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New forms making Texas divorce easier may not work for everyone

Answering the call to make divorce easier and cheaper, the Texas Supreme Court has developed new forms that couples can fill out themselves to get the process going. But the forms may be so oversimplified that they could cause problems down the road.

Texas is one of 13 states in which couples can't simply fill out a form to file for divorce, which can sometimes act as a barrier for financially struggling husbands and wives who don't want to be together anymore. Although Texans have been representing themselves in divorce cases for years, very often the forms they use, usually purchased from legal help websites, aren't accepted in county courts. Last year the state Supreme Court formed a task force devoted to making the divorce process cheaper and easier for couples who can't afford attorney fees. The Uniform Forms Task Force created forms that would be accepted in any Texas court.

The problem, many family law attorneys say, is that the legal system in Texas can be rather complicated -- much more so than the new forms indicate. And for complex divorces or those where a couple can't agree on terms, these forms won't be enough. Furthermore, they could realize after the divorce is over that they didn't walk away with everything they wanted out of it. Some attorneys say the problem of couples being unable to afford divorce should be solved with more affordable counsel, not a do-it-yourself approach.

The State Bar of Texas asked the Supreme Court last week to hold off by suspending the task force's actions, but the high court's chief justice instead plans to refer the new forms to the Supreme Court Advisory Committee for review in May. He did, however, encourage the State Bar to submit recommendations for improvement on the forms.

Although the forms may be helpful for some couples with no arguments over the details of their break-up, people contending issues such as alimony, division of property, child support and custody may find they want the services of an experienced family law attorney to work through the complications of their divorce.

Source: The Texas Tribune, "Texas High Court Moves Forward to Create Divorce Forms," Anna Whitney, Jan. 25, 2012

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