Do You Need a Lawyer to Get Divorced in Texas?

Couple meeting with a divorce attorney.

Many people believe that getting a divorce in Texas is easy and just a quick process to end a marriage. However, a divorce in Texas can involve a variety of important topics, including property, debts, and children. You cannot get divorced without first dealing with these emotional and financial issues that require you to be extremely detail-oriented.

One of the best ways many Texans deal with legal proceedings during such a stressful time is to hire an experienced family law practitioner, such as a divorce attorney. Choosing to hire a divorce attorney – whether you are separating from your spouse amicably or not – can mean the difference between an efficient, smooth divorce process or one that drags endlessly.

Process of Getting Divorced in Texas

When you get married, you create a legal contract with not only your spouse but also with the state of Texas. This means you must follow the laws governing dividing your property and other assets, even if you don’t have a lot. If you have children, there are many issues regarding their custody and support payments that you’ll need to work out for their best interests.

Because you are dealing with these practical matters in the midst of emotional upheaval, it can be challenging to focus on the future and think of all the potential outcomes. Regardless of your situation, you will need to consider these factors in the Texas divorce process, whether you use a lawyer or not:

  • Residency: Under Texas law, you must have lived in the state for at least six months before filing for divorce and at least 90 days in the county where you are filing.
  • Grounds: Most Texas divorces are no-fault, claiming insupportability. However, if you want to pursue grounds of adultery, cruelty, or abandonment, you’ll need to show the court evidence of your claim.
  • Petition: You must file a formal petition for divorce with the county or district clerk of court, describing the grounds for divorce, child custody, and child support arrangements. Texas provides online assistance with these documents.
  • Fees: You’ll need to pay the associated fees to the court, which can vary depending on the complexity of your situation.
  • Notification: You must notify your spouse of the petition, allowing them the opportunity to file a counter-petition. You must do this by having them officially served or by publishing public notice of the divorce.
  • Negotiation: Unless your divorce is completely uncontested, you will have to negotiate the terms with your spouse to ensure you receive what you are owed. Without an attorney, it’s easy to overlook pitfalls that could leave you or your children without the support they need.
  • Court appearances: You must appear before the family court judge, in person or virtually, at least once and possibly many times. You’ll need to be familiar with courtroom procedures and protocol if you want to persuade the judge to your side.
  • Finalization: When uncontested, a final decree of divorce is issued 61 days after the petition was filed. If there are issues regarding children or property, your divorce could take much longer.

Without an attorney, you put yourself at risk of making mistakes that could negatively impact your claim. Most importantly, judges can amend your request to ensure your children’s best interests are protected above all else. A skilled divorce lawyer can help you prepare your documents and arguments for the best chance of success, even when you and the other spouse bitterly disagree.

Divorcing Without a Lawyer Can Be Stressful and Difficult

On its surface, divorcing without the help of a lawyer might seem like a good idea, especially if the spouses agree it’s time for the marriage to end. Texas provides substantial online help for completing the process, and it may be tempting to avoid the costs of hiring an attorney. However, even the friendliest of couples may have differing views on how to handle asset division or child arrangements, leading to disagreement and strife.

Your Emotions Can Affect Your Judgment

Whether you’re happy or sad about the divorce, your feelings can cloud your decision-making, leading to poor choices. You may feel guilty about the breakup and want to give your spouse everything. Alternatively, you may be so angry that you refuse to think clearly about paying appropriate child support, feeling that it will teach your soon-to-be ex a lesson.

Even when you recognize that divorce is the best choice, you likely have overwhelming emotions that will impact your work, sleep, and other important parts of your life. Without an attorney to make things easier, this stress can drag out longer than necessary, making the whole process more devastating.

Your Lack of Legal Knowledge Can Hurt You for Years

Divorce laws change frequently, and the courts depend on working through cases quickly to handle the load. You could miss important deadlines and requirements if you are unfamiliar with the forms, laws, and procedures. Educating yourself on these matters can become a full-time job, adding to your stress at work and home.

If you aren’t clear on your rights, you could make mistakes regarding child custody or property division that affect you for years. Amending child support or other court orders requires you to return to court, and once a property is transferred, you may not have the right to get it back. Understanding all these complex concerns can be mind-boggling if you don’t have an attorney to explain and manage them for you.

Your Divorce Could Last Much Longer

Many factors can cause your divorce to take a long time to complete, keeping you from stepping into the next chapter of your life. Often, you are trying to handle paperwork and deadlines in the middle of working and moving to a new home. In other situations, the other spouse is making it difficult to negotiate the terms, dragging things out for months or years.

An experienced divorce attorney will recognize potential roadblocks and help you eliminate them so your divorce can move forward quickly. They understand your rights and entitlements and will help you craft child custody agreements that protect your children’s future. Ultimately, they are on your side and will fight for what you need and deserve under the law.

You May Need Protective Orders Due to Domestic Violence

If your spouse physically or emotionally abuses you or your children, you may need special protective orders during the divorce process. While you can file these requests on your own, having an attorney do this for you allows you to concentrate on keeping yourself and your children safe. Texas also allows emergency orders that can keep you from having to meet with your spouse while finalizing the divorce.

Why You Should Hire a Texas Divorce Lawyer

While Texas law does not require that you hire a lawyer for your divorce in Texas, an attorney’s experience and skill can help the process go much more smoothly. Your lawyer will be knowledgeable and neutral, keeping you focused on the final outcome instead of worrying about small things that could hurt your claim. There are many other reasons why you should retain a skilled divorce attorney, including:

Expert Advice

While you can handle the divorce process on your own if you have the experience, it is recommended that you seek the services of a divorce lawyer. Without sufficient skill and knowledge, you might make mistakes, resulting in you getting less than you deserve. An experienced divorce lawyer will ensure you do everything right under the law, which is even more critical when your divorce is complex and involves children.

Reduce Stress

According to the Life Change Index Scale, divorce is the second most stressful life event you can face. Thoughts of what to do and how your life will change can fill every moment of your day, keeping you from focusing on your children or your job. When you put your case in the hands of an accomplished attorney, you don’t have to manage the paperwork or speak with the other spouse, substantially lowering your stress.

Your Spouse Has a Lawyer

Yes, you probably need your own lawyer if your spouse has already retained one. Generally, when one side is represented, and the other is not, the represented spouse does better in the divorce. Since a divorce lawyer can only represent one spouse in a divorce, please know that their lawyer is not on your side. Their lawyer may even have a duty to act to your detriment when permissible.

You Have Minor Children

Children are the number one reason you should get representation. Ensuring your children’s best interests are kept in mind is paramount. Even if you decide on shared custody, it is important a lawyer handles the paperwork and keeps you and your children protected. Your attorney will also negotiate child support in line with Texas law.

Why You Should Choose Terry & Roberts for Your Texas Divorce

Even if you have an amicable divorce, separating from your spouse is never easy. Although you might be hesitant to hire a Texas divorce attorney, please know that experienced local divorce lawyers like those at Terry & Roberts know the law, especially as it pertains to your case.

Give yourself the strongest chance at a satisfactory outcome by working with a Brazoria County family law attorney from Terry & Roberts. Contact us today to see how we can help you.

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