Can I do my own divorce if I don’t have the money for an attorney?
In today’s employment and financial crises because of COVID-19, a lot of people contemplating divorce do not have the resources to hire a divorce attorney. However the answer to whether you can do your own divorce is “yes” provided you are willing to learn a little about the law and willing to take the necessary steps to file the right documents. If you have no children and no substantial property other than personal belongings, you may be able to do your own divorce and get a judge to sign off on it.
In general, most persons do not believe how expensive it is to get a divorce when the other spouse is not agreeing to the divorce. There is no free filing of a divorce petition in Texas. Unless you file a sworn statement of “inability to pay court fees”, you will incur initial fees of approximately $300 to $400 to file a divorce and get the other spouse served with citation in Dallas County, Texas. If you are requesting that the other party be served with process, you will incur another $75 to $100 of additional costs in filing your divorce.
If you have children, the issues to consider in doing it yourself can be complicated because of possession schedules and medical coverage for the children. Most people don’t realize that any time you file for a divorce with children, your initial pleadings, and your case documents must include information about conservatorship, support, including medical support, parental plans, etc.
In many divorce cases, the party filing for divorce has already filed for child support with the Texas Attorney General’s Office. Since there can not be two different cases involving the same child or children, a motion to consolidate both cases must be filed. After the motion to consolidate is filed with the court, an order on the motion to consolidate has to be signed by a family court judge in order for the two cases to be consolidated. Then and only then can the case proceed through the process of getting the divorce rendered by the court.
Most people that call our office want to know “how much is this going to cost”? The response from a divorce attorney is usually that the cost of a divorce will be determined generally by the parties. We have uncontested divorce fees which average about $1,200 for divorces with no children involved. When children are involved, the fees average about $1,500. However, the filing of the divorce is only the first part of getting your divorce finalized.
Once an uncontested divorce is filed, the other party, or the Respondent, will have to execute a “waiver of service” which generally is a document stating that the Respondent does not wish to have a process server or a police officer come to their door to serve them with a summons or a citation.
If the waiver of service is executed by the Respondent, it usually means that the case can proceed to finalization as an ‘uncontested divorce’. This also means that the Respondent usually does not have to appear in Court to get the divorce finalized. However, the Respondent will usually have to sign the “agreed final decree of divorce” so that he/she is aware of the terms of the divorce including conservatorship, possession of the child, support, medical support, property division, and debt distribution.
In any event, we strongly recommend that anyone contemplating filing for a divorce, to seek the advice of an experienced attorney to at least get a general understanding of the ins and outs of going into a Texas Family Law court and getting the judge to sign off on your Final Decree of Divorce.