Law and Economics — 17 September 2019

The short answer is yes. You’ve heard the old adage: “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” It hits people who don’t have a lot of money in many ways. Overdraw your account and get hit with a fine. Miss paying your rent on time and get hit with a fine. When you can’t pay your internet or electric bill on time, your power is shut off and you can no longer get work done from home. Maybe you need new clothes for your part-time job, but you can’t afford them because the job pays minimum wage.

Does the adage ring true for those who need a divorce? Today we look at the economics of divorce as they pertain to the law.

A lot of people put off or cancel plans to divorce a spouse because neither partner makes much money. But that’s not always necessary. Indigent partners can still file for divorce without spending much money. 

Partners who haven’t been together long can put in the paperwork for an uncontested divorce, which means you can skip all the necessary legal fees associated with court — because you’ll never have to go. There’s one rub: this only applies to partners who don’t have any joint assets or children. If you own joint assets, you can still apply for an uncontested divorce if you get rid of them first.

Alternatively, you can try to get a divorce fee waiver available only to the indigent. The procedure specifically asks the court to waive its fees. You might still want to sit down with a divorce attorney to see if this is the right path for you (free consultations are free, after all). If there are no other options where you live, then you’ll need to find the waiver forms. You can probably download them online from your municipality’s family court.

The waiver will request additional information about children produced from the marriage, assets and debts, span of the marriage, why you want to divorce and whether or not either spouse wants child support, alimony, or equitable division of assets that are currently held together.

Both partners will need to supply irrefutable proof of financial status. The court will want to see paystubs, tax forms, social security, disability, bank account statements, loans, car payments, insurance payments, utility bills, etc. You’ll need all this information even if you don’t get your divorce fee waived, so gather the forms either way. When you file all the forms, the documents will be reviewed and you’ll hear from the court soon.

Naturally the process is cheaper for the rich because fees are not proportional to actual income.

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Dolores Obrien

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