Many websites offer services that they call “online divorce” services or they advertise low-cost options to get divorced online. Unfortunately, California does not offer the opportunity to file for divorce online, and most of these websites only offer services to help you prepare and file the paperwork. The Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth’s Ventura family lawyers discuss how many “online divorce” services work in California and why you may be better off working with a licensed Ventura divorce attorney and filing your case in court. For a free legal consultation and help with your divorce case, call our law offices today.
Can I Get Divorced Online in California?
California law does not allow people to file for divorce online and handle their case without appearing in person or filing paperwork with the court. Even the simplest and quickest form of divorce in California requires you to at least appear at the courthouse to file paperwork while most other forms of divorce require you to appear before a judge to finalize the divorce case.
Most services offering “online divorce” offer 3 or 4 potential services:
- Online versions of the forms you need to file with the court
- Help preparing and completing these forms
- Help serving your spouse divorce papers
- Resources or advice on moving forward with your divorce case
In many cases, these services advertise low costs – but these costs may not include the filing fees the court needs to file your case (typically $400-500). In any case, these services do not give you all the tools you need to get divorced from home by handling the case entirely online. California law simply does not have the flexibility to handle cases this way, and all divorces must be approved by your local county courthouse to be official.
What is the Process for Divorce with Online Divorce?
As mentioned, online divorce services typically work to prepare the forms and serve your spouse with the divorce papers, providing resources and guides to help you understand how to do the divorce yourself. This means that an online divorce typically does not address the core steps of filing for divorce.
When filing for divorce, you start with the paperwork. The forms you need to fill out need your name, your address, your spouse’s name and address, the date of marriage, how many kids you have, and other basic information. They also include an option to choose what you are filing for, since legal separation and divorce use the same forms. Many of these forms become more detailed, asking for full declarations of your assets and debts so that the court knows what property you have to divide and share with your spouse.
Handling these forms on your own without the help of skilled legal counsel can mean failing to completely fill out the forms, failing to divulge all required information, and potentially making mistakes that can lead to problems later – or even accusations of fraud.
After filling out the forms, you need to serve your spouse with the paperwork and give them a chance to respond to the divorce petition. This means following specific rules of civil procedure to give your spouse proper notice and an opportunity to be heard. Any problems with this system may mean having to refile your case or try again.
After filing the case, there is a 6-month waiting period. During this time, you may want to seek legal separation so you and your spouse can start being financially independent and living apart. You may also use this time to work on negotiations with your spouse, potentially coming to terms for an agreement. If you and your spouse can agree on terms for asset division, alimony, child custody, and child support, you may be able to get divorced quickly through an uncontested divorce.
If your spouse hires an attorney to handle the case and you are working with an online divorce system, you may be expected to act as your own attorney. If you do, you may be at a disadvantage in negotiations and could make an agreement that could cost you assets or spousal support payments you might not know you could have received.
After the 6-month waiting period, the court will hear your case. If you have an agreement, the court will likely approve it. If you do not, the court will make decisions after holding hearings about asset division, alimony, child custody, and child support.
Downsides of Online Divorce in California
Although online divorce may seem cheap and these services may advertise that they handle everything for you, they may fall short in protecting your rights as you deserve. Many of these services merely provide you with the divorce forms, which are already available for free on the California courts website. While some online divorce services do put you in touch with a Santa Barbara divorce attorney or resources for self-help, these services may not provide you with an attorney that can provide you with the individual representation and personalized legal services you deserve. Moreover, any legal mistakes or misunderstandings could result in lost assets, lost opportunities for support, or even lost custody of your children. Entrust these important decisions to the help of an experienced Ventura family lawyer instead of relying on online divorce websites.
Call Our Ventura Divorce Lawyers for Help with Your Case
If you are considering divorce, talk to an attorney about what services they offer and how these services compare to online divorce services. The divorce attorneys at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth offer free legal consultations to help prospective clients understand how we can help them in their divorce case and what important decisions their divorce case will involve. Call our law offices today at (805) 643-5555 to discuss your case and schedule a free consultation with our Ventura family law attorneys.