Do-It-Yourself Divorce in Texas
By: Alan Cairns, Guest Contributor*
Texas’ Supreme Court is to allow low-income couples without children to get a lawyer-less, do-it-yourself divorce. On the 14th of November the Supreme Court decided that a proposed standardized divorce form that would be accepted in Texas courts should be published for public comment, with the new procedure possibly being approved in early 2013.
The divorce form, which is tailored to Texas’ specific laws, would be available in uncontested divorce cases. The option is offered in 48 other states, and people in Texas have already attempted to use DIY divorce forms developed for other states. 58,000 people in Texas filed lawyer-less divorce cases in family courts last year.
The decision acknowledged that the forms will not necessarily work in every circumstance, but that the court believes that they are an integral part of an effort to “aid indigent litigants.” The form will be published in the Texas Bar Journal.
Filing for divorce without legal representation might not be the best idea for everybody, but if both parties can agree to the terms of the divorce and come to arrangements regarding important elements of the divorce, including division of property, division of finances, and child custody, the process should be quite smooth. It’s called an uncontested divorce, and it means that spouses don’t have to battle out the terms of the divorce in court.
To get such a divorce, you must file a petition at your County Clerk’s office. This document outlines the grounds for divorce, and addresses the issues in the marriage dissolution, such as child support, access, division of property and belongings, etc. A filing fee applies, but people who are unable to pay can submit an affidavit and the judge may waive the fee.
Copies of the petition should reside with the person submitting the claim and the other party involved in the divorce. A Waiver of Citation can be filed along with the petition, which explains that the other party already has a copy of the petition and the documents do not need to be officially served to him or her by a constable or sheriff.
The judge will prepare the final divorce decree, which both parties will appear in court to sign. It contains the same information as the petition, and the terms will be enforced when a sixty-day waiting period has passed. Then a hearing will be scheduled where the judge will sign the final decree. After a thirty-day waiting period, the divorce is complete.
*Alan Cairns writes on a number of subjects including DIY divorce in Texas.