If you’ve been researching divorce online, you may be looking for options to file your divorce case online and get the divorce finalized quickly and easily. Unfortunately, California law does not currently authorize spouses to get divorced online – but there are simple ways to get the forms online and options to file your case yourself. The Ventura, CA divorce lawyers at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth discuss the idea of online divorce and the potential problems with this system.
Can I Get Divorced Online?
Currently, California does not offer people the option of filing divorce paperwork online and getting the process handled from home. Any divorce case in California requires three steps that require you to do something in person, and there is currently no way to avoid these steps to get divorced online.
First, the court requires you to file your documents with the court. This is typically done in hard copy at the courthouse. Some court systems do allow online filing, and your local courthouse may have a system set up for this. However, it is typically simpler to appear in person with your attorney to file your divorce case. This ensures that all paperwork is properly filed and that if there are any problems with your documents, the court can alert you at that time.
Second, California law requires you to serve your spouse with divorce papers. This means using an official service processor or delivering the documents through the proper processes to give your spouse good legal notice of the divorce case. This is a matter of civil rights and due process, and the law has requirements to ensure that your spouse has notice and an opportunity to be heard so that their rights are protected. Turning to online divorce might fail to protect peoples’ rights, especially if they are not tech savvy and cannot manage their case online.
Third, spouses must appear before a judge to get the divorce case finalized. Depending on the judge, the judge may want to physically see you and discuss the case with you. Judges often like to see that the parties understand the repercussions of their decisions and understand what divorce means and what its legal effects are. If you are handling your case without a lawyer, as would likely be the case in an online divorce, the judge may be even more interested in making sure that you understand the decisions you are making and will want to finalize the divorce in court, in person.
Even though you cannot get divorced online, you can typically find all of the paperwork you need to file to get your case started on the California Courts website. These forms are the official forms you would file in court whether you have a lawyer or not. However, you still need to handle the rest of the case in court.
Should California Allow Online Divorces?
Online divorce would allow people to get divorced quickly and easily. There are arguments on both sides as to whether making divorces easier is a good idea and how far the law should go to make divorce easier. Historically, making divorce more accessible has allowed people who may feel trapped by their marriage to seek freedom through divorce, especially if their spouse is abusive or overbearing. No-fault divorce is a good example of this. When states like California adopted no-fault divorces, more people applied for divorce who could not or would not file for divorce under old “fault” grounds. This meant that spouses no longer needed to allege adultery or abuse to get a divorce, and it allowed more couples to qualify to legally end their marriage.
Allowing couples to get divorced online might have similar effects of opening divorce to more people who would otherwise be reluctant to leave an unfruitful marriage, but there are potential drawbacks.
Fraud is always a concern online. Especially since divorces can affect your property rights to literally half of your assets, the potential of people fraudulently filing for divorce online could be a serious security risk. If someone gets your name or steals your identity, they could file for divorce in your name and, before you find out, you could lose your spouse and property.
A second concern is with child support and custody. One of the major reasons that courts handle divorce cases in person in a courtroom is because these cases often affect the children. Parents file for child support and child custody as part of any divorce or legal separation involving children. Courts would not let these matters be handled online or too hastily, as they take deliberation, hearings, and evidence to determine what the child’s best interests are.
Although there may be other issues with online divorces, another serious problem is that these cases would almost always be pro se divorce cases. “Do-it-yourself” divorces where you act as your own lawyer may be cheaper than hiring an attorney, but they leave room for serious pitfalls. If you are considering filing for divorce, your attorney can help you understand your legal rights regarding property, child custody, child support, spousal support, and other effects on your life. It is important to have an attorney in your corner to protect you and advocate for you so that you can achieve the divorce that you want instead of filing the case yourself and hoping for the best.
Call Our Ventura Divorce Attorneys for Help Filing Your Divorce Case
If you want to get divorced, talk to a lawyer about your case. Our Santa Barbara divorce attorneys can represent you in court, file paperwork on your behalf, ensure your spouse gets proper service of the divorce papers, and protect your finances and child custody rights during the divorce case. For a free legal consultation on your divorce case, call the Ventura family law attorneys at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth today at (805) 643-5555.