Ready to divorce, but not sure where to get divorce papers? Well, you have a few options. You can get the forms at the local Maryland courthouse, or you could trust your entire divorce filing to an anonymous company you found with no reviews and a lot of flashy banners.
Or, you can just hire an attorney to handle the case for you – which includes the paperwork.
Joking aside, we're clearly biased toward one solution over the others. However, there's a very good reason for that: Divorce paperwork can get complicated, fast. You might waste time and money if you don't get it right the first time.
This is (generally) the best type of divorce to file without a lawyer, though that can be tricky.
You can find divorce papers in two places: Online and in-person.
Here's why you should skip the personal paperwork and just hire an expert to do it for you.
When Can You File Divorce Papers Without a Lawyer?
Technically, anyone can file for a divorce without a lawyer. You can get the required forms either online or at the physical county clerk’s office (when we're not in a pandemic).
That said, filing without a lawyer that's not always the wisest plan.
For example, to save money in a costly divorce, many people opt to file by themselves.
For this situation to go somewhat smoothly, you should be getting an uncontested divorce. In fact, in pre-Covid times, one of the only ways you could file paperwork to the court online was to ask for an uncontested divorce.
Anyone planning to do this should have a lot of free time to fill out these forms – multiple weekends' and months' worth of time.
Maryland divorce forms are incredibly long and detailed, with sections that are easily missed through inexperience or just exhaustion.
For example, if you have minor children, then expect to fill out additional forms and applications. Navigating these nuances can be mind-numbing.
And, if you file the wrong papers, you will have to start all over again.
Where to Get Divorce Papers: Online
Sites that claim to have official Maryland paperwork for divorce may make them available for free. However, each county has different requirements depending on your situation and may not be updating them religiously.
There are also online services that claim to offer filing services without acting as your legal representation. We've heard of these digital-only companies offering free divorce form PDFs for download, but there’s no guarantee that the forms are up-to-date with the latest local court procedures. And, we can't speak to their quality of service.
(Frankly, the whole set up seems a bit too good to be true, in our opinion.)
In the end, free divorce papers sound nice, but you'll probably get what you pay for.
Where to Get Divorce Papers: Your County Clerk’s Office
If you can't find the proper divorce papers online, you can get them in person at the various legal facilities.
Depending on the local Covid-19 restrictions and other factors, you can go to the county clerk's office yourself to request the divorce forms personally. If you’d rather not, the office can always snail-mail you the paper forms.
While it’s inconvenient, getting your divorce papers at the county clerk’s rather than online means you know these papers are accurate with updated laws and specific to your situation.
You can get papers for any type of divorce at the county clerk’s office, of course. However, a DIY divorce will be significantly easier if you both agreed on most things. If you’re even slightly worried, then you may want to try mediation before getting divorce papers.
When Should You Skip the Divorce Papers and Just Get a Lawyer?
After all, with any luck, you’ll only file one divorce in your lifetime. Lawyers file hundreds and thousands of divorce petitions over the course of their careers.
Lawyers will also fill out divorce forms much faster than you or your spouse ever could, which means you’ll file them that much faster.
You would have to come home from work and then take on the second job of filling out divorce forms. A lawyer comes to work just to fill out these forms.
Remember, too, that even in uncontested divorces, there are still disagreements. If you and your spouse are having trouble, then retaining a law firm is definitely recommended. You need talented third-party representation arguing on your behalf.
In fact, for any other type of divorce besides uncontested, you’re pretty much guaranteed to need a lawyer if you want to be sure that your best interests are being served.