The average cost of divorce in Texas is $12,800, according to FindLaw. In some instances, dissolving your marriage can cost upwards of $20,000. Many people don’t have that type of cash lying around, which leaves them wondering how to file for divorce in Texas with no money.
If you’re low income, you might qualify to have your filing fees and other court-related fees waived. There are also some options to receive free or low-cost legal aid if you qualify for a program in your area.
There is a filing fee when you file your divorce paperwork with a Texas courthouse, whether or not you’ve hired a lawyer to represent you. The cost of the filing fee varies depending on which county you are filing for divorce in, but it's typically between $250 and $350.
You can learn more about the expenses associated with divorce in our post about the cost of divorce in Texas.
If you aren’t able to afford this fee, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re stuck in your marriage. You can apply to have the filing fee waived by proving that you have a low income. The first step you’ll need to take is to fill out and file an affidavit of indigency form.
Important note: When you sign this form, you are stating that the information you included is true and correct under penalty of perjury. This means that lying on the form is a crime.
Once you file this form, a hearing date will be set by the district clerk. You can present your financial situation at the hearing to a judge. If the court is willing to waive your filing fees, you can then continue with the process of divorce without having to pay any court-related fees.
The option to have your court fees waived is usually available to people that receive government entitlements due to indigency. Examples of this type of government assistance includes:
If you are able to prove that any of the following are true, you will likely be able to have your fees waived:
If your court fees are waived by the court, you won’t have to pay any fees that are charged by an officer of the court or the court itself. This includes things like the filing fees, fees for copies, fees charged for the preparation of the appellate record, fees for a court-appointed professional, and fees for issuance and service of process.
Of course, the court filing fees are only a small percentage of the total cost of divorce if you are hiring an attorney. There are some ways to receive free or low-cost legal help, but you typically have to meet certain qualifications. We’ll discuss these options a little later in the article.
If you are able to get divorced without hiring a lawyer, having your court filing fees waived means that you can get divorced for free. However, you’ll want to be very considerate about whether moving forward without a lawyer is a good idea in your particular case.
You have the right to represent yourself in a divorce in the state of Texas. This is known as being a Pro Se litigant. It isn’t always a good idea, though, so you’ll want to think about whether you are a good candidate for getting a DIY divorce.
If any of the following are true, a lawyer might be unnecessary in your case:
If you and your spouse aren’t able to resolve your conflicts on your own, you might consider seeking mediation in order to come to an agreement about all of the terms of your divorce. If this route is successful, you might then consider proceeding without a lawyer. For people with complicated estates, an attorney might simply be necessary.
For people that need a lawyer to get divorced but can’t afford it, there are some options. There are a number of organizations that provide legal assistance for free or at a low cost for people that live in Texas who qualify. The requirements to qualify often include information about where you live, how much income you earn, and the type of court case you’re filing.
Legal aid organizations frequently require that parties have a household income level below 125-200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Where you fall in relation to the poverty guidelines has to do with the pre-tax income of your household and how many people live in your house. Use this U.S. Department of Health and Human Services chart to get a sense of where your household falls.
You also typically need to be a current Texas resident to meet the residency requirements of legal aid programs. However, if you’re in the Armed Forces and you are temporarily stationed elsewhere with your home state still being in Texas, you are considered a resident of Texas and could still qualify based on the residency requirements. The same is true if your spouse is in the Armed Forces.
There can also be additional eligibility factors in order to qualify for some legal aid organizations. These programs might focus on serving specific communities, including veterans, sexual assault victims, seniors, and people with disabilities.
To find legal aid organizations in your area of Texas, you can use this directory on Texas Law Help. It’s important to know that your case still might not be taken by an organization even if you do qualify. There are many people who want to receive free legal help when getting divorced, and this means that there are often very long lists with these programs. In some cases, waiting for legal aid help can mean that you can’t even start the process of getting divorced for several years.
If you don’t think you’ll qualify for legal aid programs in Texas, check out our post on how to get a cheap divorce in Texas. If you need the help of a lawyer but don’t want it to cost an arm and a leg, take a look at our recent article about how to find an affordable Texas divorce attorney.
Are you looking for more information about dissolving your marriage or family law issues in Texas? Check out our library of articles at TexasDivorceLaws.org.