In part because of the pandemic and the strain it is put on our lives during the past year, people are considering divorce as a possible alternative to staying in the marriage if they are not doing well. Most of us knew that divorce was fairly common in our country even before the pandemic. Still, now that the full impacts of the pandemic on our relationships, finances, and families are being felt, we can see that divorce filings have increased in rate as a result. Well, not all these people end up getting divorced simply beginning the process, and considering divorce is a significant step for your family to take.
Just about every person who goes through a divorce has similar concerns. While your family is different than any other family, the divorce process for your family will not differ compared to another family down the street or across town. Everyone goes through the same steps in hopes of achieving the same goal. The way you get there may be different, the quality of her life during and after the case may be different, and your representation situation may differ from other people. Still, the fact is that divorce tends to look similar for most of us.
So why is it that the question of getting a divorce is such a vexing one for so many people? After all: if divorce is the same for everyone, why should I even have to write a blog post on this subject? Shouldn't everyone know the ends and outs of getting a divorce for speaking to a friend, neighbor, or coworker about their divorce situation? The reality is that while a divorce is generally speaking the same for everyone, each of us takes into the case different perspectives and emotions on our circumstances surrounding divorce. Because of that, the way we perceive divorce in our approach to the process can differ significantly.
For that reason, I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss with you how to prepare well for a divorce in Texas. As the title to today's blog post would indicate, much of what I would like to discuss with you center around the costs of filing for divorce and ultimately completing a divorce. However, because divorce cases can be lengthy and cover multiple steps, I also wanted to talk to you about what to expect from the divorce as far as the process is concerned.
Filing for divorce in Texas
For today's blog post, I will write as if you have already decided to get divorced and that there is no going back on your decision. Of course, there is always time to reverse the divorce filing until the judge signs the final paperwork. That's not to say that I see this happen very much in the cases that we handle or across divorce cases in general, but it certainly is possible. It does happen—the easiest time to reverse the decision on your divorce before you file. So, if you believe that there's a chance at reconciliation, I would take every opportunity to do so by working with your spouse is being honest with them about your desire to either remain in your marriage or move forward with a divorce.
The first question you need to ask yourself when deciding to get a divorce is whether or not you want to hire a family law attorney to represent you in the case. When I mentioned earlier that divorce and the process took about the same for all people across the state, I did not tell you that your need to hire an attorney may differ across the board depending upon your circumstances. A good rule of thumb for you to consider when deciding whether or not you need an attorney to represent you is whether you have children and the significance of Community property in your case.
If you do not have children and do not have Community property as a major issue in your divorce, then you may be able to get away with not hiring a divorce attorney for your case. There is no requirement in Texas that you hire an attorney either way. I like to tell people that when you have a significant amount of money or property or your children's well-being at stake, it is a significant risk not to want to move forward with a lawyer. You can think of it as a short-term investment into your long-term future.
The costs associated with filing for divorce are mostly tied up in hiring an attorney. To find out what you need to pay to file the divorce case in the County where you reside, all you need to do is go to the district or County clerk's website for your County and look up the fee schedule. That will show you what all the court costs and fees associated with filing for divorce look like in your particular County. These costs can vary from County to County but settle in the $300 range to file an original divorce petition.
There are miscellaneous costs to filing for divorce, as well. The court will charge you for making copies of paperwork, producing a citation that produces information for your spouse on their rights and obligations under the law in connection with your divorce, as well as in having your spouse served with the divorce paperwork. Formal service upon your spouse is required to proceed with the divorce in Texas. This means that you cannot simply print out a copy of your original petition for divorce tan handed it over to your spouse.
Rather, your spouse has a right under the law to be served with notice of your divorce by a professional process server or constable. There are costs associated with hiring a process server work constable, and those costs need to be accounted for when you are budgeting for the divorce. This is especially true if you are not hiring an attorney. The immediate costs of filing a divorce are typically accounted for when you pay your attorney. Any retainer amounts usually will be spent in part on filing the divorce and getting your case started. The attorney will keep an eye on the money you have paid to them; it will ensure that there is money in your account through additional payments to ensure that your case can proceed efficiently.
If you choose to proceed with your divorce without an attorney, you must budget these costs yourself. Setting money aside for these costs is not optional. You will need to file for divorce and proceed to pay money unless you can show that you are impoverished or so destitute that you cannot afford to pay these basic costs; you should expect to need this money at the outset of your case. You can start to budget for these costs early so that you are not surprised when they are thrust upon you early in the case.
What makes a divorce expensive?
I'm sure that you have heard horror stories from people regarding the cost of divorce. The ironic thing about terrible divorce experiences is that while the people who go through them would never want to relive them, these same people have no problem with sharing their bad experiences with friends and family. If you have heard about negative experiences with divorce associated with costs, then you may have some fear right now regarding how to afford to go through with the case at all.
Fortunately, even though divorce looks similar from a macro perspective for all Texans, the reality is that your situation has the potential to differ greatly from your friends and family. A divorce does not have to be expensive. In the section of today's blog post before this one, we discussed what a typical divorce ends up costing as far as the initial filings are concerned, and I think these are fees that for most of us, are within our budgets. For instance, it does not cost $10,000 to file for divorce in Texas.
Where divorce can get expensive is actually proceeding with the case and working to ensure that your interests are protected along with those of your children. There are a host of reasons why your divorce may end up being expensive. There is certainly no guarantee in any case as to how expensive or inexpensive your case will be. Let's walk through some of the typical and most common factors as to why a divorce may end up costing you more than the average person.
Lack of a plan leads to increased costs in a divorce.
If you fail to prepare, then you should prepare to fail. This is true in any area of your life. I think it is especially true in the area of divorce. Many people wander into a divorce, but they have trouble when it comes to maintaining their case and negotiating well because they have not thought through the issues. When you don't think things through in a divorce, you tend to make mistakes. Mistakes either cannot be corrected because a case is over with before the mistake is noticed or if a mistake is made, you oftentimes have to spend money to fix the mistake.
From one, if a mistake is made in negotiating your temporary orders in those steps, temporary orders need to be modified or enforced before the end of a divorce. You will have to pay your attorney to draft in file a modification or enforcement case. Then, you will likely have to attend a court hearing where you are paying your attorney to be present with you. Much of the time, these sorts of costs can be prevented if you were to pay attention to the original language in the temporary orders so that you could avoid having to modify or enforce them later on.
Think of your attorney as a coin-operated machine or video game. When there is no work to do, your attorney will be very still and quiet. The quieter and more still your attorney gets to be, the less your divorce will cost. Most divorce attorneys have many clients and have to concern themselves with many situations involving those many clients. The last time your attorney has spent on your case, the more time you can spend working on billing other clients.
Another consideration for costs in your case is if you choose not to be represented by an attorney at least initially. As I mentioned a moment ago, nothing prevents you from going into a divorce without a lawyer. It is not required for you to be represented by an attorney to proceed with the divorce case. However, most of you reading this blog post would benefit from having a lawyer represent you in your divorce.
What ends up happening is that you could begin your divorce case without a lawyer and then realize that you do need an attorney after time is passed. What you may have to do is not only hire an attorney but then pay the attorney to go back and correct mistakes made when you were representing yourself. All of this could have been avoided by simply hiring an attorney at the beginning of your case rather than moving forward unrepresented. There are sometimes erasers to the mistakes made in a divorce, but to use that eraser will usually cost you time and money.
Another reason your divorce may end up costing more money than the average person is if you and your spouse are not able to get on the same page as far as negotiations are concerned. Despite what many people think about divorce, the reality of a divorce case is that you will likely spend most of it negotiating with your spouse rather than going to court. Movies, television shows, and horror stories from friends and family may lead you to believe that you will spend all day in courtrooms during your divorce. The reality is that for mostly weariness blog posts, your time spent in court will be minimal, if any.
For that reason, you should consider your ability and willingness to negotiate with your spouse to be your greatest asset. Imagine if the two of you could work together from the beginning of your case to settle all issues related to your children and your property. It will be amazing how the two of you could sort through these problems quickly and then move on to other problems as if you were going down a list. Many people don't realize the benefit of doing so until it is too late in their case.
I realize, however, that negotiating with the person, you're going through a divorce with can be easier said than done. There are logistical, emotional, and financial constraints to divorce that make it difficult to negotiate as well with your spouse as you would have thought previously. After all, you are going through a divorce for a reason, and communication may not be your strong suit to begin with. However, if you can work to put aside your differences and negotiate for the betterment of your family in yourselves, then you may find yourself saving a great deal of money along the way.
Closing dots on the cost of filing for divorce
There's an old rule when it comes to business that I think applies to two people who go through a divorce if there is no plan in mind: the process takes twice as long as you were expecting, costs twice as much, and the third rule is that you're not the exception to the first two. In my years of working with families going through a divorce, I have found that if you have a plan in mind, act intentionally chords accomplishing the goals of that plan, and work with your spouse on negotiation throughout the case. You can minimize the time and money that has to be spent in the divorce process.
You may find yourself in a situation with your divorce where there are some inescapable costs and difficulties associated with your case that caused the overall dollar value to increase. However, most of you reading this blog post has an opportunity to avoid large costs associated with the divorce case and can work with your spouse to minimize costs along the way with your actions. While divorce may be difficult, it does not have to be expensive.
Questions about the material presented in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
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 consultation 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 and how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.