In the last few days, I have worked with another attorney to try to bring a peaceful end to a very brief marriage. In the space of a couple weeks, we identified what was left of the “ties that bind” and how to painlessly sever things like joint leases, joint debts and dividing the wedding presents.
The clients are not wealthy and cost is a consideration. Because this would or should be a quick divorce and the financials seemed under control by the agreement we crafted, I thought it might make sense for the client to use a low price divorce “mill” to file the divorce complaint and secure the decree ending the marriage.
In my home county, a simple one count divorce complaint costs just over $200 in filing fees. Each county gets to impose its own fees and the disparity can be fairly big. There are two rural Pennsylvania counties: Cameron and Potter that have made quick divorce a kind of cottage industry. In most counties, there are two marriages for each divorce. In 2019, Cameron and Potter Counties each had 53 divorces for each marriage celebrated. Even Las Vegas would blush.
Back to the cost. The instant I looked to see what was available for in terms of low cost divorces, my computer exploded with advertisements. A day later, I can’t go onto the web without being dogged by lawyers and “services” offering me a divorce for as little at $121.00.
Potter County will take $88 to file a divorce. They will even send you a divorce packet, which I suspect contains their approved forms for $6.50. Understand that there can be “complications” that can make the otherwise simple process into a mess. A consent to divorce needs to be filed within 30 days of the date it is signed. A divorce complaint technically “expires” if not served within thirty days from the date of filing. So, “do it yourself” can be more trouble than the savings are worth.
If you have no marital property and no marital debt, the $121 divorce may actually work. Nevertheless, even if your relationship is not working out, it may be worthwhile to pay a real lawyer to actually spend an hour and run the paces with you. Your spouse may work for an employer who provides incentives that don’t appear on the paystub but are quite valuable nonetheless. If you are married to a spouse for a decade, you may be able to claim on that spouse’s social security record even though you later divorced. However, if you are divorced after 9 years and 11 months you have no social security entitlement. As we have said in prior articles, get yourself a credit report to make certain that there is no joint debt. If you own a house or lease a home jointly, that needs to be “unwound.” If you filed joint tax returns, you are liable if your spouse failed to pay tax or report income.
So, $121.00 may be a path forward, but it may also be a trap. Moreover, if problems should erupt understand that your judicial remedy may be in Emporium or Coudersport, places not easily found on the map.