January 30, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- In a recent 5-3 decision, the Texas Supreme Court decided to move forward with a new process that would permit low-income couples to divorce without hiring a lawyer. This do-it-yourself divorce process is made possible through a series of standardized forms. However, while standardized divorce forms could help improve access to the legal system for low-income Texans, for most couples, do-it-yourself divorce is rife with pitfalls that could be costly in the long run.
Individuals could sacrifice thousands by attempting do-it-yourself divorce
The proposed do-it-yourself divorce forms were crafted over an 18 months period by a task force created for the purpose. The forms were approved by the Supreme Court of Texas on November 13, and will be published for a period of public comment before finalized procedures are established. The public commentary period runs until February 1, and the Texas Supreme Court is expected to approve the new procedures sometime early in 2013.
The standardized forms will be available to anyone filing uncontested divorce from marriages without children. Unlike many of the divorce forms currently available in libraries or on the internet, the new standardized forms will be tailored to Texas law.
While the forms will be available to those of all income levels, legal experts warn that they should be used sparingly, only in those divorces that involve few or no assets and in which the parties truly cannot afford a lawyer.
"We don't think that forms can be standardized because people and their circumstances can't be standardized," Steven Bresnen of the Texas Family Law Foundation told The Dallas Morning News. Bresnen voiced concerns over people who are not aware that they are entitled to retirement accounts or other benefits that have accrued to their spouse. Without retaining an attorney to pursue these benefits, individuals could be giving up thousands of dollars. Additionally, when confronted with forms that are filled out poorly or incorrectly, a judge may be unable to grant a divorce.
Robert Black, president of the State Bar of Texas, echoed Bresnen's concerns. "The client and the system are far better served by having a lawyer," Black told The Wall Street Journal. Indeed, attempts at do-it-yourself divorce have contributed to significant case backlogs in many Texas divorce courts, as pro-se litigants -- in other words, those who go to court without a lawyer -- need more handholding by courtroom staff.
Ask a family law attorney if you need legal counsel in your divorce
In 2011, approximately 58,000 Texans filed cases in family courts without a lawyer. For some of them, do-it-yourself litigation was a last resort of a truly dire financial situation. Many, however, would have been better off with an attorney.
If you are getting divorced in Texas, retaining an experienced family law attorney is the best way to ensure that you get it right the first time, get the full share of marital assets you are entitled to and prevent a costly return to court to seek modifications of poorly crafted divorce terms. Hiring a divorce attorney does have an initial cost -- but it is an investment that will most likely pay for itself and then some. Call a Texas family law attorney today to learn more about the advantages of getting divorced with the aid of a lawyer.