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Do-it-yourself divorce forms inadequate for many Texas couples

One complaint that many Texans seeking a divorce have is the expense. Attorney fees and court costs can add up, and some people will even attest that getting divorced is more costly than getting married. For Texas residents who are indigent or just living from paycheck to paycheck, the cost of divorce can present a serious obstacle.

Earlier this month, a Texas Supreme Court decision appeared to present a solution for Texans who feel they can't afford a family law attorney. The court voted 5-3 to allow the state's residents to use standardized forms to process their divorces. But before you call up your spouse and tell him or her that you've finally had it, take note: These forms are definitely not for everyone.

First, the do-it-yourself divorce form won't work for couples engaging in a contested divorce. If you and your spouse are in disagreement over any of the terms of your breakup, this form is not for you. Are you arguing over who will have custody of the children? You'll need to contact an attorney. Has your spouse refused to offer child support, even though you'll have primary custody? Again, you should call a lawyer.

Another problem with the forms concerns the division of property and assets. The dissenting state Supreme Court justices pointed out that many people aren't aware that they're entitled to a portion of their spouse's retirement plans and other benefits, something that isn't addressed by the DIY forms. In fact, the forms don't allow couples to legally settle any property or asset matters.

There's also a high risk of making mistakes on the forms, something that isn't sitting well with law clerks who will have to process them. When these mistakes inevitably happen, there won't be a legal professional who can point them out to a divorcing couple.

Texas joins 48 other states that have DIY forms, but for the most part, the country's divorcing couples are still relying on the personal and professional services of a family law attorney. As a representative from the Texas Family Law Foundation said of the Supreme Court's decision, standardized forms often don't work because couples and their unique situations can't be standardized, either.

Source: The Dallas Morning News, "Texas Supreme Court moves ahead with do-it-yourself divorce," Christy Hoppe, Nov. 14, 2012

• Our firm offers personalized service for a wide range of divorces and other family law issues. To learn more about our practice, visit our Dallas family law website.

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