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Can I just go to the courthouse and file for divorce?

The answer to the question, “Can I just go to the courthouse and file for divorce?” is one that can simply be answered, “Yes.” The simple truth is that if you were motivated to do so, you could walk into the Harris County (or whatever county in which you live) and ask around to see where divorces can be started. In Harris County, you would likely get sent to the district clerk’s office. You would receive a brief run-down of what needs to be filed for divorce. However, the district clerk is not there to provide legal advice. It’s not as if you can stop a random attorney in the hallway and ask him to fill the paperwork out for you. While you technically can file for divorce at the courthouse, it would probably prove difficult in reality if you are not prepared.

The next thing that I would think that you could do is to find the Harris County Law Library. It’s about two or three blocks from the courthouse in Houston on Congress St. You could do a couple of things at the law library. One, you could do some online research and learn what you need to do in order to file for a divorce in Texas. There are books and computers in this place and both could be utilized to learn what it means to file for divorce. If you are not an attorney it will take you a considerable amount of time to learn the ins and outs of divorce.

Otherwise, there are attorneys that work at the law library who you could ask for assistance with filing your divorce papers. These attorneys would not work for you (they wouldn’t become your attorney when you talk to them) they may be able to help you with the drafting of documents, however. There is usually a wait to be able to talk to these lawyers since they are busy handling similar requests from other people. So, whichever direction you decide to go- learning about divorce on your own or consulting with a free attorney- could end up taking a lot of time from you and your schedule. 

What you think will end up saving you time may end up costing you time

There are basically two reasons why people decide to not hire an attorney to file their divorce. Reason number one is that they think the divorce will be cheaper by not hiring an attorney. If you don’t have money to pay an attorney to represent you then this is a logical thought to have. Not spending money when you don’t have any is a pretty smart way to go through life. You have probably heard from friends and family that a divorce can be expensive. I don’t blame you not wanting to incur a bunch of costs to do something that you’re not that excited about in the first place. Spending a bunch of money to go on vacation is fine. Spending a bunch of money to get divorced sounds terrible. 

The other thing that I think people consider foremost when deciding not to hire an attorney in their divorce is that it will save you time. Hollywood and television shows have done a great job of teaching us that lawyers are devious, conniving, and more than anything else are out to take your money. Lawyers, it is said, will drag a case out for as long as possible in order to obtain the most amount of money possible from a client. Family law attorneys do bill by the hour, meaning that for every hour worked on your case you will be billed more money. Saving time by not hiring a lawyer will then save you money, it is thought by a lot of people. 

If all you are looking for is quick and easy divorce you will most likely spend more money to get a divorce that takes you much longer to achieve than you would have thought at the beginning of your case. Many clients of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan hired our office to represent them after trying to file for their divorce without the assistance of an attorney. These folks found that in theory it is easy to file for divorce on your own but in practice it can become more trouble than it is worth. 

Uncontested divorces can be quick(er) and easy(er) to get in Texas

The most straightforward path for you to take in order to obtain a quick and easy divorce would be to have an uncontested divorce be filed. An uncontested divorce is one where you and your spouse agree on all terms of the divorce and will not need a trial to settle your case. You both may not want to get divorced, but if you all are not going to haggle on the terms of your divorce then yours will be uncontested. An uncontested divorce still takes time to complete but it is far from a contested case that requires multiple sessions of mediation as well as the possibility of a trial. 

I realize that I may have made the process sound a lot more cut and dry than it is actually is. It’s not that profound to say that a divorce where there is conflict will cost more money and take more than a divorce that does not have a ton of conflict. My real point is that filing for divorce by walking up to the courthouse and doing it yourself seems like a great money saving option when in reality it could end up costing you money in the long run. Couple that with the actual, real life difficulties associated with filing for divorce on your own and it may not be worth your time and energy to simply try to file your divorce at the courthouse without an attorney.

What can you do to save money and time in a Texas divorce?

Ok, so if filing for divorce at the courthouse without an attorney is not a sure-fire way to save money in a divorce, then what is? Did I just write a bunch of words in this blog to crush your dreams of having an attorney-less divorce? No, I wouldn’t do that to you. If I’m going to dash your dreams of the quickest and easiest divorce possible I will at least give you the information you need to get the next best thing. 

The quickest you can probably get divorced in Texas is sixty days. From the date on which your original petition for divorce is filed with the court a sixty day waiting period is installed before you and your spouse can legally be divorced. The reason for this is that our state legislature wants to give you and your spouse some time to really think about whether a divorce is the right thing for you and your family. Intact families are generally speaking more prosperous and productive than divorced family, so the theory goes.

If you have a divorce where there is minimal conflict or no conflict at all then you shouldn’t have much problem getting divorced in sixty days. The most frustrating part for people in this position is that you can wrap your divorce up rather quickly, but cannot actually be legally divorced until sixty days after filing. Filing your petition is first step to achieving this sort of quick divorce. The Original Petition for Divorce is what you would need to file in order to move forward with your plan to be divorced. It contains the basic information that the court will need to process your case: who you are, who your spouse is, who your children are, and what relief you are asking the court to grant you. 

It is possible to get a sixty day divorce but it is not probable

While it is possible that you may be in line to get a divorce in as few as sixty days I wouldn’t say that it is probable. If you and your spouse do have issues that need to be sorted out in your divorce then that will take time to sort through. We’re talking about multiple sessions of mediation as well as time to draft the final decree of divorce. So, just because you and your spouse are trying to be on the same page as much as possible does not guarantee you a divorce in as little as sixty days.

What you can do is talk to your spouse early on in the process about what you need to get done in the divorce. If you have children then these issues need to be hammered out early. There are so many potential problems and roadblocks to a quick divorce when it comes to your kids. Child support, child custody, visitation, etc. You need firm resolutions to these problems before you can get an official divorce. Do not go to a judge with a divorce decree that doesn’t contain firm language and expectations for both parties. He or she will not sign your decree and grant your divorce. 

Next, it is a good idea for you to try to work with your spouse directly as much as possible. This applies whether or not you have hired an attorney. You will not be barred from talking to your spouse just because you both have attorneys. After all- if you are parenting together then you will have to work with your spouse on this issues even after your divorce. So, during the divorce is a good time to see if you can work out any issues directly with him or her. This is a step that almost always will save you both time and money. 

What is a final decree of divorce?

Whether or not you actually hire an attorney to represent you in your divorce, it is important for you to know what the final decree of divorce is and what needs to be included in this document. Just as you had to file a document (the original petition for divorce) in order to begin your divorce, you need to file a document called the final decree of divorce to actually end the case. This document contains all of the orders that a judge will sign. Issues ranging from child custody to community property to issues related to spousal maintenance are all covered in the decree. They are your marching orders for the foreseeable future once the divorce concludes. 

There is quite a bit of detail that goes into the final decree of divorce. You need the detail level to be high since you will be referring to the final decree in the future if your spouse violates the final decree. The more precise and clear the language is in your final decree of divorce the more likely it is that you will be able to have an order that you can enforce to your benefit. An order that is not enforceable is not worth the paper that it is printed on.

All in all, the final decree of divorce is the document that you will most need an attorney’s assistance with. The length of the document coupled with its importance to the rest of your life make it crucial that there are no mistakes when drafting it. Whether you hire an attorney to just help you draft the final decree, or one to help represent you from the start of your divorce to the finish you should consider your options early in the divorce process and make a decision that is best for you and your family.

Questions about divorce? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you are trying to sort through considerations surrounding whether or not to hire an attorney you should consider contacting the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. You can speak to one of our licensed family law attorneys in a free of charge consultation six days a week. Questions can be posed to our lawyers that we can give you direct feedback about regarding your specific circumstances. A consultation is pressure free and can really help you decide whether or not it is best for you to hire a lawyer both now and in the future. 


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