My wife and I married less than a year ago. We’ve made no major purchases and have no children together.
Do I need a lawyer? Could we handle this divorce on our own or could we use one of those cheap divorce services?
Please note that I am licensed to practice in Florida and will answer your question based on my knowledge and experience in Florida.
In Florida, there are several different options for pursuing a divorce depending on the nature of the issues to be determined and whether or not the parties have a settlement agreement.
A contested divorce is a traditional divorce, initiated by one party and eventually decided by the court if the parties are not able to settle while the litigation is pending.
There are also uncontested divorces, which are divorces where the parties execute a marital settlement agreement (and, if there are children, parenting plan) settling all issues; the marital settlement agreement and potential parenting plan are filed contemporaneously with the petition for dissolution.
The petition for dissolution is still filed only by one party or the other. The case is then set for an uncontested final hearing, which only one party must attend, where the judge simply reviews the terms of the settlement agreement and executes the final judgment of dissolution.
Additionally, Florida has a third option, which is called a simplified divorce. Simplified divorces are like uncontested divorces, in that all issues are settled ahead of time, but there are certain requirements to a simplified divorce that do not apply to an uncontested divorce, including that there are no children of the marriage, that the wife is not pregnant, and that neither side is seeking alimony.
In a simplified divorce, the parties essentially file a joint petition for dissolution along with any settlement agreements, and both parties must appear at the final hearing.
While simplified divorces in Florida are intended to be user-friendly as a way to allow parties to avoid involving lawyers, even a simplified divorce can have implications that the parties might not fully understand or appreciate without the advice of counsel.
Even if your state has an option along the lines of an uncontested or simplified divorce, it is still highly recommended that you consult with an attorney licensed in your state to ensure that all issues are being resolved in an equitable manner that won’t come back to haunt you years down the road.