Investigating the Emergence of DIY Divorces in Texas

One of the latest trends in the world of divorce is the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Divorce. Rather than hire an attorney to help shepherd you through the divorce case you would instead learn about divorce on your own, sometimes through the information that you purchase from an online retailer, and then venture out into the world to see if you can apply the knowledge that you have gained towards actually getting a divorce. The results from these do-it-yourself divorces have proven to be a mixed bag. There are people every day who get divorced in Texas on their own without an attorney. On the other hand, there are still more people who have tried to divorce themselves without success. 

While you ponder which direction you should go in it is important for you to have a full perspective on how to proceed and why you must have as much information as possible regarding either direction that you could take your case in. When it comes to a divorce case time is money. If you waste time in a divorce, you could be spending doing other things you are wasting money, as well. Time away from work, productivity, and the time value of spending an afternoon or evening with your children start to add up. When you also consider that many times when you make a mistake in a divorce you end up having to go back and correct those mistakes by spending money then you run into a difficult situation that may not easy to escape from. 

Still, an online divorce is a tempting option for several reasons, not the least of which is that it offers you a different road to travel than most other people take when going through a divorce. When you see other people struggle and trudge through a divorce with the help of a lawyer you may want to avoid that outcome at any cost. As a result, a DIY divorce can seem like the best option to choose from or the least-bad option. Should it be the option that you choose for yourself? What do you need to know before proceeding down a DIY path?

In today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we are going to learn what you need to know about DIY divorce kits and the actual process of representing yourself in a divorce. What are the steps involved, what should you look for in a DIY divorce kit, and what are some of the pitfalls that you could encounter in trying to get divorced without the assistance of a lawyer? We will touch on these subjects and hopefully, you will leave this blog post more confident in the direction you need to go in. 

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.

What is a DIY divorce kit and how can one help you?

A do-it-yourself divorce kit contains (hopefully) the basic information, forms, and help that you need to divorce your spouse. For one thing, pay attention to the type of kit for which you are looking. Each state has its laws and processes involved in getting divorced. The Texas Family Code and its divorce laws may look like some other states’ laws on divorce, but they will not be the same. This is especially true regarding subjects like spousal maintenance and community property. As a result, you can learn some general concepts about divorce from a non-Texas DIY divorce kit, but you cannot use it to get divorced in Texas. You can try, but, likely, you won’t be able to without making a lot of mistakes along the way. 

A DIY divorce kit will probably talk to you about jurisdiction in a divorce case. Jurisdiction is the ability of a court to be able to issue orders and make decisions in your divorce. For a court in Texas to have jurisdiction over your case you or your spouse must have been a resident of Texas for the preceding 6 months and a resident of the county in which you plan to file for at least the preceding 90 days. As long as either you or your spouse can meet this qualification then you can file for divorce in a particular court and that court will have jurisdiction over your case. 

Next, a DIY divorce kit may walk you through the types of divorce that are potentially available to you- either a contested divorce or an uncontested divorce. A contested divorce is by far the more common type of divorce and the one that you are probably going to become involved with. A contested divorce involves two spouses who do not agree on at least some of the issues in their case. An uncontested divorce is a divorce where the spouses agree on all of the issues in their case and will not need to go to court for the judge to play a tiebreaker on any issue. The difference between the two is dramatic considering how you will need to spend your time in a divorce. 

One area where a DIY divorce kit can be helpful is in teaching you how notice is necessary to be provided to your spouse in the event of a divorce. If you file for divorce in Harris County, you will need to notify your spouse of your having done so. The divorce kit can walk you through the process of having a process server or constable pick up paperwork from the courthouse and then physically hand the paperwork to your spouse. This is an example of personal service that is required in a divorce unless you are granted permission to perform an alternative method of service by a judge. 

The DIY divorce kit should contain forms for you to look at for the most important documents filed in a divorce. Examples of those forms include an Original Petition for Divorce, a Counterpetition for Divorce, an Original Answer, Temporary Orders, and a Final Decree of Divorce. While it is great to be able to review these forms and prepare for the later stages of your case, they do not do much good for you unless you know how to fill the forms out correctly and then know how to file them. These are some of the trickier parts of a divorce for a person who is not a practicing family law attorney. 

Finally, a DIY divorce kit may include a checklist for you to review before the end of your divorce. This checklist will hopefully make sure that you do not miss any steps when you attempt to close out and complete your divorce. As you can probably tell there are several steps involved in the divorce case. As a result, it is easy to miss one or two and find yourself in a position where you need to go back to correct mistakes or missed steps. Understanding why certain steps are required and whether you have performed the step correctly is another difficult part of a divorce for a person who has not gone through the process before. Your checklist contains documents and steps that you may be unfamiliar with which is a dangerous position for you to be in. This is where mistakes can happen if you are not careful. 

DIY divorce- is it for you?

This is the million-dollar question that you need to ask yourself. Is doing a divorce by yourself, without the assistance of an attorney the best step for you to take to obtain a divorce? It is not required that you have an attorney to get divorced in Texas. People get divorced every day without a lawyer and this means that you are not doing anything wrong by trying to get divorced with the help of a DIY divorce guide or kit. However, there are some factors that you should consider before taking the plunge into a divorce where you have no assistance from an attorney. 

First, you need to seriously assess how much time you must devote to a divorce case. There are the requirements of drafting paperwork that would be the first thing I would look at if I were an inexperienced person going through a divorce. Your only contact with the family court may well be the documents that you file in your case. If you make a mistake in drafting a document or fail to file a document that is required in your divorce, then you can put yourself in a bad position. Either you will need to go back and correct the mistake you made, or you may lose an important piece of property, child custody right, or another aspect of your divorce. Amending or changing a pleading can only be done during certain times in your case. You may find out about the mistake too late in the process and find yourself unable to correct the mistake in time. 

You need some time to be able to successfully file for your divorce. No matter how good your DIY divorce guide is, the DIY guide cannot file the divorce, draft the documents, and then finalize the case. Not to mention negotiate the settlements and do everything that is required to make sure that you are getting what you need in settlement negotiations. That is where the time element comes in. The rest of your life is still going on while all of this is happening. You have a full-time job, kids, responsibilities, etc. If you want to add to all that a divorce you are asking for all or at least most of your free time to go towards representing yourself in a divorce case. That is a major responsibility that you are taking on and one that you should not take lightly. 

It is not as if you can tell the rest of your life to take a break while you go through a divorce. Rather, your responsibilities in the divorce will be added to your responsibilities elsewhere. Your boss probably won’t care that you are going through a divorce if your work quality goes downhill. By the same token, your children will still want to play with you and spend time with you throughout the process. My impression is that you will experience a time crunch like you probably have never gone through before by choosing to follow a DIY divorce guide rather than hire an attorney and traditionally proceed through your divorce. 

What are the facts and circumstances of your case? Are you a young person who is seeking a divorce but has no children and little property? If this describes the type of situation that you are in then you may be able to successfully navigate a divorce without assistance from an attorney. On the other hand, if you are an older person and have minor children, investments, property, a home, etc. then you have much more at stake. A mistake made in your divorce can be the difference between you being able to retire at 60 and having to work another decade. Keep in mind that division of your retirement account is possible if not likely in a Texas divorce. Couple this with other considerations regarding community property and child custody and you have a lot to lose (or gain) in a divorce. Consider the risks of a DIY divorce before wading into those waters. 

Finally, a DIY divorce assumes that you will not have to spend much time in a courtroom. Most divorces do not put the spouses in a position where they are having to go to court all that often. There may be an issue here or there that is in dispute and cannot be agreed upon by the parties. However, for the most part, people going through a divorce can settle the issues of their case without having to resort to asking a judge to play a tiebreaker. This is because the attorneys involved in the case are helping the spouses negotiate and settle their case before the need to go to court arises.

However, if you are using a do-it-yourself divorce guide then you run into a situation where you may not be able to settle all the issues of your case through negotiation with your spouse. In that case, it may be that you find yourself needing to go to court without the assistance of an attorney to help guide you. The result of this situation may be that you are there to go to court without knowing what to expect and make mistakes as a result or you hesitate and lose a great deal of time because you do not want to go to court.

Reasons why hiring an attorney in your divorce may be the best decision you can make

While a do-it-yourself divorce may work for some people in some circumstances, the fact is that it may not be best for you or your spouse. A quick and easy divorce may seem ideal but to accomplish that goal you need to understand the circumstances of your case and be prepared to negotiate on many different fronts at the drop of a hat. Unless you can say with confidence that this is something that you are prepared for, going a different route with your divorce may be the best option for you and your spouse.

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are ready and willing to help you in your divorce journey. No matter if you are just starting in your case or have attempted a do-it-yourself divorce and are now rethinking your options, we are here to assist you and your family. Additionally, our office offers a do-it-yourself divorce series of videos here on our website. We believe that these are the best do-it-yourself divorce video guides on the Internet. Why not look at our website and see for yourself? If after viewing the videos you think that you are better off working with an attorney, then please contact our office to speak to us and schedule a free-of-charge consultation today. These consultations are available six days a week over the phone, via video, and at any of our three Houston area locations.

Questions about the material you have read in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material, we have covered in today’s blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.

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