How to Choose a Paralegal to Do Your Divorce

Three Parts:Determining If a Paralegal Is Right For YouFinding a Suitable ParalegalHiring a Paralegal

Getting divorced can be expensive, time consuming, and exhausting. When you get divorced, you will have to file numerous documents with a court until the divorce is finalized. Completing and filing these documents with the help of someone else can make the divorce smoother and less stressful. When possible, you should consider hiring a divorce attorney to help you navigate the judicial system. However, if you are looking for an affordable method of filing for divorce, hiring a paralegal may be a good secondary option.

Part 1
Determining If a Paralegal Is Right For You

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    Know what a paralegal is. Before you consider hiring a paralegal, it will help to understand what one is. A paralegal is someone with special training, education, and experience, who usually works under the supervision of a licensed attorney.[1] While a lot of paralegals work for attorneys, paralegals can also offer their services independently.[2] While paralegals perform duties often seen as legal in nature, they are not licensed attorneys and they cannot practice law.
    • Paralegals have an in-depth knowledge of the law and the legal process, and usually understand legal matters just as well as attorneys. In the context of divorce, a paralegal will usually have years of experience drafting divorce forms, filing divorce forms, and understanding how to serve those divorce forms on the other party.[3]
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    Think about paralegal credentials and certifications. Some states do not require paralegals to be certified or credentialed at all.[4] When trying to learn about paralegals, think about your state's paralegal certification process, if there is one. Even if paralegals in your state are not required to get certified, look to see if your state offers optional certification programs. Also, the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) offers a national certification process for those paralegals wishing to do so.[5]
    • When thinking about whether you should hire a paralegal, consider whether credentialing and/or professional certification is important to you.
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    Understand what a paralegal can and cannot do. Before you determine that hiring a paralegal is the right decision for you, think about the limits of what a paralegal can do. In the context of divorce, a paralegal will be able to prepare divorce documents, tell you where the forms need to be filed, and tell you how to serve the other party.[6]
    • A paralegal cannot, however, practice law. This means a paralegal will not be able to give you legal advice and they will not be able to represent you in court.[7] Therefore, while a paralegal can help you fill out forms, they have to be careful not to answer your legal questions, even if they relate to the filling out of your divorce forms.[8]
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    Recognize the difficulty of your divorce. Because paralegals cannot give you legal advice or represent you in court, hiring a paralegal to handle a contentious divorce may not be your best option.
    • If your divorce is expected to be straightforward, friendly, and uncontested, hiring a paralegal may be okay.
    • If, however, your divorce will deal with complex property distribution, child custody issues, and court hearings, you may want to consider foregoing the services of a paralegal and hire a divorce lawyer.
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    Calculate the cost of your options. If you are thinking about divorce, you generally have three options about obtaining help with the process.
    • First, you can handle the matter yourself. If you choose this option, you will not have to pay anyone for their services, although you may have to devote a substantial amount of time to learning the law and completing the court forms yourself. This might be a good option if you and your spouse can agree on everything about the divorce.
    • Second, you can hire an attorney. While this option is certainly the most expensive, it also usually yields the best results. An attorney is a trained professional with the ability to provide you with legal advice and services. Hiring a divorce lawyer can often cost between $200 and $500 an hour.[9]
    • Third, you can hire a paralegal. This option offers an attractive middle ground for those who cannot afford an attorney but do not have the time to complete all the divorce tasks on their own. Hiring a paralegal can often cost between $50 and $100 an hour.[10]
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    Make an informed decision. With your newfound understanding of what a paralegal is, the services they can offer, and the cost of hiring them, make an informed decision about hiring one. If you choose to hire a paralegal instead of hiring an attorney or handling the divorce on your own, you will need to find a suitable paralegal that can help you with your needs.

Part 2
Finding a Suitable Paralegal

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    Determine what type of paralegal you need. The first step in finding a quality paralegal is understanding what type of paralegal you are looking for. Because you are going to be going through a divorce, you will want to narrow your paralegal search to those having experience in family law, particularly divorce law.
    • When you start your search, try and find paralegals who have worked with divorce lawyers (or who still do work for divorce lawyer). Look for individuals who have experience filling out divorce forms in our locale.
    • Said another way, do not search out a criminal paralegal to help you with your divorce.
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    Contact local paralegal services. Every state is going to have local paralegal services that you will be able to contact for help with a divorce. Use the phone book to look up local paralegals. Once you find one, look through their website or give them a call to inquire about their services.
    • For example, in California, Just Document Preparation provides local document preparation services to those looking for a cheaper alternative to hiring an attorney.[11]
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    Review online listings. Almost everyone in today's world will advertise their services on the internet. Conducting an online search should yield great results.
    • Try searching for "divorce paralegals in [your city]" and see what comes up.
    • You can also try using sources like or to help aid your search. Be aware that some sources will charge you for their services.
    • Look at reviews on sites like Yelp. Peer reviews can be incredibly helpful when narrowing down your search and finding good paralegal candidates.
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    Get referrals and recommendations. Talk to friends and family members who have used a paralegal's services.[12] Find out who they hired, for what type of service, if they were happy with the services, and why or why not. Ask if they would recommend the paralegal.
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    Review each choice's background. Before you make a final list of candidates, review every person's background.[13] Use the internet to search for the paralegals you have found.
    • Search for each paralegal's certifications and/or credentials. In order to protect yourself from hiring an unqualified individual, you should always look to hire a certified paralegal if you have the opportunity.[14]
    • Check with your Better Business Bureau to see if the paralegal you are looking at has any complaints.[15]
    • Consider calling and asking about their educational and experiential background. A good divorce paralegal will have a solid educational foundation and years of experience drafting divorce documents.[16]
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    Make a list of potential choices. Include the paralegal's name, address, phone number, and website. This information will help you organize your results moving forward.

Part 3
Hiring a Paralegal

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    Make an appointment to meet with your top choices. Once you have created a short list of candidates, call them and ask for an appointment. Just like if you were hiring an attorney, it is nice to meet with and interview potential paralegals.[17]
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    Write out questions you would like to ask. Before you go to your appointment, write out any questions you may have for the paralegal. These questions may range from the types of services they offer to questions about their background and experience. Areas to ask about include:
    • Pricing;
    • The amount of time they expect it will take to complete your work;
    • Their availability;
    • Their experience with divorce cases and documents; and
    • Their record of misconduct.
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    Bring documents with you to your appointment. A paralegal may ask you to bring in documents they will need to look at in order to determine how they can help. Bring any documents you are asked to bring, as well as anything else you think may be helpful. Gather these documents ahead of time so you can locate them easily on the day of your appointment.
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    Attend your appointment. When you attend you appointment, a lot of independent divorce paralegals will ask you to fill out a questionnaire.[18] The paralegal will then use this questionnaire to determine the types of services that may be needed, and if they can be the ones to assist you.
    • Paralegals have to be careful not to provide legal advice to you during the appointment. One way of assuring they do not do so is through the use of these questionnaires.[19]
    • A divorce paralegal may ask basic questions about your marriage, your property, your children, and your reasons for wanting a divorce.
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    Choose a paralegal. Aside from choosing a paralegal with a strong knowledge of divorce proceedings and strong experiential resume, choose a paralegal you are going to get along with.
    • If the paralegal makes you feel uncomfortable or wants you to do anything unethical, choose a different paralegal.
    • Also, consider how well the appointment went. If the paralegal did not understand your questions or did not attend to your needs, consider finding a different paralegal.
    • In the end, choose the paralegal you feel most comfortable with that can help you through your divorce process.


  • Remember that paralegals are not licensed attorneys. They cannot and should not give you any form of legal advice. While they can help you navigate the legal process, if your divorce is likely to be complicated, you may want to consider hiring a divorce lawyer.

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Categories: Divorce