Divorce is an expensive process no matter how you go about it. The filing fees alone typically cost $300.00 or more. If both you and your spouse hire attorneys, the short-term costs will only get higher. You may think to yourself that, despite the fact that you are getting divorced, you and your spouse get along well enough to reach an agreement so why hire an attorney?
Do it yourself divorce has become a popular way for people to save money while going through an expensive process. The Supreme Court of Texas has released forms to assist people who want to handle their divorce or other family law matter themselves. These forms help to ensure that the right information is presented to the court so that you have a valid Petition, Answer/Waiver of Service, or Final Decree. However, many people struggle to fill out the forms correctly and have their Petitions and Decrees rejected by the court.
Every day across the State of Texas, divorcees attempt to file their Final Decrees created from the Supreme Court forms and have their orders rejected. While the judges and the clerks would like to help you make sure that the forms are correct, they are not able to give legal advice. Having your divorce decree rejected by the court with limited explanation is a frustrating experience on top of the already stressful and emotionally draining process of getting divorce. Getting a divorce is a complex process and it necessarily requires more knowledge and instruction than the Supreme court’s forms can possibly contain.
Some Factors to Consider Before you Decide on a DIY Divorce
I have heard that doing your own divorce is kind of like doing your own brain surgery, you can do it, but it’s not recommended. There are several factors to consider when deciding whether you are a good candidate for a “DIY” Divorce:
- How well do you really get along with your spouse?
- Do you have children?
- What kind of possession schedule will you have?
- How will you divide your children’s expenses in the future?
- What kind of child support will you need?
- What kind of property are you dividing?
- How well do you know your financial situation?
How well do you really get along with your spouse?
This is a fair question because, after all, you are getting divorced. Divorce is the formal legal end to your relationship, but that doesn’t mean that all of the emotions and stresses of being in a relationship will go away. In fact, this stress and the negative characteristics of your spouse may show up even stronger as you go through this process.
Do you feel pressured to reach an agreement? Do you feel like you are giving up too much ground and not getting any concessions from your spouse? It’s an all too common situation that one partner is willing to give up the farm in order to keep the peace. If you feel like you are that peacemaker, you may want to meet with an attorney so that you know your rights and you make sure that you are protected. While it is always desirable to have a peaceful divorce, this is the end of your romantic relationship with your partner and you should approach this in as business-like a manner as possible. An experienced family lawyer can help you to set the emotions aside and work to get what is fair.
Children in Divorce
If you have children, they are probably your #1 consideration as you get divorced. There are myriad issues that need to be addressed to make sure your children are taken care of after the divorce. From decisions on where your children are going to live, to the kind of medical care they will receive, and whether and when either you or your spouse will be allowed to introduce the children to any new partners you may have, there are a wide variety of issues to consider. The more issues you plan for now at the outset of your divorce, the smoother your post-divorce life will be.
There are a wide variety of possession schedules. The most common schedule is the Standard Possession Order. Generally, the Standard Possession Order gives the non-primary parent possession of the Child(ren) on the first, third and fifth weekends from 6:00 p.m. on Friday, until 6:00 p.m. on the following Sunday, with a period of possession from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. on each Thursday during the school year. The non-primary parent also has a 30-day period of possession in the summer and the spouses alternate holidays. Many people also opt for an “Expanded” Standard Possession Order which extends the Thursday periods overnight and allows the non-primary parent to pick up and drop off at school.
Often when spouses are reaching an agreement on their divorce, they will have some form of 50/50 possession schedule. There are as many varieties of this kind of schedule as people can dream up, from Week on/Week off, to 2-2-3 and 2-2-5-5 and even monthly alternating and nesting schedules. The sky is the limit. The challenge with these schedules is that the more unique and tailored your schedule is to your unique situation, the more challenging it is to ensure that your schedule will be enforceable by the court.
While you may be able to reach an agreement now, uncontested divorces often lead to contested modifications. When those issues arise, will your DIY divorce be able to be enforced by the court? The more complicated your schedule, the less likely it will be to be enforceable. A qualified experienced family lawyer can help you to make sure that the court can enforce your divorce if needed.
As every parent knows, kids are expensive. Extracurricular activities, school supplies and fees, private school tuition, clothing, cell phones, medical bills and insurance, car insurance and payments, etc.; there is no end to the expenses that children incur. Deciding how those expenses will be divided now can help to ease the stress of your divorce in the long run. It is a fine line between making sure each parent is sharing the financial load fairly and limiting the amount of interaction you have to have with your spouse. A family lawyer can help you to reach that balance and make sure your spouse carries their share of the burden.
Child Support in Texas is a thorny issue. While it is relatively simple to calculate guideline child support in Texas, it is not applicable to all situations. There are various factors to be considered whenever you are calculating support and your particular possession schedule is a big factor. Another thing to keep in mind is that in Denton County, most of the judges will require you to have some child support if you have anything less than a 50/50 possession schedule. Meeting with a Family Lawyer can help you to weigh these factors and come up with a fair amount for support.
The kind of property that you own is a big consideration in whether you should seek professional help with your divorce. If you own a home and you have a mortgage for which both of you are responsible, you will need additional legal documents to help you divide the property and/or to protect your interest in the home. If you have vehicles, you will need to make sure they are titled in the right person’s name and that any loans are assigned to the right person. Are you dividing retirement plans? Will you need a qualified domestic relations order to divide those accounts? What are the tax and other financial implications of dividing these accounts. Are you dividing a business? There are many factors to consider and the more property, and kinds of property, that you have to divide the more complicated that question becomes. People often make mistakes while dividing their property that could have been avoided with the help of an experienced family lawyer. If you have a house, a mortgage, a business, or a retirement account you should probably meet with a lawyer to make sure the division is done properly.
Your Financial Situation
Do you know all of your bank accounts, credit card accounts, etc.? Do you know all of your spouse’s? If you do, that’s great, but often people don’t know the whole financial picture. That’s true even in cases where their spouse isn’t actively trying to hide anything. You want to be certain that when you get divorced you don’t leave any accounts undivided so that you don’t have to go through a post-divorce division of property case. You also want to make sure that you get your fair share of the accounts that do exist. There are tools that an experienced family lawyer can use to get your spouse to disclose any and all accounts and to ensure that there are consequences for their failure to do so.
Even if you expect to have an uncontested divorce you may need the help of an experienced family lawyer to make sure that your divorce says what you intend. An experienced Denton County family lawyer at Youngberg Law Firm can help you to make sure that your Final Decree of Divorce says what you want it to. Michael Youngberg has been practicing in Denton and Collin County Texas for the past several years and he has experience handling complex property and children’s issues and can help ensure that your decree accomplishes your goals and is accepted by the court. Contact Michael Youngberg and Youngberg Law Firm today to set up a consultation to see how he can assist you.