Getting a divorce is expensive, but with some careful planning and a mutual willingness to cooperate, you can keep your costs down. There definitely are cheap divorce options in Texas, but what this means in your case will depend on your particular circumstance.
For instance, if your case is fairly simple and you and your spouse are in agreement, a DIY divorce is an affordable option. If there are contested issues though, the most important thing will be avoiding going to trial if at all possible to keep costs down.
The looming reality of an expensive divorce can be extremely stressful, and you might find yourself lying awake at night wondering: what are my cheapest options for a divorce?
Tackling these questions in advance is the first step in saving money on your divorce. One way that people spend more than they need to on divorce is by hiring professionals before they try to work things out on their own. Let's take a look at what your cheapest options are so you can make a plan that fits your financial situation.
Depending on your particular circumstance, how much it will cost to get divorced in Texas can range enormously. Later on in the article, we’ll talk about what the cheapest divorce options are in Texas. First, though, it’s useful to understand exactly how much a Texas divorce costs.
A number of different factors can influence the cost of a divorce, but the average cost, according to one study conducted between 2015 and 2019, typically ranges between $11,000 and $13,000.
Another frequently referenced study found that getting a divorce in Texas is even more expensive than that. For divorces that don’t involve any children, this study found that the average cost is about $15,600. When there are children involved in the divorce, the average cost was found to be $23,500.
Texas is considered to be the fifth most expensive state in the entire country to get divorced, whether or not you have children.
While these numbers are probably a bit frightening to anyone other than those with the deepest of pockets, it’s worth understanding that you don’t have to spend this much on a divorce if you’re able to get an uncontested, agreed divorce.
When you get a divorce in Texas, the biggest expense by far will be the bill you get from a lawyer. Divorce lawyers commonly charge by the hour, which means that the legal fees you accrue will have to do both with their hourly rate and how much work they have to do in order for you to get the outcome you want.
It is possible to get a divorce in Texas without a lawyer, which we’ll discuss later. However, the more complicated your circumstances are, the more sense it makes to seek legal assistance. While it can be tempting to save money on your divorce, you don’t want it to be at the cost of undesirable outcomes in your settlement.
For more detailed information about how much you should expect to pay for a divorce in the Lone Star State, check out our complete guide to the cost of a Texas divorce.
When you’re getting divorced, the decisions being made as a part of the process can have an enormous impact on your life after divorce. This includes your relationship with your children, where you live, your finances, and more. For this reason, it’s important to not avoid hiring a lawyer just to save money when you really need legal assistance.
However, if your divorce is fairly straightforward, you might be a good candidate for a DIY divorce. If this is the case, it means that you can save thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars during the process.
Here are some of the criteria that can mean a DIY divorce might be a good option for you. The more of these boxes you can check off, the more likely it could make sense to go it alone without a lawyer:
If you and your spouse aren’t on the same page when it comes to divorce, it’s probably best to get a lawyer. If your spouse already has a lawyer, it’s generally advised that you should get one, too. It’s important to recognize that the decisions being made in the divorce will have a big impact on your life, and though legal fees can feel outrageous, you also don’t want to be left in a situation where you get an unfair deal in the end.
If you’re able to get divorced without a lawyer, the divorce will only cost a few hundred dollars. The only costs will be the filing fees and maybe a few other associated fees for the courts. The filing fees for Texas courts depend on which county you are filing in, but they typically range from $250 to $350.
The cheapest way to get a divorce in Texas is to get an uncontested divorce, just as it is in pretty much any other U.S. state. In order to get an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse will need to agree on all major issues involved.
Getting an uncontested divorce in Texas can range in cost from $300 to $5000. In order to get divorced for as little as $300, neither you nor your spouse has a lawyer, and you are dealing with filing the paperwork on your own.
On the higher end of that price range, it likely means that both you and your spouse are working with a lawyer. However, the costs aren’t nearly as high as they could be because you aren’t accruing the legal fees that come along with a contested divorce. In a contested divorce, lawyers will work to resolve the contested issues, which will increase the number of hours they work on the case and, therefore, your bill.
If you want to get a cheap divorce in Texas, you have a number of options. If you and your spouse are low-income, there will be additional options available to you. The criteria you need to meet to qualify as “low income” will depend on the organization you’re working with.
Getting a DIY divorce is the cheapest way to get divorced in Texas unless you are able to have your fees waived or otherwise qualify for a low-income legal aid program.
A DIY divorce is when you and your spouse file the paperwork without either of you hiring a lawyer to represent you in the case.
You aren’t legally required to hire an attorney to get divorced in Texas, and you can even choose to represent yourself in family court if the divorce goes to trial. In general, though, it is advised that you only get divorced without a lawyer if your case is fairly simple and all of your terms are agreed upon.
Getting divorced without a lawyer means that you only have to pay the court filing fees and maybe a few other small court fees. Each county has different filing fees, and you’ll file for divorce in the county where you reside. These typically range from $250 to $350.
If you can’t afford to pay these fees, you can ask the judge to waive the filing fee. To do this, you’ll need to fill out and file a form titled Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs.
If you aren’t sure whether getting a DIY divorce is a good idea, you might consider having a consultation with a family lawyer. They will often give free initial consultations, and it’s possible that they will be able to help you understand the process a bit better and get a sense of whether this is something you can handle on your own.
There are a number of factors that, if involved, indicate that you should work with a lawyer rather than getting a DIY divorce. These include:
If any of these are true for you, it’s important that you talk to a family law attorney rather than going it alone.
For more information about saving money on divorce by avoiding attorney fees, check out our recent post about getting divorced in Texas without a lawyer.
Even though getting a DIY divorce can be fairly straightforward if you and your spouse agree on everything, don’t have children, and don’t have much in the way of assets or debts, you still might find that navigating the situation is a bit over your head. The law is complicated, and legal forms don’t necessarily make it easy to feel certain that you’re filling in the right information in the right place.
In some circumstances, you might find that the best middle ground is enlisting a lawyer for certain services. Rather than hiring a lawyer to represent you and your spouse hiring a lawyer to represent them, you might find that a family law attorney is willing to look over your paperwork for a fee.
This can help give you peace of mind and ensure that you’re filling out the paperwork the right way. Most people want their divorce cases to move along as quickly as possible, and if you make a mistake in the paperwork, it can set the whole process back.
If you and your spouse have a complicated enough situation that it makes sense to hire a lawyer, i.e., you have children, you have complex finances, or you have a lot of assets in your name, you can still get a relatively affordable divorce so long as it is uncontested.
Once you involve lawyers, the total bill for the divorce will likely be in the thousands of dollars rather than hundreds of dollars. However, it’s important to factor in the cost of your time, how important it is to you that the settlement is fair, and what is at stake if the divorce proceedings don't result in an outcome you're satisfied with.
When you’re dealing with a complex financial situation, lots of assets, and shared debt, lawyers can help you navigate the process with less stress. Figuring out how to file for divorce when you have complicated finances can be a huge learning curve, and you might find that hiring lawyers is well worth the cost.
There are a number of different legal aid organizations that you can turn to if you need to get a divorce and you qualify as low-income. Each organization has its own eligibility guidelines, which can include how much income you earn, where you live, and the type of case.
It’s common for legal aid organizations to require that your household income level is somewhere below 125-200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Your percentage will be determined by how many people live n your house and your pre-tax household income.
You can use this chart from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to find out where your household falls in the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
If you still live with the person that you’re getting divorced from, you won’t want to count their income when you are determining your household income. You also shouldn’t count them as a part of the household.
The residency requirements for legal aid programs in Texas typically mean that you need to be a current resident of Texas.
For people who are in the Armed Forces and stationed elsewhere temporarily, their residence is considered the place where they normally live when they aren’t deployed. If you or your spouse usually lives in Texas but is deployed elsewhere, then you (or your spouse) are a Texas resident.
Some legal aid groups have additional eligibility factors as they are specialized for specific communities. These can include sexual assault survivors, veterans, people with disabilities, and seniors.
It’s worth understanding that qualifying for legal aid doesn’t mean that your case will be taken by a given organization. Because divorce is expensive, many people want to use these programs in order to obtain a divorce for free. This can mean that there are long wait lists, leaving you in a situation where you can’t even begin the proceedings for a few years.
If you and your spouse simply can’t agree on all of the involved issues, your next cheapest option is either going to be undergoing mediation or a collaborative divorce.
Mediation is typically less expensive than a collaborative divorce, but both of these options are usually cheaper than taking a case to trial. By far the most expensive way to get divorced is to get a contested divorce that goes to trial. It’s at this point that the legal fees can start to exponentially stack up.
Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution method that you can use in Texas. During mediation, both parties meet with a third party which is known as the mediator. They don’t make any decisions regarding your settlement but instead, work with the two of you to help reach an agreement.
There are a number of benefits to undergoing mediation if you and your spouse can’t agree on the terms of a divorce. It is typically a lot cheaper than going to trial, and it also allows the two of you to stay in control of the outcome. After all, if you take the case to court, a judge will ultimately decide on the issues you were unable to settle on your own. Mediation also keeps the matters discussed privately rather than entering the public sphere by going to court.
Collaborative divorce, on the other hand, is a form process under Texas Law. This is a non-adversarial process where both parties work to resolve the dispute without a judge involved.
You have to sign a collaborative family law participation agreement in order to engage in this process. The two of you also each have to have a collaborative family law attorney.
Mediation can be involved in a collaborative divorce, but it also can include other processes in an attempt to help both parties reach a suitable resolution.
Some law schools also offer legal clinics for low-income individuals. For example, The South Texas College of Law offers Family Law Clinics where students represent clients.
In this example, they do have an Advanced Clinic where students represent clients who have more complicated cases, including factors such as custody agreements, contested property, and other complex issues. They also have a Basic Clinic where students represent clients in divorces that don’t involve children and only minimal property.
In many instances, though, college law clinics might only offer this latter type of legal service. You’ll find that the wait list for these types of clinics can also be quite long because of the demand for divorces without the cost. However, this can be a valuable resource for people who don’t mind waiting longer for their divorce but can’t afford to pay.
How much your divorce costs is going to depend on the details of your case. While some of the factors that make a Texas divorce more expensive might not be avoidable, others might be. Here are some of the reasons that a divorce starts to get more expensive.
When you and your spouse have minor children, a divorce typically costs more money. This is because there are more issues to come to an agreement on. On top of that, it is often advised that people with children should work with a lawyer when getting a divorce. After all, the outcome of the divorce doesn't just affect you and your spouse but also your children.
A contested divorce is more expensive than an uncontested divorce. This is because you will likely enlist lawyers, mediators, and other professionals to assist you and your spouse in reaching an agreement. The longer it takes for a settlement to be reached and the more time you need from these professionals, the more your divorce will cost.
Typically the most expensive way to get divorced is to take a contested divorce to trial.
When you file for a fault-based divorce, you're accusing your spouse of behavior or actions that led to the dissolution of the marriage. You will need to prove this in court, and the process of collecting evidence, enlisting experts, and otherwise building a case will be much more expensive than filing for a no-fault divorce.
While divorcing couples can have intense disagreements over any of the terms of the divorce, one of the issues that conjures the most hostility is often child custody. While this can be a very meaningful fight indeed, having a long, drawn-out custody battle can get expensive quickly.
The reason for this is twofold. On the one hand, an intense custody battle will likely accrue a lot more attorney fees on both sides. On the other hand, the parents might also ask the court to appoint an attorney on behalf of the child, which is paid for by the involved parties.
Needing to divide assets is normal in a divorce, but the process gets more expensive the more complicated those assets are. If your marriage involves unusual, complex, or large amounts of financial assets, there is a good chance you will also need to enlist financial experts. On top of that, the negotiation process will probably be a lot longer when you have complex assets.
Some people misunderstand the role of the family court and expect that this is a venue where their spouses can be punished for their wrongdoing. The legal divorce process isn't an opportunity to exact revenge or to air your grievances. If you approach the process as a battle over who was a worse spouse in the marriage, you will end up spending a lot more money without receiving any additional beneficial results.
Sometimes, a spouse will essentially refuse to be fair, polite, or reasonable. Divorce can get expensive when one or both parties are intentionally difficult. Though it certainly doesn't always happen, sometimes people feel the need to turn their divorce into a fight.
If you have a child with special needs, there might be a need for additional child support, and they might require significantly greater care. On top of that, they might need a parent that has greater job flexibility.
Creating a parenting plan in this type of situation usually requires a lot of negotiation and also might need to involve the child's therapists and physicians.
Sometimes parties in a divorce case can get fixated on a certain outcome to the extent that they spend more money fighting over something than it is actually worth. While property can certainly carry a sentimental value that is difficult to value, it's important to weigh out how much something is worth before battling over it in court. You might find it would have just been cheaper to re-purchase the asset after the divorce.
Parties often have to disclose documents and information to the other side during a Texas divorce. If one or both parties are having difficulty during this part of the process, it can draw things out and make it more expensive.
Some people feel strongly that the most important thing is having their day in court so that a judge will ultimately decide who is right and who is wrong. This is related to the previously stated issue of people who misunderstand the role that the court plays in a divorce.
Usually, a party can gain the same results through negotiation as they can through a trial. Avoiding trials will keep the process less expensive. The reality is, that anything you want to say to your spouse about your marriage can be said without involving the lawyers, courts, and all the associated fees.
Even a vague thought about the cost of divorce can leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed. When you hear about divorce cases that cost tens of thousands of dollars, it can make you wonder whether you can even really afford to legally dissolve a marriage, that is, by all other accounts. With some planning, organization, and, hopefully, some collaboration, you and your spouse can keep the cost of divorce down no matter what your situation.
Navigating the legal process can be daunting, but the more you learn about Texas family law the more you can have a firm grasp of which path is right for you.
At TexasDivorceLaws.org, we have an ever-growing library of articles full of information about everything you could ever need to know about family law in Texas. Be sure to check out the rest of our resources to learn more about getting divorced in Texas.