Can You Get an Uncontested Divorce Without a Lawyer in California?
Yes, you can definitely get an uncontested divorce without a lawyer in California. But do you really want to?
You can get a haircut without a barber or beauty salon. You can have your car fixed by someone who is not a professional mechanic. You can have a growth on your skin removed by someone who is not a doctor. However, smart consumers typically don’t get any of those jobs done except by a local industry professional. That professional will be skilled, experienced and licensed and regulated by a LOCAL watchdog agency. In other words, that professional is accountable locally.
OK, I hear you mention the traditional outrageous cost of a lawyer – even in a simple uncontested divorce. Cost is important. It is a legitimate concern. No one wants to overspend on any product or service. However, are you up to date on recent legal industry trends that have drastically cut the cost of uncontested divorce by a local lawyer?
Those new trends are only being used by a relatively small number of more competitive, and perhaps more honest, local lawyers.
Most lawyers will not tell you about those industry trends because they don’t want you to save money. They want you to give extra money to them! That’s not honest when they are aware of industry trends that drastically reduce your cost for their services. Is it any wonder that some people don’t trust lawyers?
I’ll tell you about those trends, how to avoid the dishonest lawyers and how to make the trends work for you to get an uncontested divorce WITH a lawyer in California. Read on.
Uncontested Divorce Cost in California
The cost of an uncontested divorce in California is NOT only what you pay for the service. It’s ALL costs, now and in the future!
So you don’t want to overpay, but you also don’t want to give a small amount of money to someone who will screw up your divorce.
If you pay $300 or $400 to an unlicensed, unregulated online divorce mill that’s out-of-state or in India or Ukraine and they mess up your case and you end up paying for their mistakes for years, that’s not a cheap divorce. That would be a very expensive divorce that you paid a small amount of money to get. Not smart.
Most consumers realize that when you get a divorce, haircut, car fixed or mole removed, you want to get the best job done at the most reasonable cost. That reasonable cost is probably not the lowest cost, but it is probably not far away from the lowest cost. In other words, in everything we consumers buy we want there to be a balance between quality and cost.
The key to getting the best of both worlds is how to apply that concept (a sliding scale of both quality and cost) to getting an uncontested divorce in California.
Uncontested Divorce Process in California
Keep in mind that even if you have an uncontested case, you should still hire a local California divorce lawyer on full traditional representation if your case has some complex issues, if there is a very high dollar value to the marital estate, if there is domestic violence or if your spouse has already hired a lawyer.
If your spouse has already hired a lawyer, you are strongly advised to get your own lawyer regardless of how simple and easy you consider your case to be. Don’t listen to your spouse or your spouse’s lawyer telling you that one lawyer can look after both of you.
So, assuming that you have an uncontested case that contains no complex issues, your marital estate is not huge, there’s no domestic violence and your spouse has not hired a lawyer, let’s look quickly at each of the 4 available options to get an uncontested divorce with reference to both cost and quality.
What Are Your Options To Get an Uncontested Divorce in California?
- Do It Yourself
- Unlicensed Unregulated Online Divorce Mill Out of State or in India/Ukraine
- Local Online Divorce Lawyer
- Local Lawyer on Traditional Full Representation
Let’s summarize your 4 uncontested divorce options in California:
|Do-It-Yourself||$0||Low Quality; No Professional Guidance; No Complete Instructions Available; Time Consuming; Many Rejections of Your Documents by the Court; Frustrating; Very Difficult to Accomplish in 2021and Beyond|
|Online Divorce Mill||$300-$1100||Unlicensed; Unregulated; Low Quality Work; No Legal Advice Provided; No Accountability; Most Located Out-of-State or in India; Lots of Fraud, Trickery and Up-Selling; Lots of Mistakes That Affect Your Legal and Economic Rights for Many Years; No Local Knowledge|
|Local Online Divorce Lawyer||$700-$2000||High Quality; No Fraud; Full Accountability; Licensed Professional; Local Knowledge; Cost Effective: Uses Lawyer Only Where Needed; Scale-able As Needed; This is a cross between DIY and full legal representation; This is the Best of Both Worlds.|
|Local Divorce Lawyer -Traditional Full Representation||$3500-$7500++||High Quality; No Fraud; Full Accountability; Licensed Professional; Local Knowledge; Convenient; At Least 3X Overpriced|
Now let’s analyze your 4 uncontested divorce options in California:
Do It Yourself
You can download blank divorce forms online from your local Superior Court website. But what are you going to do with them then? The state has to make them downloadable because they are public documents. Just because you can download them doesn’t mean you’ll know how to complete them and get a free divorce.
The State of California has created one of the most complex divorce procedures in the country. According to a recent Insider Monkey study, California has the second most difficult divorce procedure in the whole country. Only Vermont is harder.
Doing your own divorce in California used to be much easier and was possible for many people pre-Internet. In the ’80s and early ’90s, you could pick up free forms from the court, rev up your old typewriter and get an uncontested California divorce, even with minor children, on maybe a dozen documents totaling 20-25 sheets of paper. Now, it would take about 35-40 separate state and county multi-page documents on perhaps 120-150 sheets of paper to get the same divorce.
And there are no magic California divorce instructions. The instructions that the state of California provides are guidelines only. They will not assist you to get a divorce in your specific case. Every divorce case is different. If there were written instructions that covered all cases, they would be hundreds of pages long. If there was a YouTube video that showed you how to prepare and process your uncontested divorce, it would be many hours long.
Don’t fall into the DIY trap. You will screw it up, and it will cost much more to fix than it would have cost for you to hire a California online divorce lawyer in the first place (see below). Going it alone in California divorce these days is a false economy.
Unlicensed Online Divorce Mill
I’ve written extensively before about online divorce fraud in California. That is just one of my numerous articles on online divorce fraud. Also see a good piece by my colleague at NetDivorce. But don’t just take our word. Here is what happened when a professional writer hired one of the biggest online divorce mills.
Just by way of an example, here is just one of the dozens of specific frauds we’ve identified in the online divorce mill industry.
Back on January 30, 2015, I filed with the FBI’s online fraud division an absolute slam-dunk fraud complaint against mydivorcepapers.com, probably the biggest divorce mill in California. It was assigned Complaint ID I1501301241468482. That complaint proved beyond any reasonable doubt that mydivorcepapers was running a fake testimonial fraud. It was using a self-owned website to accumulate fake client testimonials as though they were real testimonials from real clients. It showed that the fake testimonial website had just a very few pages (a Google search revealed that only mydivorcepapers.com and its sister site were customers of the fake testimonial website). That fake testimonial website was also hosted on the very same server as mydivorcepapers.com. These guys are not smart.
I never heard anything back from the FBI. Mydivorcepapers.com is STILL running the same testimonial fraud over 6 years later, though they have moved the fake testimonial site to another server. Right now, California divorce consumers are being defrauded into hiring mydivorcepapers.com on the basis that they have thousands of legitimate client testimonials when they do not.
Also, check the Better Business Bureau pages for 3 of the 4 most popular online divorce mills in the California market:
|Number of BBB Complaints||BBB Rating||Link to BBB Page for This Website|
Keep in mind that the number of complaints and BBB ratings listed in the table above are dynamic. These were accurate at the time of publication. They rarely get better.
Finally, check this video that covers just one of the many widespread pricing frauds currently being used by the 4 most popular online divorce mills.
Online divorce mills are among the most fraudulent online services that exist in ANY industry. No one polices them. They are mostly out of state. A few are in India or Ukraine. Neither your local District Attorney nor the California Attorney General, Consumer Fraud Division, will be interested in pursuing them. Your Better Business Bureau or Yelp complaints won’t even touch them. They already have dozens or hundreds of complaints and their BBB ratings are almost always “F.” They can cheat a lot faster than you can complain.
Online divorce fraud pays and it pays BIG. These guys simply add new frauds and new websites all the time. Divorce consumers in California have been getting screwed for years, and no one cares. No one will protect you. Stay away from unlicensed, unregulated online divorce mills. They are bad news.
Local Online Divorce Lawyer
Here are 10 reasons why this is the strongly recommended “best of both worlds” option to get an uncontested divorce in California:
- No fraud – There are serious penalties imposed by the California Bar Association for ANY unethical behavior by lawyers. All fees must be clearly disclosed upfront. There can be no price fraud or advertising fraud of any kind – pursuant to strict Bar Association ethics rules.
- Online divorce lawyers in California are licensed by the state bar and well-educated in the law.
- California lawyers are required to take continuing legal education courses.
- Local lawyers in California know California law and local Superior Court Rules of Court as well as many policies of individual judges at your local Superior Court. They are also well known at your local Superior Court.
- The younger generation of California lawyers tends to be more competitive than lawyers have been in the past.
- California lawyers are now embracing and using more technology for the purposes of reducing costs and increasing efficiencies. Example: see a highly innovative online divorce mediation service offered by our Online Divorce Lawyer in Carlsbad.
- California lawyers are now embracing various Virtual Law Office practices that use technology to reduce costs even further than can be done by divorce software alone.
- The California Bar Association has approved unbundled (also called Limited Scope representation) legal services in certain types of consumer law cases, such as uncontested divorce. This means that many online divorce lawyers will offer such unbundled document-review services – many in the $700-1500 range – very competitive when compared to the online divorce mills which provide a far riskier and less valuable service.
- Online divorce lawyers provide a case strategy session to protect your economic and legal rights and will discuss case strategy with you before your case is filed.
- Online divorce lawyers now use wicked-cool divorce software and other cloud-based support systems that save you money.
Local Lawyer on Traditional Full Representation
I’ve already covered this alternative above. This is the traditional option. This is full traditional legal representation by a local lawyer. You pay him or her a very large fee and s/he does everything in the case for you. It’s convenient but way over-priced.
Up until the early ’80s, this was the only option. Then, local paralegals began to eat into the lawyers’ prior divorce monopoly. From around 1999, local divorce lawyers have lost almost all of their uncontested divorce business to the fraudulent online divorce mills, who have much better websites and are much more competitive than lawyers.
There are times (listed above) when you absolutely need to use full legal representation – even in an uncontested divorce. But if you don’t have any of the listed reasons to use this alternative, you are overpaying by a huge amount. However, the quality of work will likely be very good.
Why Not Get the Best of Both Worlds in the Uncontested Divorce Process in California
Better still, forget about calling lawyers who are not competitive and have not begun to utilize the two dominant uncontested divorce industry trends: unbundled services and online divorce. Tell them to enjoy the 1980’s.
If the best of both worlds makes sense to you, get started by either of the following options: