It is easy to find a website that provides the forms needed for an uncontested divorce. While it may be tempting to use these resources to file a divorce on your own, these documents fall short in explaining the substance of Texas divorce law and adequately addressing issues that are unique to your case.
Texas law does allow parties to go through a divorce without a lawyer. But, before deciding to represent yourself, consider the risks of going through a divorce without representation.
Improperly Drafting Documents
Once the judge signs your divorce decree at the end of your case, the judge has very little ability to “fix” the paperwork.
For example, let’s assume that your divorce decree awards the marital home to your spouse.
However, what if divorce papers do not address what happens if she stops paying a mortgage that still has your name on it? The lender is not a party to the divorce, so the lender will still be looking to you pay the mortgage on a house you no longer own. This can be a complicated and expensive legal problem to fix, if you can fix it at all.
Divorce lawyers are trained to properly draft real estate documents to protect you if your spouse fails to pay the mortgage and puts your credit rating at risk. In addition, if you have retirement accounts that need to be divided, special orders called Qualified Domestic Relations Orders have to be drafted and signed by the judge to put retirement assets in the name of the other spouse.
Online forms may not address these types of accounts at all. It is better to have the paperwork done correctly the first time rather than hope you can fix it later. Many of the pre-printed forms available online simply will not provide sufficient detail and information for every case and every type of asset involved.
Not Having the Tools to Learn About Your Marital Assets
Our legal system gives us tools to discover what the other side may not be willing to voluntarily share. In a divorce, this can include information about bank accounts, retirement accounts, and a business controlled by one spouse. These “discovery” tools require legal expertise, and a divorce lawyer will have the expertise needed to compel a person to disclose information needed to resolve a divorce case.
Settling a case on your own without that information may cause you to lose valuable property rights you did not even know you had.
Failing to Follow All the Rules
There are many technicalities that go into finalizing a divorce, especially if your spouse chooses not to involve himself or herself in the process.
If, for example, you improperly deliver legal documents to your spouse, he or she may be able to undo the divorce months or even years down the road. A divorce attorney can help ensure that you follow the technical rules that go into finalizing a divorce.
Failing to Account for Needs in the Future
As divorce attorneys, we see the things that can go wrong during a divorce and, more importantly, after the divorce.
We may learn during your divorce, for instance, that your spouse is untruthful about your past communications regarding the children. Knowing this, it is important to document your conversations with them in the future.
As divorce lawyers we can make suggestions for provisions to include in your final order requiring your spouse to only communicate with you in writing. It is also important to get legal advice about the rights and duties of parents, geographic restrictions, child support guidelines and how it is calculated, and many other important things that should be considered in a divorce involving children.
Each divorce has its own unique facts, and the one-size-fits-all approach to most online forms may not address all of the circumstances of your case.
How We Can Help
At NMSB, we understand that many people wish to represent themselves in a divorce to save money. But we highly recommend consulting with an experienced attorney who can discuss self-representation with you, and whether self-representation could be “penny-wise and pound-foolish” in your particular case.
Please contact our office to schedule an appointment with one of our divorce lawyers in Austin.