Getting a divorce in the state of Texas could set you back thousands of dollars — or it could cost only a few hundred. It really depends on how many "contested" issues you have in your case. In other words, the more you and your spouse disagree, the more it's going to cost.
The average cost of a divorce in Texas is $15,600 if there are no kids involved and $23,500 if there are kids involved. That makes the state the fifth highest in the country for divorce cost, according to USA Today.
This article will explain why divorce is expensive, ways of reducing the cost of divorce, how much divorce lawyers in Texas charge, and how long a Texas divorce takes. Hopefully, it will give you a good idea of how much you can expect to pay in your divorce as well as other insights.
What Makes a Texas Divorce So Expensive?
Many people wonder what makes divorce so expensive in the first place.
Ultimately, it's conflict over the divorce outcome that drives up expenses in divorce. You can expect to pay thousands of dollars for every issue that you and your spouse don't agree on and require intervention from attorneys and the court.
A divorce with issues that the spouse don't agree on is called a contested divorce. It doesn't necessarily mean that one spouse is "contesting" the divorce itself, but there are disagreements over issues such as child custody, child support, alimony, or division of property such as real estate, retirement accounts, and other assets.
Appeals can also drive up divorce costs significantly. Appeals occur when one spouse does not agree with the judge's ruling and has a fact-based or law-based argument backing up their position. An appeal is essentially a second-round of court, which can easily double the expense of divorce.
If spouses agree on all divorce issues, and there is nothing to fight over, it is called an uncontested divorce. These are the least expensive divorce cases because they don't require court intervention or hefty attorney fees. Instead, you probably will only need to pay the court filing fee and perhaps a smaller fee to a divorce attorney to draft or look over your divorce agreement.
Of course, there is a wide spectrum of divorce cases out there and we will go more in-depth into the different divorce options available that can cause you to spend or save money.
Proving Fault Adds Time and Money
Because Texas is a no-fault divorce state, one does not have to prove fault on behalf of their spouse in order to get a divorce. All that's needed is to file on the grounds of "insupportability," which means "a discord or conflict of personalities."
However, Texas residents still do have the option to file for divorce based on fault, and this can affect how community property is divided. The most common fault-based grounds for divorce are adultery and cruelty. Proving fault can add time and money and increase the animosity in a divorce. For that reason, no-fault divorces are much more common.
Process Options That Affect the Cost of Divorce
All divorces end the same way, with a court-entered divorce decree. But there are many different ways to arrive at that result. Each process option has its benefits, and some options simply won't work in certain situations, but it's important to understand every route that could be available to you. Here is a list of the most common divorce options in Texas, along with the relative cost of each.
|DIY (Do It Yourself) Divorce
||In a true DIY divorce, you handle every aspect yourself, from negotiating the settlement, to calculating child support, to completing and filing divorce papers.
||This is the least expensive divorce option, though mistakes can end up being costly.
||Divorce negotiation could be informal (the spouses negotiating at their kitchen table) or formal (the spouses' attorneys negotiating at a conference table).
||If you have a divorce attorney, you must pay for their time, and every hour adds up. However, negotiations are much less expensive than going to court.
||In mediation, a third-party neutral mediator facilitates divorce negotiations. The spouses may or may not have attorneys present. The mediator provides a summary of what has been agreed upon that a lawyer (or one of the spouses) can use to create the divorce agreement.
||Mediation is a less expensive alternative to going to court. The amount the mediator charges can depend on their experience, and you also have to consider your lawyer's fee if they attend with you.
||Collaborative divorce is a process in which the spouses and their attorneys (each spouse must be represented) agree to settle the divorce outside of court with a focus on dignity and respect. It can be helpful in cases with children where parents will need to co-parent.
||People usually think collaborative divorce is less expensive than litigation, but costs can add up, especially if child, financial, and mental health specialists are brought on to support the spouses and their children during the process.
||In litigation, spouses ask the court to decide an issue (or several issues). It is not the optimal choice, but it may be the only option in cases involving domestic violence, substance abuse, or spouses' inability to cooperate.
||Litigation is commonly the most expensive divorce option. It takes significant attorney fees and court costs to litigate a divorce, especially if the case requires a trial, which takes weeks to prepare for and could take several days to argue in court.
How Much Are Divorce Filing Fees in Texas?
Filing fees are something that almost everyone going through divorce in Texas has to pay regardless of whether or not the divorce is contested. A filing fee refers to the fee charged by the county court to record the divorce. Paying the filing fee officially kicks off the divorce process.
Filing fees vary by county in Texas, but the fee in most counties ranges from $250 to $320. There may be additional fees such as to have your spouse served with court papers or copy fees.
If you cannot afford to pay these fees, you can apply for a fee waiver. You will need to complete the Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs or an Appeal Bond in Justice Court and turn it in to your county court clerk. You can fill out the form yourself, or there is a guided process available through the court's website.
How Much Does a Divorce Attorney Cost in Texas?
The average divorce lawyer in Texas charges between $260 and $320 per hour. Most divorce lawyers collect a large retainer at the beginning of the case, which they draw from after billing for their time. In many cases with contested issues, more than one retainer is needed.
Most family law firms in Texas accept credit cards and some offer payment plans. If you are concerned about attorney fees, consider asking your lawyer for ways to cut down on fees such as document preparation.
If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer for full-scope representation (representing you every step of the way), you can look for a lawyer who is willing to provide limited-scope representation. This means the attorney provides you with only certain services like attending mediation with you or drafting your divorce papers. Many lawyers charge a flat fee for these "à la carte" services, which helps you keep expenses under control.
Another option is to look for a lawyer who is willing to provide reduced-fee or no fee assistance (pro bono).
Can I File for Divorce in Texas Without a Lawyer?
You do not need a lawyer to file for divorce in Texas. However, in most cases, it is highly recommended that you at least have your divorce agreement reviewed by a divorce lawyer, who can look for potential problems.
It is also highly recommended that you retain a lawyer if your case requires litigation. Litigation is a formal court process that is very hard for non-lawyers to navigate on their own. People who represent themselves in divorce court are called pro se litigants. There are resources available for pro se litigants, but this route is not recommended.
That said, some people with very simple cases — such as cases without kids, assets, or disputes — are able to complete the divorce paperwork on their own and get their divorce finalized without a lawyer's help by using the resources provided by TexasLawHelp.org, a free website created by the Texas Office of Court Administration.
How Long Will a Divorce Take in Texas?
The length of your divorce will depend on the number of issues that are in dispute and need to be resolved as well as:
- Whether your spouse agrees to the divorce
- Whether you have significant assets or a business
- Your county court's calendar
A more simple and straightforward divorce will take much less time from start to finish than a complex one. With that said, a divorce cannot be finalized in Texas until at least 60 days have passed after the divorce petition was filed.
Additionally, at least one spouse must have been a continuous resident of Texas for at least six months before filing for divorce, and one spouse must have been a continuous resident of the county you are filing in for at least 90 days before filing in that county.
A typical divorce in Texas takes about six months to complete, though more complex cases take over a year or more.
Getting Help With a Texas Divorce
If you think a divorce may be in your future, it is a good idea to meet with a family law attorney in your county who can answer your questions and give you an idea of what to expect.
Many divorce lawyers in Texas offer free initial consultations, and although the lawyer will not be able to provide you with advice, they can provide you with valuable information.