I have previously mentioned how much a
divorce costs, how to keep the costs of a divorce down, where to get the money to pay
for a divorce, and even online divorce. However, I have never previously
addressed the topic of a free divorce or self-representation.
Some of the reasons for this is:
Most people are not eligible for
- Those people who would be eligible for a Free Divorce often have other
complications that make getting that Free Divorce very complicated
A Free Divorce may be the most expensive option for obtaining a
In reading the above list, you may notice that that I am be skeptical or
biased about people trying to obtain a “Free Divorce.” I believe
most people are better served by having an
Texas divorce attorney represent them in a divorce.
However, I do believe there are certain circumstances where self-representation
to minimize the cost of a divorce may be possible.
In this blog article, we will tackle the topic of the “Free Texas
Divorce.” I will discuss various methods that may be utilized to
substantially minimize the financial costs of a divorce as well as what
someone contemplating this route should consider.
No Such thing as a Free Lunch
One of the first things you should consider prior to attempting to represent
yourself to minimize divorce costs is that you most likely will be making
tradeoffs to save on these costs. These tradeoffs can include:
- Time as money
- Knowledge of the law
- Your fair share
One of the biggest things you will be trading is your time. Trying to handle your
Texas divorce yourself can easily be a second. Not too long ago I had a client sign
up who I had met with seven months prior.
He told me, “you warned me that this could be like having a second
job. It was more like have two second jobs. I would work all day then
come home and do research on the computer. I took this as far as I could
which was not very far. Now I need your help.”
What is your time worth?
This could mean many things. However, two that I have in mind include:
- Quality of life and
- The dollar value of your time
The first I think is easy to understand. There are ways I would rather
invest my time. After working 60-70 hours a week, paying someone else
to mow my lawn or some other task is worth it to me so that I have that
time to do something else like spend time with my family.
The dollar value of your time is slightly harder to calculate. An example
would be when my dad worked on his or my mom’s car. He grew up working
on cars because his father owned a car repair shop. Whenever there needed
to be repairs made to the cars, he hated to let anyone else work on them.
However, depending on the repairs and how long those repairs would take,
it did not make any sense financially for him to make those repairs. For
example, what might take a car repair shop that had all the necessary
tools and parts shop five hours to do, would take my dad two days to do.
The calculation would be my dad’s time as an engineer times 16 hours
for the two days off of work he would need to take in order to do the
repairs himself minus the cost the car repair shop would charge him to
do the work. Every time my dad did the calculation, it always made sense
for him to take the car to the shop. Though he was always grumpy about it.
Knowledge of the Law
Texas divorce takes a minimum of 61 days to file and finalize the separation. This is
often unrealistic to complete a
contested divorce (one where the parties don't agree on literally every issue) in this
time frame. A
family law attorney can minimize wasted time and help their client move on with their life.
This is often because parties can have unrealistic expectations on what
they can get in court. A
divorce attorney can explain the likely outcomes based on their knowledge of the judge
and the law. When you are representing yourself in your divorce, you are
trading an attorney’s experience in these areas for your lack of
Your Fair Share
One of the biggest reasons I think people should hire a
Texas divorce lawyer is to make sure what they are agreeing to is fair. The times I see people
with the most one-sided agreements is where an attorney is on one side
and the other party is representing themselves.
I explain this situation is as going to a gunfight with a knife.
Free Divorce Forms
On November 13, 2012, the Texas Supreme Court approved a set of forms for use in
uncontested divorces. These forms are available to Texas residents. These forms alone will
not get a free divorce.
However, they may significantly reduce the cost of your
- Your case is one that the forms in which the forms will work
- You are willing to put in the time and effort to understand the law
Will the Free Texas Divorce Forms Work in My Case?
I would caution about using any other forms than the ones approved by the
Texas Supreme Court. It is not mandatory that you use those forms. However,
one of the biggest problems I see people run into doing their own divorce
is using the wrong forms such as those from another state.
One way to find out if the forms will not work for you include reading
the caution boxes on the forms. A few reasons why the forms will not work include:
- Child born during the marriage that does not belong to both spouses
- There are prior court orders regarding a child. Such as child support papers
- You do not know where your spouse is
divorce is contested. The forms were really designed for spouses agree on all things such as
1) the divorce 2) property and debts and 3) What is going to happen with
- You have children and want custom orders regarding the children. Custom
orders can be anything from no child support being paid to 50/50 time
with the children
- You plan to divide retirement accounts
If you and your spouse have very little property, are fine with standard
orders regarding the children, and do not have any of the problems listed
above, you may be candidate for using the forms.
Your Divorce Involves Much More than Filing Forms
One misconception regarding a divorce is that you just fill out a form
and you are done. However, that is not the case. At a minimum a
divorce in Texas involves:
- Filing forms
- Bringing your ex under the power of the court
- Decisions regarding children and property
- Eventually going to court and putting on a trial. The trial may be minimal
if agreed but still involves an appearance in court before a judge
Low Income and Free Divorce
One of the biggest barriers to a free divorce even if you have free divorce
forms is the filing fee. Under Texas Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 145,
the divorce filing fee can be waived by filing a “affidavit of Indigency.”
Affidavit of Indigency
An “Affidavit of Indigency” basically asks a court to waive
the filing fees because the filing party cannot afford them. The party
must swear under oath to the court that they cannot afford the filing
fees and they do not have property they could sell to pay the court fees.
Generally, what happens later in the cases is that the district clerk will
intervene in the case to make the filing party prove that they are unable
to pay the filing fees. This generally results in:
A delay to the
- At least one additional hearing
- A finding that the party can or cannot afford to pay the court costs
Non-Profit Legal Organizations
Another possible solution to not only obtaining a free divorce but having
access to an attorney is if you can qualify for services from a nonprofit
legal organization. Some Houston non-profits include:
- South Texas College of Law Legal Clinic – Phone: 713-646-2990
- AVDA – Phone: 713-224-9911
- Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program – Phone 713-237-9429
- Houston Lawyer Referral Service – Phone: 713-228-0735
- Lone Star Legal Aid – Phone: 713-652-0077
Each organization will have its own set of qualifications you will need
to meet. Those qualifications can include:
- Certain levels of poverty, often 200% below Federal Poverty Guidelines
- Many of the law school clinics will only take simple divorce cases such
as no children, minimal property, and everything in agreement.
In addition to the requirements, there is often a long waiting list. Depending
on the list, it can be anywhere from several months to years long. Everyone
wants a free or pro bono attorney so the wait can be long.
The best way to find out if you qualify is to schedule a free consult with a
Houston divorce attorney.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
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- Should I Hide Money from my Spouse to Get Ready for my Texas Divorce?
- 7 Important Ways to Financially Prepare for Your Texas Divorce
- 6 Tips - On How to prepare for a Texas Divorce
- Can I get child support while my Texas divorce is pending?
- The Cheap and Easy, Online Divorce
- Low cost and affordable divorces, attorneys, websites and divorce Costs in Texas
- $300 Divorce Cost a Man $100,000 in Texas
Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Spring Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children
and families. If you have questions regarding
divorce, it's important to speak with one of our
Spring, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
divorce lawyers in Spring TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and
developing a strategy to meet those goals.
Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online
form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan handles
Divorce cases in Spring, Texas,
The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including
Fort Bend County and