpful in your situation, as well as ask your attorney for advice.
Lastly, it’s important to know that a court will run a background check on both parents and can reject plans if a parent has red flags that aren’t addressed in the paperwork. For example, if a parent has multiple DUIs on their record a court may require a customized drop off and pick up schedule. The parenting plan will need to address the history of the problem and identify ways to address the issue.
How to file a pro se divorce?
You can successfully file a pro se divorce in four steps. First, reach an agreement. Second, draft your documents. Third, finalize and sign the forms. Fourth, file with the court.
In order to reach an agreement you need to discuss big issues like parenting, finances and property division. When you’re starting out you may not be aware of the all the details you’ll need to cover, but you can cover the basics. If can reach an agreement in principal move forward to drafting the documents.
You can download most of the forms from the Washington court website. However, each county has different requirements, so you’ll want to know what you need based on where you file. An attorney can make that easy for you. At this point you’ll see the level of detail required, so you can fine tune your agreement accordingly.
Once you’ve finished your first drafts it’s smart to take some steps to finalize them before signing. This is a good time to bring the forms to an attorney for review. Bring a list of questions you have and ask your lawyer for input. Together you can improve the agreement and ensure that the court approves the divorce paperwork.
Once everything is signed you are ready to file the forms with the court. You can take the documents to your local superior court clerk’s office or file by mail. If you choose to file locally the family law facilitator is a good resource at the courthouse. If you’re interested in filing by mail read our divorce by mail guide for more specifics.
After your divorce is finalized you need to follow through with the divorce terms. This is going to be a little different for each person, but here are 5 common steps that people take after a judge signs their divorce order.
1) Record Keeping:
Immediately after your divorce is finalized it is smart to get a certified copy of the divorce order. In addition, you’ll want to make sure you have copies of any other important paperwork like parenting plans, separation contracts and child support orders. You may need copies in the future and it’s easiest to get them shortly after the case is completed. Certified copies can be purchased from the clerk’s office.
2) Name Changes:
If you changed your name you’ll need to take the following steps. First, update your forms of identification. You’ll want a new passport, new drivers license, new car registration, among other things. Second you’ll need to update your personal records with institutions like your bank, insurance company, school, and employer. Make sure not to forget the Social Security Administration. If your name isn’t accurate with the SSA your tax return can be rejected, leading to late penalties.
3) Joint Accounts:
If you still have joint accounts now is the time to either close those accounts or remove a name. Your divorce paperwork should list the shared accounts, so you’ll know which accounts need to be updated. It will also list if a payment needs to be made from an account before a spouse’s name is removed.
4) Transfer Property:
Vehicles, homes, and retirement accounts all have different steps required to transfer ownership. An attorney will be able to help you sort out what needs to be done. In addition, your final divorce order will list, how property is divided. Complete the appropriate paperwork and follow through with any deadlines.
5) Pay Off Shared Debt:
Creditors are not bound by divorce decrees, meaning even if your spouse agrees to be responsible for a debt in the divorce paperwork you can still be held accountable if they don’t pay. Because of this I encourage spouses to pay down as much shared debt as possible at the end of a marriage.
Is a pro se divorce right for you?
Take the quiz to see if filing your paperwork pro se is a good option.
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