People Lose Thousands When Filing For Divorce (Here’s How Not To)

Filing for Divorce

Divorces suck.

As divorce attorneys, we have seen people BLOW tens of thousands of dollars by approaching their divorce the wrong way.

Even though that means more money for us, we hate to see families ruin themselves financially when filing for divorce.

Because we care more about seeing our clients succeed than stacking the money.

So, we decided to put together all of the tips and tricks we know so that you can have the cheapest, smoothest, and most amicable divorce possible.

With the average divorce costing about $21,000, this could literally save you tens of thousands of dollars.

Let’s dig in.

Table of Contents

Filing for Divorce

There are a few key components that you need to decide before filing for divorce.

They are:

  • Whether or not you need a divorce lawyer or are you filing for divorce online.
  • The steps for filing for divorce.
  • The cost of filing for divorce (and how to not spend so much).
  • And what you need when filing divorce papers on your own.
Filing for Divorce Online

Filing for Divorce Online

When you are filing for divorce online, divorces don’t have to cost $21k for EACH spouse.

They don’t have to be messy and a huge fight.

You don’t have to go sit in your attorney’s dingy office with mahogany bookcases and suits (that’s gross).

If you and your spouse agree to the terms of your divorce and the division of property, spousal support, and child custody, then you can file for divorce on your own and you can save thousands.

All you have to do is download your divorce paperwork, fill it out, and submit it to your local county’s superior court.

You can download your divorce packets here.

Here’s the process for filing for a divorce online:

  1. Download your divorce papers.
  2. Fill them out with your spouse.
  3. File your divorce papers with the court of the county your spouse is living in.
  4. Have the judge finalize your divorce.
Steps for Filing for Divorce

Steps for Filing for Divorce

While the divorce laws are different in every state, each state follows the same foundational steps for filing for divorce.

1. Filing the Divorce Petition

Before you can start the divorce process, one of the spouses has to file a legal petition asking the court to terminate the marriage.

The petition for divorce must include the following information:

  • A form with the spouses’ residency information, stating that they meet the residency requirements to file for divorce.
  • The reasons for divorce.
  • Any other required information that your state requires.

2. Asking for Temporary Orders

When you file for divorce, the court allows you to ask the court for temporary court orders for child custody, child support, and alimony.

This temporary order allows one spouse to get financial support during the divorce process, which can take months.

Usually, couples move out on their own during the legal separation period before they file for divorce.

So, the courts are providing a way for the lower-income spouse to support themselves while living on their own.

If you request a temporary order, the court will hold a hearing and the judge will usually grant the temporary order quickly.

The temporary order will remain valid until the court orders otherwise or until the judge finalizes the divorce.

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3. Serve Divorce Papers

After you file the divorce petition and you submit your request for temporary orders, it’s time for the big day.

You have to serve divorce papers to your spouse.

You can make this easier on yourself in the short term by hiring the sheriff’s department to serve papers for divorce.

Or, if you like facing your fears head-on and you’re wondering, “Can I serve divorce papers myself?” then the answer is yes.

Just make sure that you get proof that you served the divorce papers.

Proof of service is a document that tells the court that you met the requirements for giving a copy of the petition to your spouse.

If you don’t properly serve your spouse, or if you neglect to file a proof of service with the court, the judge will be unable to proceed with your divorce case.

Serving divorce papers can be easy.

Especially if your spouse agrees with the divorce and is willing to sign an acknowledgment of service. 

But some spouses can be evasive or try anything to disrupt the process.

The easiest way to ensure proper proof of delivery is to hire the sheriff’s department or send the letter by Certified Mail.

The cost is usually minimal and can help prevent a delay in your case.

If your spouse hired a divorce attorney, you could arrange to have the paperwork delivered to the attorney’s office.

Your spouse has a limited number of days to respond to your divorce petition.

If they miss this deadline, the get a default judgement.

Your spouse can dispute the grounds for divorce if this is a fault divorce.

They can also dispute the allegations in the petition, or assert any disagreements as to property, support, custody, or any other divorce-related issues.

4. Negotiate a Settlement

This is where most divorces start getting messy.

You and you spouse have to come to an agreement on things like:

  • child support
  • child custody and visitation
  • alimony
  • property settlements

Unless you are going through a mutual separation, it’s usually hard to find a division of your life that you’ve built over the years.

A lot of times, the courts will a make you attend a settlement conference.

This is where you will meet with a third-party mediator and try to figure out any lingering issues so that you can come to an agreeable decision.

Some states require mediation, but that’s not a bad thing.

Divorce mediation can save a significant amount of time and money during your divorce.

We recommend that you and your spouse (separately) write down the top three things that you want to come out of the divorce.

Seriously, think about it for a good while.

For some people, the kiddos are most important, and getting them Monday-Friday is more important than getting a 50/50 split on the equity in the house.

For others, they might be willing to keep their retirement accounts fully intact and are willing to give up their half of the house.

Maybe your spouse gets some weird enjoyment from collecting beanie babies or old rusty cars that they can rebuild.

If this is the case, you probably don’t want to mess with their weird hobbies and they don’t want to sell their stuff.

These decisions become easier to make when you both know what you want the most.

And it may work out in a way where the most important thing to BOTH of your are the kids.

This is why we tell you to pick THREE things that are most important to you.

We can split the custody in half with the kids and negotiate on your #2 and #3 items on your list.

5. Divorce Trial

If you and your spouse CANNOT come to an agreement, it’s time to go to divorce trial.

When you go to a divorce trial, you lose control of what you’re negotiating on.

The judge is going to make a non emotional, logical decision for you and your spouse.

We’ve seen people lose their pets. We’ve seen spouses not get custody of their kids. We’ve seen bank accounts drained.

It’s important that you and your spouse try your best to come to an agreement that feels fair to both parties.

Not to mention that dragging divorce lawyers to court, paying court fees, etc. piles up your cost of divorce in Georgia very fast.

6. Finalizing the Judgement

Whether you and your spouse came to an agreeable decision or battled it out in court, the judge has to sign off on your Judgement of Divorce.

The Judgement of Divorce ends the marriage.

It also defines the specifics of the divorce like; child support, child custody, alimony, property settlements, and debt settlements.

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Cost for Filing for Divorce

Cost for Filing for Divorce

Like we mentioned before, the costs for filing for divorce can be crazy.

But there are two sides to this story.

  1. You can file for divorce on your own by filing your own divorce paperwork, or;
  2. You can have a divorce attorney go at-bat for you.

Why would you pay an attorney when you can file your own divorce papers?

Solid question.

Filing for a Divorce Own Your Own

Let’s talk about the costs for filing for divorce on your own and then the reasons why you should.

When filing for divorce online you can download your own divorce paperwork, fill it out with your spouse, and file the divorce papers at your local Clerk of Superior Court in your county.

Generally, the cost to file a Complaint for Divorce ranges from $200.00 to $220.00.

This fee must be paid to the Clerk of Superior Court in the county where the divorce case is initiated.

(If you are serving your spouse with divorce papers, you have to file the papers in the county where your spouse lives. If you don’t know where your spouse lives, you file them in the county you live in.)

In addition to this fee, a service fee must also be paid. This fee is normally $50.

This fee is the cost to have your spouse served with the divorce papers by the Sheriff’s department.

So, all in you’re looking at:

  • Divorce Packet: $250 – $500
  • Filing Fees: $220
  • Sheriff: $50

So, your total cost just to file for divorce on your own is going to be about $750.

And here is a good list of reasons to file for divorce on your own.

If you and your spouse are:

  • having an agreeable divorce,
  • you are having a mutual separation,
  • you know how you want to split up the property settlement,
  • you agree on the alimony payouts,
  • and you agree on child support and the custody schedule,

then you won’t need an attorney (lol).

I’ve only seen one couple who DID NOT need a divorce attorney.

My best friend’s parents fell out of love (without any hard feelings towards each other), but they stayed together until the kids left for college.

They didn’t fight about the property settlements, retirement accounts, or anything.

They just sold the house, split the money down the middle, and walked away.

But if you and your spouse are disagreeing on any of this stuff, you might want to consider hiring a divorce attorney.

And if your spouse hires a divorce lawyer, you better saddle up.

Filing for a Divorce With a Lawyer

While your spouse may not have intentions to drag you through the wringer, if they get a “top-notch,” aggressive divorce attorney, you’re not going to have fun fighting that.

(We hate them too. Why do they always act like they have something to prove?)

Now, we know that the average cost of divorce is about $21,000.

A divorce attorney will charge you roughly $300 per hour for them to handle your case.

If they have paralegals helping, you will be charged less for the work that they do on the case.

This means you will have a more affordable divorce as opposed to your divorce attorney having a hand in EVERYTHING.

What’s going to cost you the most is not how much a divorce attorney charges.

It’s how badly you and your spouse fight and disagree during the divorce process.

If you guys get along enough to make decisions like adults, it’s going to be cheaper.

If you two cannot agree on anything and want to battle for months, it’s going to be more expensive.

Untold Costs of Divorce

You know the saying, “You get what you pay for.”

If you hire a cheap divorce attorney upfront, it could cost you in the long run.

If your spouse hires a bulldog attorney, and you get one who barely knows the divorce laws, never answers your calls, and can’t keep your case organized, then you’re going to be hurting.

They won’t have the experience and knowledge to negotiate with your spouse’s attorney.

Let alone know how to present facts about your case to the judge and tie it to the divorce laws properly.

In short, you could stand to lose a lot.

We’re talking alimony, child support, child custody, debts, retirement accounts, houses, and savings.

It snowballs quick.

So, make sure you hire an attorney that can fight for you to get you what you deserve.

Filing for Divorce Papers

When it comes to filing for divorce papers, you need a specific set of papers.

But along with divorce papers, you will need to bring your own documentation from this divorce preparation checklist.

Some states require another form or two, but these divorce papers are the foundational ones you need.

The courts will tell you if you need any other ones and which ones you need when filing for a divorce.

  • Petition for Divorce
  • Divorce Summons
  • Proof of Delivered Summons

And if you are filing for divorce with children:

  • Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (whew)
  • Child Custody and Visitation Application

And if you have marital property to split up:

  • Property Declaration

If you need more filing for divorce papers, then reach out to your divorce lawyer or your local county courts.

If you would like a FREE divorce attorney consultation, fill out the form below.

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After your divorce and division of assets, you may want to consider redoing your will and estate planning.

Even if you don’t have assets, your spouse is no longer your emergency contact and you might want to appoint a power of attorney in the event of a medical emergency.

You may not want doctors that you don’t know making major life decisions for you in the event of an emergency.

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