If you’ve decided to file for divorce or your spouse has spoken to you about ending your marriage, you probably have a lot of questions, concerns, and fears swimming around in your head. As most people are aware that getting divorced can be an incredibly expensive endeavor, there’s a good chance that one of these questions is: can you get divorced without a lawyer in Texas?
In short, the answer is yes.
Before you stop reading, though, you’ll want to think pretty carefully about whether that’s the right choice for you. Depending on your specific situation, getting a DIY divorce might be the perfect solution or it might lead to an unfair outcome and a lot of stress.
While it can be tempting to try and save thousands of dollars on legal fees, those savings might not be worth it if you end up with a settlement or court decision that is unfavorable to you. For that reason, stick with us while we look at what you should know about getting divorced without a lawyer in Texas.
In most states, you aren’t required to hire a lawyer in order to obtain a divorce. Texas is no exception.
Before you head to the courthouse and start filling out the necessary paperwork, though, you’ll want to carefully examine whether or not you’ll be able to handle your own divorce.
It can be tempting to get a DIY divorce in Texas in order to save money on legal fees. And, in some cases, getting a divorce without a lawyer might be an accessible and affordable route to take. If you try to get a divorce without a lawyer, though, and the whole thing is a bit above your pay grade, you could end up making costly mistakes that leave you with a seriously undesirable outcome after the divorce.
In the next section, let’s take a look at some questions you should be asking yourself to determine whether a DIY approach is right for you.
Once you know that you are going to pursue a divorce, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the different options on the table. These include:
That final option is generally not recommended. As the old saying goes, “the man who is his own lawyer has a fool for his client.” If you feel compelled to represent yourself, though, you’ll be glad to know that it is possible to do so in the state of Texas.
Were you served with the divorce paperwork and you’ve learned that your spouse has an attorney? If so, you’re likely going to want to hire one of your own.
The legal system is complicated and the world of family law is no exception. If your spouse has a lawyer acting on their behalf, you’ll likely be at a serious disadvantage during the negotiation and settlement process if you don’t have someone equally knowledgeable on your side.
A no-fault divorce is significantly less complicated than a fault-based divorce. When you file for a no-fault divorce, it means that the dissolution of the marriage isn’t the fault of either spouse. There are three no-fault grounds for divorce in Texas, which are:
There are a number of additional fault-based grounds on which an individual can file for divorce, including:
If you or your spouse chooses to claim fault-based grounds for divorce, it means that the person making the claim needs to prove their spouse’s misconduct. Even if you could reasonably file for divorce on fault-based grounds such as adultery, you might decide to move forward with a no-fault divorce in order to finalize the divorce sooner and have the ability to start your life over.
When one of you is pursuing a fault-based divorce, though, you’re definitely going to want a lawyer.
If you and your spouse have minor children (or adult children that have a mental or physical disability requiring significant care and supervision), you’re going to need to decide on issues like custody, child support, and visitation rights.
Maybe you and your spouse agree on all of the issues about your children. If this is the case, you still might be able to go through with a DIY divorce. However, children generally make divorces more complicated and you might want to at least have a consultation with a lawyer to get a sense of what the process will involve and whether or not you can realistically handle it on your own.
If you and your spouse don’t agree on all of the issues, you’ll probably want to undergo divorce mediation in an effort to reach a settlement. If you can’t come to an agreement at that point, a judge will decide on the terms of child care, support, and related issues for you.
In general, it’s a good idea to consult with a lawyer if there are children involved in the divorce. If you and your spouse don’t agree on all terms related to your children, it is definitely advisable to get a lawyer.
Maybe you and your spouse don’t have any property or debts shared between you. Or, maybe you are in full agreement in terms of how to divide the property and debts you do have. If that’s the case, you are a good candidate for getting a divorce without a lawyer.
However, even if you are in full agreement, the more complicated your finances are, the more complicated all of the paperwork is going to be. This means that you might choose to incorporate a lawyer even if you agree on how to divide all of your assets and liabilities.
If you aren’t in agreement over how to split your property and financial obligations, though, you’ll probably want to lawyer up.
It’s important to note that Texas is one of the few states in the U.S. that is a community property state. This means that all of the property that was acquired together during your marriage is considered community property.
Another consideration is spousal support, which is often referred to as alimony. This arrangement typically occurs when one spouse has a higher income than the other. In these instances, the higher-earning spouse might make payments to the lower-earning spouse after the divorce.
If you and your spouse agree on the terms of alimony, you might be ok going through the process without a lawyer. If there’s disagreement in this regard, though, a lawyer is likely going to be necessary. You might choose to go through mediation without the help of a lawyer, but you can also involve your lawyer in the mediation process if you have one.
If the divorce is truly amicable and you both decided that splitting up is the right choice, a DIY divorce becomes a lot more reasonable.
In a recent post, we went into great detail about how to file for divorce without a lawyer. As a brief overview, here are some of the essential steps you’ll need to take if you want to get a DIY divorce:
You can save quite a bit of money by getting a divorce without a lawyer to the tune of thousands of dollars. That being said, the outcome of a divorce can have a major impact on the quality of your life after a divorce. If you and your spouse aren’t in full agreement on the terms of a divorce, it’s likely best to get a lawyer.
If you’re getting a DIY divorce, there are some terms you will definitely want to familiarize yourself with.
If you and your spouse agree about all the issues in your divorce, including child support, custody, and visitation, and are both willing to sign the forms in your divorce, it is considered an agreed divorce in the state of Texas.
The state of Texas is one of nine “community property” states in the U.S. In most cases, this means that marital assets and debts that have been obtained during the marriage are considered to belong legally to both spouses. The other states are known as “equitable distribution” states.
If you and your spouse don’t agree on all of the terms of the divorce, the divorce is considered contested. In these instances, it is not recommended that you try to go through the process without seeking help from an attorney. You can check out our in-depth guide to learn more about contested divorce in Texas.
If one party doesn’t respond to the divorce petition, the divorce doesn’t simply pause. Instead, it can continue as a default divorce.
Both divorce and annulment qualify as methods that result in the dissolution of marriage.
The spouse that begins the process of divorce legally is known as the Petitioner. Whichever spouse files the petition for divorce with the court is the Petitioner, regardless of which spouse first proposed the idea of getting divorced.
If you are representing yourself in a divorce proceeding rather than hiring a lawyer, the courts will refer to you as a pro se litigant.
The spouse that does not file the petition for divorce is known as the Respondent. In an agreed divorce, they can choose to waive their right to be served with divorce paperwork. Otherwise, they will need to file an answer within a specific timeline. If you don’t file an answer by the deadline, the Petitioner can carry forward and seek a default divorce.
These terms refer to the formal process of notifying an individual they are being sued. While you might not realize it, filing for divorce is, by nature, filing a lawsuit against your spouse.
The term uncontested divorce is sometimes used as a synonym for an agreed divorce and in other instances, it is used interchangeably with the term default divorce. For this reason, it’s worth being certain that you understand which way the term is being used if you come across it in legal resources.
If you are able to get a divorce without a lawyer in a way that doesn’t lead to damaging outcomes for you, your spouse, or your children, the cost will likely be only a few hundred dollars. With filing fees ranging from $250 to $350 depending on which Texas county you live in, and a handful of other court fees usually tacked on top, a divorce without a lawyer is typically a lot less expensive than hiring an attorney.
You can learn more about how much it costs to get divorced in Texas in this article.
There are some compelling reasons why you might want to get a divorce without a lawyer in Texas. As mentioned above, though, you’ll want to be aware of how your particular circumstance impacts whether you should enlist the help of an experienced attorney.
One of the reasons you’re probably interested in getting a divorce without a lawyer is in order to save money. If you can avoid hiring a lawyer in a way that isn’t damaging or hurtful to you, your spouse, or your children, you can save thousands of dollars during the divorce process.
You can’t avoid the mandatory filing fees of the court and other associated costs, but if you’re in a position where a DIY divorce is a reasonable choice, you can avoid the legal fees associated with hiring a lawyer.
If you are a good candidate for a DIY divorce, it means that your divorce is fairly simple and the two of you are in agreement on all major issues. That being said, you can’t get divorced without at least handling some paperwork, and this will be a time cost. You’ll want to make sure that you're filling out all the documents correctly and that you don’t miss any deadlines outlined by the court.
For this reason, it’s worth noting that hiring a good attorney will make a simple divorce even simpler. Talk to a few attorneys in your area about how much it would cost to file for a simple, uncontested, no-fault divorce or to hire them for ad hoc services occasionally when you need help. You might find that it’s worth the cost in order to have peace of mind that everything is being filed correctly and to save you the time of doing legal research on your own.
An uncontested, no-fault divorce with an uncomplicated estate to divide will be much faster than a contested, fault-based divorce that involves complicated finances. If you’re a good candidate for a DIY divorce, the process can be a lot less painful and much quicker. However, there isn’t much you can do about the mandatory waiting period in Texas (sixty days,) and if your divorce is simple enough to make a DIY divorce a good decision, it will likely be equally as fast if you hire a lawyer or if you go it alone.
We’ve already discussed at length the reasons why you might want to get a lawyer if you’re getting divorced in Texas. Assuming that you and your spouse are in agreement about all the terms of the divorce and your estate isn’t complicated, there are still some downsides to getting a divorce without a lawyer that you’ll want to consider before going it alone.
If you’ve never gone through a divorce before or aren’t a legal professional, you might not be able to anticipate some of the common issues that arise during the divorce process. Even if everything goes fairly smoothly, you and your spouse will likely spend quite a bit of time doing your own research about the proper forms to fill out, how to fill them out, and the deadlines you’ll need to meet.
It’s possible that there are options on the table that would result in a better outcome for you, your spouse, and your children. However, if you don’t know those options are there, you won’t know to pursue them. It’s possible that forgoing the opportunity to have a lawyer can leave you to miss out on helpful advice.
It really is great news if you and your spouse are able to get an amicable divorce, but you do want to make sure that you aren’t agreeing to an outcome that’s actually unfair to you. There might be benefits you deserve that you’re missing out on without seeking the counsel of a lawyer.
If getting a divorce without a lawyer doesn’t seem like a good idea but you can’t afford to hire one, you might have some options. You’ll want to search for legal aid in your area or a volunteer lawyers program to learn what resources might be available to you.
It’s worth noting, though, that these organizations typically have qualifications that you will need to meet in order to be able to receive discounted or free legal aid. For example, it might be required that your income fall below a certain amount. Similarly, it’s common for law school clinics to only take on simple divorce cases such as those that involve minimal property and no children.
There can also be very long waiting lists for these types of programs.
In certain cases, it’s possible that you will be entitled to a free lawyer. However, this is usually only when a lawsuit is being brought against you by the government.
Whether you’ve decided to call a few lawyers for consultations or you feel confident that you can go it alone, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with Texas family law when you’re getting divorced. The legal system can seem unnecessarily complicated, but it’s what we’ve got. In order to best prepare for your divorce with or without legal counsel, it’s a good idea to learn about your rights and responsibilities under Texas Law.
If you’re looking for legal resources when you’re getting divorced in Texas, you’ve come to the right place. Be sure to check out our growing library of articles at TexasDivorceLaws.org.