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Editing and Preparing Divorce Papers for Filing

With legal documents, things like font, margins and headings are often unique to the state. If your divorce forms don’t look like the ones the court clerk’s office is used to seeing, it immediately raises a red flag and increases the likelihood that your paperwork will be rejected, even if they actually meet substantive legal requirements. Microsoft Word and other apps with document editing options like Google Docs are coded differently and support different features. While Google Docs has become a popular choice for word processing, it lacks many MS-Word features that are essential to properly formatted legal documents. For this reason, most of the documents you’ll receive are created using MS-Word.

Editing PDFs

In most states, documents will be in MS-Word possibly with one or two PDFs included. Those PDFs tend to be state-issued forms like a statistics report of divorce form, which usually goes to the state’s health department for record-keeping purposes. Often those don’t require any additional information or signatures so they are already in the right format for e-filing. There are a few states, California is an example, where all or most documents are PDFs.

If you need to open and edit a PDF for any reason, it’s important that you open it in Adobe Reader. This is because other readers, including the default readers on iPhones and iPads, affect formatting, and often show empty fields that would have been filled in if the document was opened in Adobe Reader.

Adobe Reader is available free. If, after downloading Adobe, your document doesn’t open, check your settings to make sure it is set as your default for PDFs. For iPhones and iPads, download the latest version of the Adobe Reader app. You can download Adobe Reader for Windows, Mac OS and Android here.

Why MS-Word?

If you want to edit one or more documents for any reason (ex. e-filing, self-customization) the only way to keep the document looking exactly like the original is to open and edit it using the same software used to create it. If you try to edit Word documents using Google Docs or another app, some documents may not convert properly and there may be formatting problems, which affect things like where lines, paragraphs, and pages end. Other common formatting issues users see when converting documents from Word to another app are additional spaces between words and sentences, missing headers and/or footers, and margin shifting. Font differences can also occur, even when fonts have the same or very similar names.

Will I need to edit my documents?

The primary reasons for editing divorce paperwork are:

  1. To add information. It some states, it may be necessary to fill in blanks on one or more documents, either by hand-filling info on a blank line on a hard copy, or by downloading the document and typing in the information.
  2. To add an electronic signature. If you’re state offers e-filing and you’d like to file electronically instead of in person or by mail, you can either use a handwritten signature a hard copy or download the document and type in a signature in an accepted format for e-filing (ex. /s/John Smith).
  3. To self-customize. Some customers decide to make changes to their documents, either because they received a court notice telling them to, or because they want to add or remove language to better suit their circumstances. There are two ways to self-customize documents. First, you can log in to your DivorceWriter account to make any desired changes to your interview responses, and then receive rebuilt documents incorporating your changes by e-mail or have them printed and shipped. The other way to self-customize documents is by downloading and editing as needed.

Can I E-File Where I live?

Not all states allow e-filing in divorce cases. Of those that do, some currently only allow attorneys to e-file. Click here to find out if e-filing your divorce is an option in your state.

How to Get Free Microsoft Word

If you don’t need to open your documents for printing, editing or e-filing, the easiest thing to do is have them printed and shipped to you by DivorceWriter. Then, sign and file with the court clerk in person or by mail. However, if you need to download and edit your documents for any reason, below are links for free versions of Word for iOS, Android and Windows 10.

Download Word for iOS
Download Word for Android
Download Word for Windows 10

With these free versions of Word, you can open and print Word documents from any device, although you may not be able to edit depending on your device. Only Office 365 subscribers are able to access all features on all devices. Windows, Android and Mac users can edit documents for free using these apps if you are using a device with a screen that is 10.1” or less. People using larger tablets or pc users will only be able to open and view them, not edit. With iOS, you can edit documents for free on any device except iPad Pro, which only allows you to open them, but not edit. iOS users with screens bigger than 10.1” or who use iPad Pro and laptop/desktop users who don’t have editing capabilities with the free version of Word can sign up for Office 365 and get a personal account for $6.99/mo, which will unlock the full features for Word as well as premium versions of Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive and Outlook on any device.

Converting MS-Word Documents to PDF

Most, though not all, e-filing systems, including the states that use the Odyssey e-filing system, only accept PDFs so if you’re e-filing you will need to convert them. There are two ways to do this. (1) Complete and sign hard copies of your documents as needed, and then either scan or photograph them. Once you have a digital image file (JPEG or PNG) of each individual page of a document, you can convert them to PDF, or (2) open the documents in Word, edit and/or e-sign as needed, and then convert the Word document to a PDF. Both are explained in detail below.

Converting JPEG or PNG Image Files to PDF

If you want to e-file, but you don’t want to open and edit documents using Word, you can instead print them (or have DivorceWriter print and ship them to you), and then take scan or photograph them with your mobile device and convert those into PDFs. However, if you choose to do this, there are two important things to keep in mind. First, each photo has to be of one page of the document only and must include the entire page only. Nothing—not footers, headers or margins—can be cut off in any photo. Additionally, you can’t have anything else in the background and the photo must be clear and legible. If any portion is cut off or if the document is at all hard to read, it could cause a rejection. Second, most documents consist of multiple pages, which means you will have to take a very clear and complete full screenshot or photo of each page separately, and then get all pages of a given document into a one PDF in correct order so you can e-file the complete document.

Converting JPEG or PNG Image Files to PDF on iPhone

To convert an image file to a PDF:

  1. Tap the Photos app icon and then tap the photo that you want to turn into a PDF to open it. (To select multiple photos for multiple-page documents, tap Select in the top-right corner of the screen, and then tap each photo that you want to select. Make sure you tap them in the correct order—i.e. according to page number.)
  2. Once you have selected all of the pages, tap the "Share" icon at the bottom-left corner of the screen, a pop-up menu will appear.
  3. In the popup menu, tap the printer-shaped icon in the bottom row of the menu. On the "Printer Options" page, zoom in on the preview at the bottom of the screen to open your selected picture(s) in a PDF preview. If your iPhone has 3D Touch, you can press down on the preview to open it in a new window and then press down harder to open the PDF preview.
  4. Tap the "Share" icon in the top-right corner of the screen to open a menu at the bottom of the screen. Tap Save to Files in the bottom row of the menu to open a list of your save locations.
  5. Tap the folder or location where you want to save your PDF. If you select the On My iPhone location, you will then be able to select a folder. Tap Add in the top-right corner of the screen.

Converting JPEG or PNG Image Files to PDF on Android

  1. Download the free Image to PDF Converter app and open it. Tap the plus sign icon in the top-left corner of the screen to open a list of picture locations and select pictures you want to convert if the document has more than one page. Tap each picture that you want to add to your PDF file. You should see a checkmark appear in the bottom-right corner of each selected picture.
  2. Tap the checkmark in the top-right corner of the screen to add the photos to your PDF list.
  3. Tap the "Convert" icon. It’s the right-facing arrow next to a piece of paper that says "PDF" at the top of the screen. Then, tap Save PDF. It's a blue button at the bottom of the screen. Your selected image(s) will be added to a PDF and saved in the "Image to PDF Converter" folder that's in your Android's default storage location (e.g., the SD card).

Converting JPEG or PNG Image Files to PDF on Windows 10

  1. Select a picture to convert. If you need to put multiple pictures in one PDF, click Select in the upper-right side of the Photos window, and then click each photo that you want to add to the PDF.
  2. Click the "Print" icon in the upper-right side of the window to prompt the "Print" menu to open. You can also press Ctrl+P.
  3. Select the "Microsoft Print to PDF" printer. Click the "Printer" drop-down box, and then click Microsoft Print to PDF in the drop-down menu.
  4. Click Print at the bottom of the menu to open a window for you to save your file. Enter the name of your PDF into the "File name" text box near the bottom of the window.
  5. Select a save location by clicking a folder on the left side of the window as your PDF's save location, and click Save in the bottom-right corner of the window to save your new PDF.

Convert JPEG or PNG Image Files to PDF on Mac

  1. Click the Preview app (magnifier) on top of a couple of photos in your Mac's Dock to see if Preview is an option. If Preview isn't an option, type P review into Spotlight and double-click Preview.
  2. In the file selection window that opens, go to the folder where your picture is and click to select it. If it’s a multiple-page document, you can select more than one picture by holding down Command and clicking each picture that you want to use.
  3. Click Open in the lower-right side of the window to open your photos in Preview.
  4. Click File in the upper-left corner to bring up the drop-down menu. If needed, rearrange your pictures to make sure they are in the same order as the pages of the document by dragging them up or down in the left-hand sidebar.
  5. Click Print near the bottom of the File drop-down menu.
  6. Click the PDF drop-down box. It's in the bottom-left corner of the window. A drop-down menu will appear. If you need to change any print settings (e.g., photo orientation), first click Show Details at the bottom of the window and select your preferred settings.
  7. Click Save as PDF in the drop-down menu to open a window for you to save your picture(s) as a PDF file.
  8. Select a save location on the left side of the window by clicking a folder in which to save your PDF. Click Save in the bottom-right corner of the window to save your PDF.
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