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 Free Divorces
- 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 Texas divorce
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
A 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 knowledge.
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 divorce if:
- 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
- Your 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 the children
- 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 divorce case
- 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.
If you want to know more about what you can do, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: “16 Steps to Help You Plan & Prepare for Your Texas Divorce”
If you want to know more about how to prepare, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: “13 Dirty Tricks to Watch Out For in Your Texas Divorce, and How to Counter Them" Today!”
Other Articles you may be interested in:
- How Much Will My Texas Divorce Cost?
- How Can I Get My Spouse to Pay My Attorney's Fees in a Texas Divorce?
- How am I going to Pay for My Texas Divorce?
- 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.
Our 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, Cypress, Spring, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.