Yes, it is certainly possible, and getting easier, to get a do-it-yourself divorce. If you proceed without an attorney (file your own forms and represent yourself) you are appearing pro se, or “in proper person.”
Courts all around the country are encountering more and more people who “just want to get a divorce,” and these courts are responding by offering free forms and sometimes instructions about how to fill them out, how and where to file them, and what to do next.
In Baton Rouge Louisiana, where my practice is located, there is a self-help desk for people who want to get a simple divorce as inexpensively as possible and without lawyers. This self-help desk is sponsored by the Baton Rouge Bar in cooperation with The Family Court of East Baton Rouge Parish.
If you live in another jurisdiction, contact your local Bar Association to find out if forms and assistance are available.
FREE DIVORCE FORMS on this website:
I have posted sample forms for the two basic types of procedure available under Louisiana’s no-fault divorce statutes, Louisiana Civil Code Articles 102, 103, and 103.1. You are welcome to use these forms. They will, most likely, need to be revised to suit your particular situation. The forms are in Word (docx) format so that you can download them and make necessary changes. (If you have difficulty downloading the forms, please contact us at <firstname.lastname@example.org>, and we will be happy to e-mail you forms in a different format.)
If you “just want to get the divorce,” and there are no issues involving minor children of the marriage (child support, custody, visitation, abuse) and no support or property issues (interim alimony, property division, jointly-owned house and lot, retirement benefits, etc.) at stake, you should be able to proceed just fine in proper person.
If the only thing at stake is child custody and child support, you may be able to obtain free assistance from your local district attorney’s Office of Child Support. In quire by calling or visiting your local district attorney’s office for your jurisdiction, and make an appointment to see whether the district attorney can represent you.
Domestic Violence: If there has been abuse by one spouse of the other spouse and/or one or more the children, most states have laws the provide extraordinary protective measures. Help is also available through local organizations that assist families in which abuse has occurred by providing safe means for the abused to leave the abuser, a safe place to stay, food, clothing, counseling, education, and sometimes financial and legal assistance. In the Baton Rouge area, find out more information and contact IRIS at their website at http://www.stopdv.org or “Women Outreaching Women” at their website at http://www.womenowomen.com.
If your situation is more complicated–if you have property (land, retirement benefits, investment accounts, children requiring special services, disagreement about child custody, or other complex issues, you should consult an attorney in your area. Most attorneys offer a one-time meeting (consultation) at which you can ask questions and get information about the particular aspects of your case. Although some attorneys still offer free consultations, be prepared to pay $100 to $500 average for a good consultation. It will probably be worth the money if your situation is complex. Most Bar Associations offer a Lawyer Referral Service that helps you find an attorney and make an appointment for a consultation, sometimes at a reduced rate. The Baton Rouge Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service offers a half-hour consultation with a lawyer for $25. My own consultation fee is $250, and I usually spend two hours on an initial consultation. I find it takes at least that much time for us to exchange essential information–for me to explain the legal process and the options you may have concerning your issues, and for you to explain those issues to me in enough detail that my answers are tailored to your situation. Although the attorney and the client may decide to work together, there is no obligation on either the attorney’s or the client’s side after the consultation.
(See other postings for divorce law and procedures and for explanations of other legal matters concerning families.)