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Can You Do Your Own Divorce?

When it comes to the question of doing your divorce there are so many factors to consider that to say that you definitely can or definitely cannot handle your divorce case would be a mistake. Let's begin today's blog post by discussing what we do know about being able to represent yourself in a Texas divorce. Nothing is preventing you from representing yourself in divorce in our state. The law allows for you to represent yourself and not have an attorney in your divorce. So can we stop today's blog post right here and move on to something else? 

I would answer that question with uh no. Just because you are legally able to represent yourself in a divorce does not mean that you should do so. No matter what circumstances you find yourself in a divorce is a major event in your life it is something that you should take seriously. I realize that you may have people in your life who are in one year telling you that you can represent yourself but I would like to be able to be the voice in your other ear telling you to tap the brakes and proceed carefully when considering not having an attorney with you in a Texas divorce. 

I can already see some of you rolling your eyes at this recommendation. Of course, the divorce lawyer is going to say that you should consider hiring an attorney for your divorce. Isn't this the same thing as a mechanic telling you that you shouldn't work on your vehicle? Or a dentist telling you that you shouldn't pull your teeth or fill your cavities? A divorce lawyer wouldn't be worth their salt if he or she didn't recommend you hire an attorney, right? While there may be some truth to this statement I want to share with you my thoughts on why it is important for you to at least consider hiring an attorney for your divorce.Examine the circumstances in your life to determine whether or not you can represent yourself in a divorce case 

Time is a finite resource 

of all the things in life that we wish we had more of I'm willing to bet that most of you have wished it at one point or another to have more time. Time is something that is in short supply for all of us. We all know our time here on earth in a macro sense is limited. We all know that time is something that influences the decisions that we make and choose not to make. Whether or not you have considered this reality in conjunction with your divorce may be an entirely different matter altogether. 

Not only should you think about divorce in terms of the time it takes to proceed with the case in and of itself but you also need to consider your divorce from the standpoint of what impact it will have on the other areas of your life from a time management perspective. You may already be dreading the length of a divorce and may have even read blog posts on our website that discuss how long a typical divorce takes in Texas. The thought of spending time in a legal case over many months is enough to intimidate anyone. However, I am here to tell you that it is not only the length of your case that should be of consequence to you but also the length of your case in conjunction with the other areas of your life that should also be of great importance. 

We all only have 24 hours in a day to handle the business we need to. More importantly, we have 24 hours in a day to spend time doing the things that make life truly fulfilling. Things like spending time with your family, going to church, enjoying a nice meal, watching a ball game and things of this nature are the non-work activities that lead to a more complete in fulfilling life. We all balance these activities against those activities like work to build a life that is well-rounded or we can accomplish goals and spend time with those that we love. This is a reality that should not be discounted when it comes to planning your divorce. 

If you find yourself in a position where you are staring down the barrel of a divorce then you should consider the divorce has one more activity that is going to take up time in your day. No matter what sort of divorce case you anticipate that yours will be I can almost promise you that it is going to take you longer to complete the case than you think about right now. That's not to say that your divorce is going to be full of acrimony and fighting with your spouse but anyone who is ever tried to operate a small business could tell you that things in business typically take twice as long to complete as you planned for, cost twice as much money and you should understand that you are not the exception to that rule. While I will not apply this rule 100% to divorce cases I can tell you that most people believe their divorce will be over sooner than it really will be and end up planning for costs that are not strictly accounted for in the divorce itself. 

With that said, you should consider what role having an attorney will play in all of this for you and your family. Earlier in today's blog post, I used the example of a dentist, a mechanic, and an attorney to discuss professions where these folks will recommend you use a professional rather than try and perform an action yourself. Why fix your car in your driveway when you can take it to a mechanic? While I pull your teeth when there are a million dentists in Houston that will be happy 2 do the work for you? 

Sometimes I think we as a society can be skeptical of professionals in the sense that it is believed that we can do so much for ourselves that we instead push off onto others. However, I would ask you if you feel comfortable fixing the engine in your car, pulling up a tooth of your own, or going into the most important legal issue of your life without someone who has knowledge and experience in that area? If you are being honest with yourself I think you would answer this question in a negative. You should not feel comfortable going into a divorce if you do not know the law and no experience in handling divorce cases. 

Not only does a family law attorney possess the knowledge you need to succeed in your case but that attorney will also be able to help save you time. Think about your job if a mistake is made on a project very early on. If no one catches that mistake and you all proceed towards the end of the project you will undoubtedly have to come back and make corrections to the original error. This costs time and money and at the very least is extremely annoying and tedious for everyone involved in the project. 

A divorce case is the same way. While proceeding with a divorce in Texas is not rocket science there are specific factors in play that must be considered. If we make a mistake on a procedural issue or in drafting a document then courts and judges will not overlook these mistakes because you do not have an attorney. Rather, you will have to make corrections in file documents if you have missed deadlines or have otherwise made a mistake at some point in your case. These are the sort of mistakes and corrections that will cost you not only money but also time. 

While you are learning the steps of a divorce, putting the time into actually drafting and filing documents all the while negotiating with your spouse or their attorney you are losing time that you could have devoted to your family, your job, or other endeavors that are more pleasant and enjoyable than a divorce. For some folks, this may be a tradeoff that you are willing to make. If you have time in abundance or a great deal of patience then you may be able to proceed with the divorce without representation. 

However, in my experience as a family law attorney, most people do not fall into this category. Most of us have responsibilities that extend far beyond a divorce case. That is true even if the divorce case is the most important thing in your life at this time. For most of us, we could not afford to spend an additional two or three hours every day working on a divorce case. There is no prize at the end of divorce for having completed the case without an attorney. Likewise, as we have already established, but the court or an opposing attorney will not go any easier on you in the case because you are not a lawyer in are not represented by counsel in the divorce 

when it comes to managing a timeline in your divorce case the best recommendation that I can make for you is to consider your life overall in determining whether or not you can afford to give up the time necessary to devote to a divorce. The divorce takes up enough time as it is even when you have an attorney. Going the distance in a divorce without a lawyer is certainly a risk. Many of our clients here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan began their divorce cases without an attorney and hired our office subsequently after it became apparent that they were not capable of continuing the case without a lawyer. 

Not being able to represent yourself in a divorce does not mean that you aren't intelligent or a functional adult. The reality is that a divorce is a process just like anything else in the world. If you are unfamiliar with the process then you may not be able to learn it well enough to succeed in representing yourself on your first try. It is a tremendous risk to your family into your finances to represent yourself in a divorce with zero experience. This is especially true when he lives in our area and there is an abundance of options for you to choose from when it comes to representation in a divorce. 

Do divorce lawyers all charge a lot of money?

This is the question that should follow logically from the last question that we asked. I am willing to bet that the number one reason you are considering foregoing an attorney on your case is due to cost. Most people who hire attorneys will tell you that the lawyer costs a lot of money. Now, what is a "lot" of money will vary depending on who you are asking and really on what season of their life you are asking them in. It is tricky to rely upon what other people tell you about what costs a lot and what costs a little. 

The reality is that hiring an attorney most of the time does involve spending some money. Attorneys typically charge for their services in representing you as a client but you may be able to find an attorney who is willing to represent you at no cost or no cost depending on your circumstances. It is up to you, however, to perform the research to find these sorts of attorneys because they are few and far between. 

For the most part, you will find attorneys who are willing to represent you in exchange for you paying them a fee. Attorneys typically charge a retainer fee initially. This fee acts as a down payment where you are reserving that attorney for the duration of your case. Once you have paid a retainer fee you would be charged an hourly rate by the attorney for work to be done in your case subsequently. Different attorneys charge different amounts of money based on several factors like their experience and your particular facts and circumstances. 

There is no typical divorce and therefore I would not feel comfortable telling you what a typical divorce ends up costing. The amount of money that you're divorced ends up costing will be a function of the circumstances of your case, that I'm required to work through the issues of your case and the length of your case. If you and your spouse can negotiate well and can sort through the issues of your case without a trial then your case will cost much less. However, if your case requires a temporary orders hearing as well as a trial then you can expect to pay more than a person whose case does not require judicial intervention.

What I would recommend you do is to take some time to interview attorneys and to determine how much that attorney charges both for a retainer and by the hour. From there, you can perform the basic arithmetic to figure out what your divorce may end up costing. Based on your circumstances and what your budget is you will almost surely be able to find an attorney who can work with you on representation. Remember that it never hurts to ask an attorney if they can charge you based on a sliding scale or on a different basis than what a typical contract calls for. 

Another factor for you to consider is that many divorce attorneys represent clients based on limited scope arrangements. This means that the attorney would be able to draft documents for you, attend hearings for you or simply review the documents drafted by another attorney. If you do not want to hire your attorney then this may be a preferable option for you.   

The bottom line is that a divorce is a serious business. Even if you do not have children or a substantial amount of property it is a risk to not proceed with a divorce with an attorney representing you. Hiring an attorney is a short-term investment that would go towards your long-term future success. While I do not know what circumstances you find yourself in relative to a divorce, I can tell you that the number of people who accomplish all their goals in a divorce without an attorney is minimal. 

Questions about the material shared in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan 

if you have any questions about the material shared with you today in our 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 can go a long way towards helping you learn more about the world of family law as well as about how your family may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case. 

Our attorneys and staff take a great deal of pride in serving our community and you can find our attorneys in the family law courts of southeast Texas daily. Thank you for your interest in our law practice and we hope that you will join us again tomorrow as we continue to share additional information about the world of Texas family law. 

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