How to File for Divorce Without an Attorney/Lawyer

Before detailing how to file for divorce without an attorney/lawyer, we must ask the question, “Why would you not want the assistance of an attorney/lawyer in your divorce?” Is is because you think you can’t afford a lawyer? Is it because you don’t think the assistance a lawyer provides is valuable? Is it because your spouse has encouraged you to not hire a lawyer? Is it because your spouse has said they’ll settle with you in a more fair manner if you settle without the use of a lawyer? Is it because of pride, and the positive feeling of do-it-yourself independence or being able to say you think you saved money by not paying a lawyer for legal advice or work? The purpose of this page is not to convince you to hire a lawyer, but the questions above are all fair. Lawyers are educated and trained in the law, and most people are not. Lawyers have the ability to also be more objective than people in the middle of a divorce. For all of the complaints about how expensive lawyers are and how they appear to complicate matters, lawyers are typically able to assist clients in better outcomes on their cases, in the form of better custody determinations, better parenting time schedules, better financial settlements, and less potential post-judgment problems in the future. Nevertheless, some parties to divorce insist on attempting to handle their own cases. If you chose to do so, here are some recommendations:

  • Visit Oregon Judicial Department’s Family Law page. There you will find information and forms which you can fill out and file with the Court.
  • Get organized. Literally. Print all the forms you’re going to need. Place them in a folder large-enough to accommodate more paperwork as the case progresses. Make a list of all the names, addresses, dates of birth, social security numbers, important calendar dates, and other information you’re going to need throughout the case. Gather any relevant tax returns, W-2s, paycheck/payroll records, bank statements, retirement account statements, investment statements, insurance documentation (medical, dental, and automobile), titles, deeds, mortgage loan documents, etc.
  • Create a list of all personal property (assets) and detail the approximate values, and who each item will be assigned to.
  • Create a list of debts. Loans, credit card debts, etc. If you don’t know all of your debts, run a credit report and have your spouse do the same.
  • If you have children, read various standard/basic parenting plans in order to get an idea as to issues that typically come up in parenting time (e.g. the schedule, the number of overnights, pick up and drop off times and locations, holidays, birthdays, etc).
  • Decide whether or not you need spousal support. Decide whether or not your willing to pay spousal support.
  • Put together and ideal outcome for the case and then decide what items might be negotiable.
  • Attempt mediation either informally or with the help of a professional mediator.
  • Carefully draft a Stipulated General Judgment detailing all relevant issues in the case to be decided at the time the divorce is finalized.
  • Have both parties to the divorce sign the judgment, then submit it to the judge for signature.


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