COUPLES need not always seek outside help to end their marriages. A number of additional "do-it-yourself" divorce options also exist.

Every county in California has a court self-help center to help couples complete a divorce. Guidance is available at the Family Law Self-Help Court Web site http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/selfhelp/family/divorce.

The state court site instructs spouses how to file their own cases, explains the other options of mediation and collaboration, and advises how to find legal help.

For an uncontested divorce, software programs from CompleteCase.com or LegalZoom.com will help you complete and file divorce paperwork for about $250, depending on the state. Additional court fees also apply.

The two commercial sites, like any for-profit outfit, are only prepared to process uncontested divorces. For disputed issues of child custody and division of assets, users should consult an attorney.

If a spouse establishes residence in a jurisdiction with short residency requirements in order to effect a quick divorce, he or she will indeed dissolve the marriage but will not solve matters of child custody, alimony or division of possessions, said retired California Superior Court Judge Roderic Duncan of Berkeley, author of the 2007 book "A Judge's Guide to Divorce: Uncommon Advice from the Bench.


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Suppose someone wants to run farther to end the marriage and heads, say, to the West Indies, Europe or the Middle East, perhaps to search for a more favorable court or to avoid repercussions from their spouses? This gets really sticky, since the litigant has to have lived in that country long enough so the jurisdiction has a legitimate interest in the parties' marital status.

"If the purpose of obtaining the foreign judgment was to evade California law, it will probably be disregarded," said Duncan, who has invalidated some divorces attempted on foreign soil.