It is most advisable to consult an attorney after a decision is made to file for divorce. An attorney can give you an idea of what your rights are, what your spouse’s rights are, how assets will be divided by law in your state, and give you an idea of what kind of visitation rights you and your spouse will have if children are involved or how much child support can be expected. If you are eligible for alimony, your attorney will guide you through that as well. There may be things that you are not thinking of that your attorney might bring to light. At the very least, every person considering divorce should get a free consultation from an attorney in his or her area.
If you cannot afford an attorney, you might be considering a “do-it-yourself” divorce. This is allowed in some states, but please be advised that the paperwork can be extensive and every part of that paperwork must be filled out properly or the courts can reject it and ask for corrections, delaying your divorce. I have been through two divorces: one with an attorney and one without (do-it-yourself). I worked for an attorney at one time in my life and was very familiar with all of the paperwork, but still ended up having to “correct” some things. This led to a delay in the divorce. The paperwork is written in “legalese” and can be confusing for those with experience and even more confusing for the average person with no legal experience.
If you decide to file the divorce yourself, you must still pay fees charged by the court to file the divorce, and you can only do this if both parties agree on every single thing in the divorce papers. There are also other criteria you must meet, and this can vary a little by state, so take care to investigate your state requirements thoroughly. There are steps you must follow in the divorce process and you have to do them in the sequence required in your state.
Again, I would caution you that if you can do your divorce through an attorney, it is your best option. For one thing you will be more thoroughly informed of what your rights are, and the paperwork will be handled completely by your attorney which makes for much less stress for you at a time when you are already riddled with the stress of the emotional toll of divorce. Secondly, sometimes a person might say they agree with everything you’ve discussed at first, and then end up changing their minds causing complications to the divorce process that ends up requiring an attorney anyway.
Whatever you decide to do, I encourage you to think it through carefully and do what’s best for you. None of this information (or this article for that matter) can take the place of good legal counsel.