Michael Mendenhall
Legal Document Preparation
Notary Public
69 B Soledad Drive
Monterey, California 93940
(831) 375-8600
Your Subtitle text
Doing your own divorce?

One of the most common questions people ask me is if they can do their own divorce. Yes, you can do your own divorce. You can also change the oil in your car and do your own tax return. The real issue comes down to time vs. money.

Time vs. money

People who do their own divorces usually have more time than money. In other words, if you are willing to spend time figuring out the forms, driving to the courthouse and standing in line, you can probably do it. Most people who do their own divorce make several trips to the courthouse because their forms are often rejected for mistakes. I have found in my experience that there is a lot of misinformation regarding doing your own divorce. The primary reason people do not want to hire someone is the perceived "high cost." The price of something is relative, and it does not require an economics degree to figure out the benefits of hiring someone to handle your divorce for you. If money is really tight, you have lots of free time, and you have a relatively simple case, by all means do your own divorce. I have on occasion recommended that people do that. Most people underestimate the amount of time it will take. For instance, many people go to the courthouse on their lunch break to file papers. Filing a divorce requires a minimum of two trips to the courthouse, usually more. If you factor in the hourly wage your job pays, doing your own divorce may cost you more than you save. Sometimes the fee is less, sometimes more. The question as to whether to hire me to do your paperwork comes down to your time. Doing your own divorce will consume several hours of your time and require multiple trips to the courthouse. Hiring me almost always means never going to the courthouse and wasting time standing in line. When it comes to balancing time vs. money, doing your own divorce will save you money but cost you time. Hiring someone will save you time but cost you money. It all depends on how much time you want to spend on it and how much money you want to save. If you have more time than money, do it yourself unless there are complications. There are other intangible factors in doing your own divorce such as frustration and annoyance that are beyond the scope of this website. It all depends on your personal situation.

Are there cheaper services available?

There are online web services that will prepare your divorce documents for you, but they will require you to go to the courthouse and file them. These services cost less than what I charge. In some cases, these services can be worthwhile. The problem with these services is that they often set up your paperwork in such a way that you end up paying two filing fees. I know this from experience. The other problem is that they don’t know the ins and outs of the Monterey County Court system. Divorce documents are standard in all cases statewide, but there are some variations that only a person experienced with filing cases in Monterey County regularly would know. This alternative is viable in cases where there are no children and absolutely no assets and debts. The only other factor once again is time vs. money since you will have to make several trips to the courthouse during your lunch break or on your day off.

Should I hire an attorney?

It is unethical for me to say that you should not hire an attorney. I always recommend that you at least consult with an attorney who either specializes in family law or is very familiar with it. Paying a fee for a consultation with an attorney is well worth the money especially in cases where there are complicated financial arrangements or contested child custody issues. If you do have a complicated case, but you and your spouse are civil with one another, I recommend contacting a divorce mediator. I can refer you to some in the area. I can also refer you to any number of family law attorneys in the area as well. I regularly refer people to attorneys, and attorneys regularly refer people to me who do not need one.