Divorce Without an Attorney
Berkeley Parents Network >
Legal & Financial Services >
Divorce Without an Attorney
Can I file for divorce without a lawyer?
My wife and I are seeking an amicable divorce.
We have no property and one 14 year old child, and want it done peacefully. We agree on
how to split everything. How about Divorce With Dignity? Has anyone used their filing
I've done 2 divorces in two different states, the last one a contested divorce
with all the trimmings. The NOLO book used to be the key resource; they've
changed their authors and offerings since I did my divorce, but this is still a
good place to start: http://www.nolo.com/products/nolos-essential-guide-to-divorce-NODV.html
The book on contested divorces, great for custody issues, is
Out Of Print, but still available via used book sources:
http://www.amazon.com/How-Your-Contested-Divorce-California/dp/0944508332 And Ed Sherman, the originator of the How To Do Your Own
DIvorce in California is back with the same title, but not under the NOLO
I also engaged about an hour and a half of lawyer, through a service designed just
for the purpose of assisting Pro Se contestants, and I paid a process server.
Overall, it was not difficult, and I saved a ton of money. IF the two of you can
STAY amicable, it should be even easier. The hardest part was being in court, and
seeing what people will do to each other and their kids, mostly over money, but
also over un-winnable (by either party) power struggles.
Family Law Self-Practitioner
First, you must determine if your divorce will truly be amicable. My former
spouse and I talked about being amicable, but were not really in agreement about
most major issues. We started out well, though, since we had little property and
could easily agree on what should go in what household. However, the amicability
stopped there. She would not agree on a mediator, despite many efforts on my
part, hence delaying the divorce and having to make any support payments. Now, 2
years and many hearings later, we are almost close to finishing it. If you do
decide that all will go smoothly, try the Nolopress divorce books. However, if
you are forced to file for a default judgement or any other unusual process, the
Nolopress books will only confuse you. See a lawyer and save your family the
I am a collaborative divorce attorney and mediator. I recommend Denise Foster at
Divorce with Dignity for many of my clients who have agreements on all material
issues, but need help with working on the paperwork, etc. Denise is very
knowledgeable and can help you navigate the process. Good luck!
Hi there! I would recommend you NOT use Divorce with Dignity.
Their tactics are not at all how they portray the business. My ex
used them and they filed papers saying they had my consent, all before I knew he
was even filing for divorce. She also tried to tell me I had to pay $100 to be
You can absolutely file without a lawyer. I'm sorry for your divorce but so glad
you can both be mature about it. Go to your local court house and ask about
their free services for advice, and understanding the paperwork. Family Law Self
Help Center, I believe it's called. I remember they are all interns, preparing
to be lawyers. Very helpful and caring!! Bonus if you can go together, you'll
get all the info and be able to ask questions together. The info (technically
not advice) is free and comprehensive, but you then have to pay to file. Not too
much, $400 I think. If you truly agree on every detail, it'll be quick and
painless, paperwork wise.
Also, there's a great program for families who are
getting along in divorce
called KidsTurn. You guys may want to try it, for your kids sake. My ex wouldn't
go, but my 3 kids and I learned alot.
it pays big to be mature
I have three friends who did their own divorce, meaning created their
own agreement and filed the forms. All three used the nolo book. Two
regretted it because they couldn't foresee the problems that would
arise. One of the two made agreements that were not really binding in
some important ways. The other who regretted did not address stuff that
is always covered by attorneys. The third who did their own filing did
fine. But they are unusual and do not fight at all. It's almost like
they are still happily married! I would say you take a risk by doing it
all yourself. You might file all the forms okay but you might not write
a solid agreement that covers all the possiblities. (I used a mediator,
larry rosen, in berkeley. Excellent experience. A neighbor used eva
herzter in berkeley. also said good things..). helen
Someone posted recently about a woman in Alameda who is an 'expert' at filling
out the paperwork for a do-it-yourself divorce. She is not an attorney.
I can't find her name in the archives, and I would GREATLY appreciate her name.
Divorce with Dignity, Cindy is AWESOME! The divorce was so easy AND she did
wills for me a few years later. Highly recommended.
Divorce With Dignity-Alameda, 1151 Harbor Bay Parkway, Ste. 126B, 510-522-2600
My son is currently unemployed and has been separated since Nov. He has a 2 yr old
and wants at least 50% custody. His wife gave up her older son to his father. He
needs a sweet, strong, understanding, and reasonable lawyer.
Perhaps your son does not need to retain an attorney at all -
especially if he wants to save $6,000-$30,000 lawyers' fees and keep
the divorce as amicable as possible (research has shown that getting
lawyers involved makes divorces more contentious, time-consuming &
sometimes hideously expensive). He should buy the book & CD set ''How
to Do Your Own Divorce in California'' - it contains all the forms
needed, plus the phone number of their Divorce Helpline, where he can
ask questions of a lawyer if he needs to, for a very reasonable fee.
This is what my ex and I will be doing.
If his ex-wife did not contest custody in her previous divorce, I'm
sure he can get her to agree to half-time custody - and it's best for
kids to see a lot of both parents, unless they are abusive or
incapable of parenting. If they need one, they can hire a mediator to
resolve difficult questions - there's a good non-profit mediation
service in Berkeley (http://www.seedscrc.org/services/mediation.php),
or pay the $130/hr the private ones charge.
Avoid the divorce industry - it's not the only, or best option. I'd
also like to recommend Kidsturn, an organization to support kids and
parents who are going through a divorce - you will find a website &
workshops locally. Good luck to him, his ex & his child.
I checked out the BPN website for recommendations on filing for
a divorce, but the postings dated back to 2003. I am looking
for suggestions on filing for divorce. I have been separated
from my estranged husband since 2004. We did not have children
together nor assets so I am assuming that this would be an easy
process. I don't have a lot of money to spend so I'm looking
for the most economical method to acccomplish this goal.
Please help! Thanks.
If you believe there will be no arguments regarding the
divorce/division of assest/etc, then a paralegal might suffice
for your purposes. Otherwise, the next most affordable option is
likely to use a divorce mediator. You can also choose to file
all the paperwork yourself (and involve no one but a Nolo Press
book for guidance), or have the paralegal/mediator file it all
I've heard good things about:
Divorce with Dignity
Cindy Elwell, Paralegal
Divorce Mediator (economical)
I divorced inexpensively twice by doing it myself. I bought the
Nolo Press book on doing your own divorce. It's not perfect and
can be confusing, but with patience you can file your own
paperwork. The actual filing fees are somewhere around $200 (it's
been a while so I don't remember exactly). In simple cases (no
kids or property, short marriage) your spouse doesn't have to
file or reply; you get a default divorce.
As a back up, I used Sherman, Williams & Lober at 800-359-7004.
They are located in Soquel, CA, but you work with them strictly
over the phone. They bill your credit card on a per-minute basis.
Both times I did my best with the paperwork, and when I got stuck
I prepared all my questions, called them, and got very good, very
fast advice on what to do. They were actually very kind and
I had some complicated issues. The first time there was property
and a child involved and I had to attend one child custody
hearing; the second time I was divorcing someone who was mentally
ill and had to set up an agreement between us to cover issues of
spousal support. Both times I was still able to do all my own
Hi. Don't know where you reside but I'm assuming you're here in
the Bay Area. I work in the San Francisco Family Law unit
specifically hearing divorce cases and San Francisco has a free
legal advice room called ACCESS at their civic center
courthouse. You can seek advice there and they will provide you
with specific directions as to what you need e.g, which papers
to fill out so you can represent yourself in propria persona
(meaning you represent yourself without an attorney) in the
courtroom. Family law attorneys are expensive, so with no real
estate or kids, please, don't bother with attorney fees. I'd
also suggest you purchase a copy of a book entitled, MAKING YOUR
RECORD written by a panoply of courtroom staff providing
terrific information as to how to perform in the courtroom with
or without a lawyer. It's a courtroom guidebook that gives you
all the nuts and bolts as to courtroom protocol in simple
everyday language. You can buy yourself a used copy on Amazon.
The better prepared you are, the less expenses incurred, and the
easier you make the job for the judge and the courtroom staff to
help you with resolution. If you and your ex can stipulate
(meaning come to an agreement) beforehand, it makes things flow
even smoother!! Good luck!!
My husband and I have been together 5 years. We each have been
through prior divorces. He has nothing good to say about his
ex or their life or divorce together (therefore he says very
little), but he still comments many times (when general subject
is brought up by others) about the excellent experience he had
with Divorce With Dignity dwdignity.com
married with dignity
Pick up the Nolo Press book on Divorce in CA. It costs about
$35. There are forms and instructions on where to check to make
sure you have all the correct forms. Also, there is a listing
of people who will fill out the divorce forms for you, for a
nominal fee, so they will already have the correct forms. My
divorce cost me a little over $500 four years ago since my Ex
and I could come to agreements on our own and niether of us had
much money for an attorney.
Happily and cheeply divorced
I divorced my first husband for less than $200 if I remember
correctly (this was in 1988, so it was a while ago). We lived
in Boston, did not have any children, and - most importantly -
both agreed to the divorce. A lawyer friend advised me that I
could do it cheaply by going to the courthouse in the district
where we lived and filing everything myself. I picked up the
paperwork, we both filled it out and signed it, and then there
was a waiting period after we submitted it (a cooling down
period, to make sure we really wanted to divorce). After that
was over, we were summoned to court. It was surreal. There were
about 15 couples in the room, all filing for divorce. Each
couple took turns walking to the front of the room to speak to
the judge. When we got up there, he asked if we had children
(No) and if we both agreed to the divorce (Yes). And voila - we
were divorced! It took another couple weeks for the official
paperwork to come through, and that was it.
Here is a great website for your situation:
Then you can go to this site to download the forms:
Also, ask about the Family Law Facilitator in your county; if
you are in Alameda county, there is one at 1225 Fallon in
Oakland, near Lake Merritt. Good luck.
my divorce, although very painful, is not contested. I am
doing it myself, following the example of a friend. My situation
is more complicated though, because I have a small child. I do
not know which papers I need to fill out for custody schedules,
and how to find the obbligatory formula for child support that
the state of California requires. Someone knows this
information? Also, someone mentioned that she used a paralegal
to do her divorce, with children, and it costed only $300.
Please, can you tell me name and phone of whom you used? Or how
to find a paralegal with experience in divorce? Thank you very
''How to Do Your Own Divorce in California'' explains it all.
Using it, and it's companion, ''How to Do Your Own
Contested Divorce in California'' I did my own, with rather
complicated issues, and with my wife using an attorney
(who's bills I paid half of, but let's not go there...).
The various non-attorney divorce services were once called
''Typing Services'' since that's about all they can legally do.
they cannot provide you with advice. There are quite a few of
them in the Yellow Pages, I've never used them , but ''Expert
Legal Aid'' on Fruitvale has been there for at least the last 8
years I know of , and longevity is one clue to small business
A Divorced Parent
this page was last updated: Mar 23, 2014
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are transitioning to a new website during
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network