As I was driving home from a birthday party with my six year old son, a sign caught my attention. It read: DIVORCE $99 800-875-1773. I thought to myself, how in the world are they doing it for $99? The filing fee alone in most jurisdictions is near $90. How can they draft and file a divorce for the equivalent of $10? Answer: They don't!
I called the number and was met with an answering message asking that I leave return caller information and promised that I would receive a call back soon. I Googled the number and it took me to a website: virginiaonlinedivorce.com. The website presented as clean and simple. As far as I can tell it looks legit, though I don't know anyone personally who has used this product. The following is a screenshot of their website with a simple three step explanation of "how it works":
A NECESSARY DISCLAIMER: Please know that we are in no way claiming that the VIRGINIA ONLINE DIVORCE product does or does not work. A testimonial is provided by a person in Arlington, Virginia who claims it worked for her and that "you just can't beat that!" While we have no doubt it can work, we beg to differ that it can't be beat. After reading through their three simple do-it-yourself steps, consider allowing us to handle the entire process for you for next to nothing. If you like do-it-yourself projects, then maybe they have just what you're looking for. If, however, you want something that works, takes little (if any) effort on your part, and costs only a fraction of what they claim others charge, you're already where you need to be with frugallegalservices.com.
Comparing Virginia Online Divorce with Frugal Legal Services®
Fill Out the Questionnaire
First of all, 15 minutes sounds a bit too much like a Geico commercial. Their claim is that you take fifteen minutes to answer a few simple questions that will help their team draft your unique forms. They ensure your forms will be accurate. Well, thank God for that. Accuracy is important. Accuracy is, however, only one small (important) step in a complicated process.
What if you have questions? Do they respond with legal advice? Are they protecting you? Are they drafting your separation agreement and representing your best interests? I don't know for sure, but it doesn't seem likely for the cost they charge. In fact, all I could find on their website was a guarantee that their paperwork will work. I can't tell you how many people have come into our office to pay us more to "finish" the mess they themselves started with a do-it-yourself fill in the blank divorce packet.
We too use an online questionnaire to gather information. It may take a little longer than 15 minutes to complete, but it may take less. Every situation is unique in some way. Our process is all online and your correspondence with us is handled by an attorney. Once your responses are received by Frugal Legal Services®, an actual divorce attorney reviews your responses and addresses your questions, if any. That same attorney drafts your separation agreement and all necessary court documents. We know exactly what the courts are looking for and help you get it right the first time around. If anything goes differently than anticipated, we follow up with the court, not you.
Receive Your Paperwork
Virginia Online Divorce claims that your custom paperwork will be professionally prepared, that it is not fill-in-the-blank. They have a professional staff fill in the blanks for you. With Frugal Legal Services®, a licensed divorce attorney creates your legal divorce documents. We also bring to your attention any legal matters that may impact you. This is an actual attorney/client relationship, not just a professional staff person. After we complete any document, we email a .pdf version to you for review and approval along with instructions for what needs to happen from there. Generally, it is an explanation of the timeline from that point and a request that your documents be signed/notarized and returned to us for handling.
Also, although Virginia Online Divorce states you may not need a separation agreement depending on your circumstances, we strongly advise that you enter into one with your soon to be ex-spouse. You want your divorce to be final and you want to be protected. A separation agreement can help make that happen for you. That's why we insist that one is filed with every divorce we handle. Fortunately, the cost for a separation agreement coupled with any of our divorce products is just $50! There is simply no reason to do this part yourself. In fact, you could do a lot of harm to yourself, your spouse, and children (if any) if you do.
File Your Paperwork
Here's the kicker: For just $99, Virginia Online Divorce will prepare your paperwork and send it to you. Their claim is that you must then "take the paperwork [they] put together for you down to your local courthouse and file it. You will get a court date in which your case will [be] heard by the judge and your divorce will be granted. That's it ..."
My head is spinning. If yours isn't, it will be when you try to figure this out on your own. It is anything but as simple as taking their completed paperwork down to your local courthouse and filing it in most jurisdictions. Some are incredibly challenging and require you to do it in a very particular manner. The clerk's office will likely refer you to an attorney with any questions on how it works. They cannot offer legal advice. The struggle is real. What do you file? In what order? How is the court date set? Wait, are you telling me I actually have to go to court? And what about the corroborating witness? Does my soon to be ex-spouse have to be there? You will likely have ... So. Many. Questions! This is a life event and you need to make certain it is handled properly.
Our process with Frugal Legal Services® is really simple. You send us your signed/notarized paperwork (the very same paperwork your divorce attorney drafted on your behalf) and we file everything with the court. Our price even INCLUDES your filing fee! In nearly every case, the court enters your final decree of divorce and returns an electronically certified copy to us within a few weeks at most. You, your corroborating witness, or your soon to be ex-spouse should not need to attend court and if you are summoned for any reason, we'll be there right by your side. We see you through from start to finish for one very low and competitive price.
Is it really "that" simple?
If only it were! Divorce in Virginia is so much more than paperwork. Their claim is that there is "no need to spend thousands of dollars on a divorce attorney when VirginiaOnlineDivorce.com will do it for you for only $99." What they should write is that they'll help you do-it-yourself for only $99. It seems a bit misleading if you ask me. Even still, some will insist that they like doing it themselves. Some people like to work on cars and can save a lot of money in labor by doing so. But what if the cost of labor were so low that it no longer made sense to do-it-yourself? If you could spend your time earning money of your own or even doing something you enjoy while a divorce attorney handles your divorce from start to finish for only a little more than the parts (paperwork) you're paying for, why wouldn't you? One thing we can agree upon is that there really is no need to spend thousands of dollars on a divorce attorney; but that doesn't mean you're on your own. In fact, with a service like Frugal Legal Services® available, I can't think of a single compelling reason why a person should handle their own divorce. Do not do-it-yourself. Let us handle it for you!
Please feel free to call or email me directly with any questions.