How Do I Get a Divorce Without Hiring an Attorney? 

The answer to the question, “How do I get a divorce without hiring an attorney?” will vary depending on your circumstances. However, there are several things that can be done to make the process easier for you, and it is important to understand how the entire process works. 

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The first thing that you must do is file a Complaint for Dissolution of Marriage (DC 6:4.1) with the clerk of the district court where you live. You can file this online with NYSCEF or by mail using a paper Uncontested Divorce Packet. 

If you are unable to afford the filing fees, you can ask the court for permission to proceed in forma pauperis, or without paying any money at all. You will need to fill out a form and have a witness who knows your financial situation sign the document to prove that you cannot afford to pay for your case. The court will then sign the form if you meet the criteria to proceed in this manner. 

You can also file a Praecipe for Summons, which is a legal document that gives the sheriff permission to serve your spouse with papers regarding the divorce case. Call the sheriff or the clerk of the court where you filed to find out what it costs to have your spouse served and what documents must be sent with it. You will also need to take a money order for that amount made out to the sheriff with you when you file this paperwork. 

After serving your spouse with the papers, you must then wait for a specific amount of time before you can proceed with your case if your spouse does not respond to the notice. This amount of time is called a response period and it allows you to give your spouse the opportunity to respond and possibly work out an agreement with you. 

Another option is to serve your spouse with a Voluntary Appearance, which requires you to have a court-appointed person go to their home to give them a copy of the papers. This can be a good option for people who do not have kids or are not dealing with a lot of assets. 

You must still give your spouse a response period of at least 30 days before you can move on with your case. This can be a frustrating process if you have a spouse who refuses to respond but it is a necessary part of the procedure and is designed to protect your rights in the event that your spouse is unable to cooperate with the process. 

Once you have a response period of at least 30 days, you can then move on with the divorce proceedings. This can include a hearing and testifying in open court about the terms of the divorce. 

You will also need to file the court’s divorce decree, which will have detailed instructions on child custody, spousal support and other major issues. It is usually best to prepare this by working with a family law attorney but it is possible to draft it yourself if you and your spouse can agree on the major points of the divorce. If you have minor children, it is likely better to engage the services of a professional family mediator, if allowed in your state, to help you negotiate these terms.