What is an Uncontested Divorce in California?
An uncontested divorce is simply the termination of a marriage or domestic partnership in which the parties are not contesting any issues legally. They may not be happy. They may not like each other. They may disagree on any number of issues. But they are not fighting the case legally on any of those issues. The Respondent (the spouse/partner who did not file the case initially) has not and will not file a Response to put the Superior Court on notice that the parties have contested issues they will be mediating or on which they will be going to trial.
When Should You Use the Uncontested Divorce Process in California?
You should use the uncontested divorce process in California if you have good reason to believe that you have an uncontested case, as described above, AND you do not have any of the four factors listed below built into your uncontested case.
You should NOT use the uncontested divorce process if you have what you know, or reasonably suspect to be, a contested case. And in making the decision between beginning an uncontested divorce process and hiring a local divorce lawyer on a full traditional representation basis to handle a contested case, you should err on the side of the contested process. Don’t take chances on something that important.
You should also NOT use the uncontested divorce process in California if your case involves one or more of the following complicating situations. This is true even though your divorce may be technically uncontested:
- Complex Case: You have some complex issue(s) in your case. That would include complex tax or living trust issues, a special-needs child, an active business that is NOT being assigned outright to one of you, etc. These are only a few examples. This is not a complete list of complex issues. If you suspect that you have complex issues in your case, you probably do.
- High-Value Marital Estate: How high? There is no definitive answer. Certainly, if you have a net marital estate (that’s property of all kinds that is your jointly owned community property) in excess of $10M, you have a high-value marital estate that would justify you hiring a local divorce lawyer on a full representation basis. If you have a net marital estate in excess of $5M, you probably have such a high-value marital state also. If you consider your marital estate to be large or if you are nervous about the size of your marital estate, then treat it as a large marital estate and definitely hire a local lawyer on a traditional full representation basis.
- Your Spouse Has Hired a Lawyer: Even if you know that your divorce is uncontested, if your spouse has jumped the gun and hired a lawyer, there was a reason. You must hire your own full representation lawyer too. Do not listen to your spouse or your spouse’s lawyer telling you that one lawyer can look after both of you. That would be an unethical conflict of interest for your spouse’s lawyer and there would be a good reason why that lawyer would lie to you. They’re PROBABLY setting you up. Don’t fall for it.
- You have a marital situation in which there is domestic violence or the threat of domestic violence: First, don’t ever under any circumstances subject yourself to any situation that may become violent. That has nothing to do with hiring a lawyer. That has everything to do with your own safety and health and perhaps that of minor children. That’s far more important than the legalities of divorce. If you have a domestic violence situation, at the very least you should consult with a lawyer before taking any other steps.
If you have a contested case or one of the four kinds of technically uncontested cases listed above, hire a local California divorce lawyer on a full traditional legal representation. I realize that may not be welcome advice, but I assure you that it is sound advice.
If you begin the uncontested divorce process and things don’t go as planned and your spouse/partner files a Response at the Superior Court to fight the case on some issue, it simply means that you have to switch the case to a contested process, which can also include mediation. Most contested cases do not proceed to a trial. They are instead mediated to a settlement. So you would just hire a lawyer on full traditional representation to handle your contested case as soon as you are served with your spouse’s Response. In one of the two recommended uncontested divorce paths listed below, you will already have a lawyer on your team and would simply activate him or her on a full representation basis.
If you have an uncontested divorce case that has none of the four situations listed above, read on.
Where To Get Uncontested Divorce Papers in California
OK, if you’ve read this far, you believe that your divorce is going to be uncontested and you do not need to hire a local divorce lawyer on full traditional legal representation. So how and where can you proceed? I’ll list here the 5 available options to pursue the uncontested divorce process in California. A couple of these options may seem strange to be split from other options, but there are reasons. Those reasons are stated below
Do It Yourself (Cost = $0, but good luck getting it done): You can download blank divorce forms from your county’s Superior Court website. But then you will have no idea what to do with them. The state has to make those documents downloadable because they are public documents. Just because you can download them doesn’t mean you’ll know how to complete them and what to do with them. The State of California has created the second most complex divorce procedure in the country according to a recent Insider Monkey study. And there are no magic divorce instructions available. The instructions California provides are very general 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, it would be 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.
Online Divorce Mills (Cost = About $300, but lots of up-selling): There are about a dozen popular medium-priced online divorce mills. By medium-priced, we mean around $300. These are all unlicensed, unregulated, uneducated online divorce companies. Two of the larger ones are in India. All but one is out of state. They are bad news on the basis of their incompetence, various frauds (mostly price fraud, up-selling and fake client testimonials) and the lack of accountability. When they screw up your case, you will have no recourse against them. And these companies won’t care about your Yelp or BBB complaints. They already have F ratings at the BBB and dozens of complaints. Fraud pays in online divorce. Whenever one of these companies gets an extra dozen complaints, they will just roll out some other fraud.
|completecase.com||$299||Price Fraud – This fee is for the first 30 days only.|
|getdivorcepapers.com||$139||1. Price Fraud – This fee is for the first 30 days only. |
2. Based in India
3. Incompetent – 105 complaints and F rating at BBB
|onlinedivorce.com||$139||1. Price Fraud – This fee is for the first 30 days only.|
2. Labeled as misleading advertisers by BBB.
3. Incompetent – 74 complaints and F rating at BBB
|mydivorcepapers.com||$139||1. Price Fraud – This fee is for the first 30 days only.|
2. Incompetent – 80 complaints and F rating by BBB.
3. Uses self-owned fake client testimonial site.
Hipster Online Divorce Companies (Cost = $750-$1000, but lots of up-selling): That’s probably unkind. I’m confident that unlike their poor relations above, these companies almost certainly do a good job. I can also tell you that I am unaware of any fraud from the three main online divorce companies in this category. This category is a relatively new development in the online divorce industry. There are now three new online divorce companies in this category: wevorce.com ($949), itsovereasy.com ($750-$2500) and separate.us ($999).
The main problem with these three companies is that they are so vastly over-priced for what you, the uncontested divorce consumer, actually needs in order to get your case done and get on with your life. And everything they do is an up-sell. Read their really nice websites and you can see that they actually tell you that. Lawyers are extra. Accountants are extra. Mediators are extra. Heck, the aroma-therapists are probably extra too.
One of them even runs its own dating service. At extra cost, of course.
Look, if you’ve got a stack of money sitting around and you don’t know how to get rid of it and you like to tell your friends at cocktail parties how much you spent on your simple uncontested divorce, go for it. These companies will do a good job, but don’t think for one moment that they provide good value.
Online Divorce Lawyer (Cost = $400-$600, with strict ethical rules against up-selling): The Best of Both Worlds. This is brand new. Online Divorce Lawyer is a brand new service as of the beginning of 2019. It enables real licensed local lawyers in California to offer you online divorce done by real local lawyers in California. These are not con men in India or rip off artists in Beverly Hills. Online Divorce Lawyer enables local lawyers to cut their costs of data gathering and legal document preparation seriously and to pass those savings on to you in unbundled document review services in the range of $400 to $600 – cheaper than the hipster companies and again, these are real lawyers. 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 up front. 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. For example: see a highly innovative online divorce mediation service offered by an 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 $400-600 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 evaluation 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.
NetDivorce (Cost = $129 with no ups or extras ever): OK, look, you knew we were going to make a strong and shameless play for your business. Yet we have provided a balanced view of the online divorce industry and there are other options we’ve recommended in this article, depending on your circumstances. If you have an uncontested divorce without any of the four complicating factors listed above and you just want to keep it cheap, you cannot go wrong with NetDivorce. Here are 5 reasons NetDivorce is an attractive option:
- CHEAP!! – flat $129 fee with no ups or extras EVER
- 37+ years experience in California divorce only
- No fraud – charter member of the Online Divorce Association of America
- Unlimited client support by email, phone and live chat Monday-Friday 7 AM – 7 PM
- Impressive client reviews – all certified by the Business Consumer Alliance
How Much is Uncontested Divorce 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 2019 and Beyond|
|NetDivorce||$129||High-Quality; No Fraud; Flat Fee; No Ups or Extras; 37+ Years Experience in California Only; Local Knowledge; Cost Effective; Great Client Testimonials|
|Low Quality Fraudulent Online Divorce Mill||$139-$300||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; This Includes getdivorcepapers,com, mydivorcepapers.com, instantonlinedivorce.com, onlinedivorce.com, completecase.com|
|High Quality Online Divorce Mill||$750-$1000||Unlicensed; Unregulated; High Quality Work; No Legal Advice Provided; No Accountability; Most Located Out-of-State; Lots of Up-Selling; This Group is Relatively New. It tries to Make You Think That if You Pay a LOT, You’ll Avoid the Low Quality of the Group Above, and You Will, but You’ll Vastly Overpay. Includes itsovereasy.com, wevorce/legalzoom.com, separate.us|
|Local Legal Document Assistant||$400-$700||High Quality; No Fraud; Full Accountability; California-Licensed Professional; Local Knowledge; Cost Effective: Local|
|Local Online Divorce Lawyer||$400-$900||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||$2500-$5000||High Quality; No Fraud; Full Accountability; Licensed Professional; Local Knowledge; Convenient; At Least 2.5X Overpriced|
So…….if you have this read this all the way through, thanks. I hope that you have a better understanding of the online divorce industry in California and what path you should take in your own divorce process. But if you just scrolled down to the bottom, like I would have, and decided to just read the conclusion, here it is.
It’s an easy choice. You probably already know what your choice will be. If you have an uncontested divorce and can avoid DIY, traditional lawyer representation, hipsters and frauds, you’re left with two solid and viable choices: NetDivorce or Online Divorce Lawyer. They both use the same wicked-cool online divorce software. With NetDivorce, you hold the cost down. With Online Divorce Lawyer, you have a local lawyer on your team. You use that lawyer cost-effectively only where you need him or her. And if things blow up later in your case or you just need a quick bit of legal advice here and there, you have a local California lawyer to provide additional services at
From here, it’s a no-brainer. If you need to keep the cost down as low as possible, it’s NetDivorce. If you don’t mind paying moderately more to have a lawyer on your team and an effective legal insurance policy, it’s Online Divorce Lawyer.