Updated on March 14, 2023
If you are facing a divorce, the idea is to get to the other side as efficiently, inexpensively, and painlessly as possible. However, emotions run high when it comes to divorce, and the one universal truth is that every divorcing couple should expect the unexpected.
Many couples pursuing divorce are motivated to keep the cost down and believe that proceeding without the professional legal guidance of an experienced divorce attorney is the surest way to manage this.
If you have done all the difficult work necessary to determine that you need a divorce – or if your spouse is seeking a divorce – you may be tempted to take the do-it-yourself route. After all, you can look almost anything up online, and DIY divorce kits are out there – how hard can it be?
While it stands to reason that keeping your legal costs to a minimum can help you keep your divorce costs low, it is important to remember that divorce is a complicated legal matter, and your parental and financial rights are on the line.
Without legal counsel, your divorce terms could have unanticipated effects that leave you at a distinct disadvantage. You owe it to yourself to work closely with an experienced Killeen divorce attorney from the outset.
The Allure of the Do-It-Yourself Divorce Kit
Plenty of DIY divorce kits are out there, so it stands to reason that they must serve an important function. However, while a divorce kit can provide you with basic information regarding obtaining a divorce in Texas, it cannot factor in the unique circumstances involved in your divorce. A DIY divorce kit can leave you hanging when it comes to protecting your rights.
Even the most straightforward divorce in which both spouses are committed to finalizing the matter as effectively and efficiently as possible – with as little drama as possible – can become contentious in the blink of an eye. When this happens, that DIY divorce in a box you invested in is unlikely to get things moving in the right direction.
Having a Divorce Attorney in Your Corner
If you and your divorcing spouse are on the same page regarding your divorce terms and are both focused on resolving the matter posthaste, you should consider yourself lucky, but you should not forgo having legal counsel on your side.
Divorce incorporates a lot of interconnected moving parts, which can lead to unexpected consequences. By consulting with a dedicated divorce attorney early on, you help to ensure that your rights are well protected throughout the legal process, and you get the peace of mind that comes from knowing you are not overlooking anything that could negatively affect your future.
It is also important to note that your focused divorce attorney is committed to expediting the divorce process where possible while negotiating divorce terms that uphold your rights and work for you and your children.
If you and your divorcing spouse remain invested in a smooth divorce process with as little turbulence as you can manage, your trusted divorce attorney is there to help make that happen. However, if your divorce does encounter some snags along the way, you will be well prepared to avoid the dreaded snowball effect that spins far too many divorces out of control.
If you ultimately find yourself facing a dramatic impasse, having a seasoned divorce attorney who is up to speed with your case can prove invaluable. In other words, hiring a divorce attorney can be a financially sound investment that ultimately saves you more money than going with a DIY divorce.
Filing for Divorce
Filing for divorce is generally the easy part, and it begins with the Original Petition for Divorce. Whoever initiates the divorce by filing must have their spouse served with these papers. However, if you and your spouse agree on getting a divorce, the non-filing party can waive the need for service, and the papers can simply be shared.
This divorce petition notifies the court that you are seeking a divorce and, if it is fault based, your reason for doing so. It is important to note, however, that most Texas divorces are no fault, which means they are based on what many people think of as irreconcilable differences.
No-fault divorces tend to be less complicated, contentious, costly, and time consuming. However, there are instances in which seeking a divorce based on fault makes sense, and this is something that must be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis.
In your petition, you can also seek relief, which refers to a set of requests submitted to the court before your case is finalized. Examples include:
Child support while your divorce is pending
Spousal maintenance – or alimony – while your divorce is pending
The living situation in terms of your family home while your divorce is pending
A parenting time schedule while your divorce is pending
While filing this petition is not particularly complicated, it sets the stage for your divorce, and there are important factors that must be considered – factors that can have a significant impact while your divorce is pending, which can be quite a long time. Also, the status quo established while your divorce is pending can affect your final terms, which means the terms during divorce shouldn’t be an afterthought.
Having a handle on your divorce from the outset is the best way to help ensure that it proceeds smoothly and results in a favorable outcome, which makes ditching the DIY idea and working closely with a savvy divorce attorney in your best interest.
The Building Blocks of Your Divorce
Once you have filed for divorce in the state of Texas, it is time to get down to the nitty-gritty of the matter, which means resolving the divorce terms that apply in your unique situation. While a divorce-in-a-box will help you better understand the divorce terms that you need to resolve, it can do little to help you actually resolve them, which is a primary pitfall of the DIY approach.
The basic building blocks of every divorce include negotiating the following terms (as applicable):
Your child custody arrangements (called conservatorship in Texas)
The equitable division of your marital property
Spousal maintenance (what you may think of as alimony)
You and your divorcing spouse must find the middle ground concerning each term that applies. At the same time, you will also need to ensure that you are protecting your rights (in relation to a number of complicated variables).
If You and Your Spouse Are on the Same Page
Even if you and your divorcing spouse are on the same page on every single term that applies to your divorce, moving forward without legal guidance is not advised. The divorce terms that you sign off on are binding, and matters such as tax implications that you may not have even considered can come back to haunt you.
Another point to remember is that many divorces that begin with both spouses in total agreement devolve into something far more contentious. Such is the nature of divorce. Having steady legal guidance on your side from the outset can save you expense and heartache in the long run.
The division of your marital property and alimony (if applicable) will set the stage for your financial future, which makes addressing these matters with keen awareness critical.
The Division of Your Marital Property
Those assets that you and your spouse acquire while you are married amount to your marital property, and those assets that either of you brings into your marriage with you will remain your separate property (if you keep them separate throughout your marriage).
The division between marital and separate property can be incredibly complicated and can lead to especially difficult legal challenges. In Texas, your marital property must be divided equitably (or fairly in relation to the circumstances involved) in the event of divorce, and wide-ranging factors can play a role in this division:
The age, health, and earning potential of both you and your spouse
The overall size of your marital estate
The amount of separate property owned by each of you
Whether or not one of you is deemed at fault for your marriage’s failure
Whether or not either of you wasted, got rid of, gave away, or otherwise disappeared marital assets
The spousal and child support obligations involved
Attorney fees and the cost of litigation
This division of your shared assets can be very complicated, and once you have accepted terms addressing the matter, you will have no further recourse. This means that it is always in your best interests to discuss the matter early on with an experienced Killeen divorce attorney who is well acquainted with the specifics of your case.
Related Article: 5 Tips for Dividing Your Marital Property
Alimony is a payment system the State of Texas employs to help ensure that a spouse who is financially disadvantaged by divorce receives the financial boost he or she needs (from his or her ex who has the financial means to help) to become financially independent.
Alimony is generally ordered for the amount of time the recipient reasonably needs to become better prepared to support himself or herself through further education or job training.
If you and your divorcing spouse are unable to negotiate alimony on your own, the court will consider a vast array of factors before making the determination on your behalf. These factors include things like the length of your marriage and the recipient’s non-financial contributions to the marriage (such as staying home and caring for the children while the other spouse grew his or her career).
Failing to obtain the alimony payments you deserve can make your post-divorce future far more difficult financially.
Risks to your Parental Rights
Your parental rights also hang in the balance during divorce, and setting up custody arrangements that do not put your best interests at the forefront can have devastating effects.
In Texas, child custody arrangements are divided into both physical custody (the schedule by which your children split their time between the two of you) and legal custody (the determination regarding who will be making big-picture decisions on behalf of your children).
The matters that legal custody addresses include the following kinds of questions:
Questions about your children’s healthcare needs
Questions about your children’s extracurriculars
Questions about your children’s religious upbringing
You and your children’s other parent have a variety of options when it comes to the responsibilities associated with legal custody:
You can both share the responsibility.
You can both share the responsibility, and one of you will take on tie-breaking authority (after you have taken the time to hash the matter out between the two of you).
One of you can take on the responsibility on your own.
One of you can take on the responsibility for specific kinds of questions, while the other takes on the responsibility for the others.
The court’s focus for every matter that involves children is the best interest of those children. When it comes to physical custody, reigning wisdom finds that children’s needs are best served by continuing to foster strong relationships with both parents. As such, the court is unlikely to deny parent-child custody in one form or another without a significant reason for doing so. The bottom line is that you and your ex will almost certainly share custody, and this can play out in one of two ways:
Your shared children will live primarily with one of you while they have a visitation schedule with the other.
Your shared children will live with both of you equally or nearly equally – in accordance with a schedule that works for everyone involved.
It is important to note that you have considerable discretion when devising a parenting schedule outside of the courtroom. However, if your case goes to trial, the judge will likely award you a standard parenting schedule that may not consider your specific scheduling needs.
Related Article: Custody and Your Child Support's Preference: FAQ
Child support is the state’s way of ensuring that both parents continue to support their children financially, and these payments are calculated according to detailed state guidelines that take many factors into consideration, but the primary concerns include the amount of time each parent spends with the children and the income of each.
As such, it is common for a parent with primary custody to receive child support from the other, but even when parenting time is divided more evenly, the higher earner is usually responsible for child support payments.
Without an Attorney
While a DIY divorce kit can help you get your divorce filed, it is unlikely to have your back beyond this point. Divorce is a process, which means you need an overall view of the terrain ahead as well as a solid plan regarding how you will navigate toward an outcome that honors your rights and works for you in your unique situation.
All a divorce kit can do for you is outline the basics and give you an encouraging push into the abyss from there. Without an experienced divorce attorney in your corner, you will be required to make critical decisions that will directly affect you and your children’s futures while you are in the midst of an extremely emotional and stressful life event that may be pushing your spouse to behave erratically (at best).
In other words, you are in the eye of the storm, and it can tear you in many different directions.
A divorce attorney will help you focus on what matters most to you, pick your battles wisely, to negotiate strategically, and hammer out terms that work for you and your kids (without losing sight of your rights).
Your attorney can help you in all of the following ways – each of which can help guide your divorce toward an advantageous conclusion:
Outlining your priorities to ensure that the choices you make are not at cross purposes with your overall goals
Knowing when to compromise and when to hold firm in the negotiation process
Understanding the divorce process and making well-informed decisions that work for you throughout
Strategizing an approach that allows you greater leverage in terms of negotiating beneficial terms
Avoiding the pitfalls that those without practiced legal representation often experience
Taking a willy-nilly approach to divorce is not going to serve you, your children, or your future well, and do-it-yourself divorce kits provide little more than an outline for divorce, which can set you on a random course that does nothing to protect your financial and parental rights or to provide you with insight regarding how best to proceed.
Divorce requires a level of intentionality that a boxed kit simply cannot provide.
Resolving Your Divorce Terms
When it comes to resolving the terms of your divorce, you have several options:
Negotiating the terms between yourselves without legal guidance, which can lead to unpleasant surprises in your future
Negotiating the terms between yourselves under the focused guidance of your respective divorce attorneys
Allowing your respective divorce attorneys to negotiate with one another on behalf of each spouse’s best interests – if negotiations break down between you and your spouse
Proceeding to mediation, where you, your divorcing spouse, and your respective divorce attorneys will explore your best options under the skilled guidance of a professional mediator who serves as a neutral third party
If you are ultimately unable to come to a mutually acceptable resolution to one or more terms, you’ll need the court’s intervention on the matter. Without a knowledgeable divorce attorney to help build and present your strongest case, going to court can be particularly daunting.
A very real concern of a DIY divorce is that your spouse may take the opportunity to get up to financial shenanigans.
This is especially relevant if you have less overall knowledge of your family’s finances – and less direct connection with the financial ins and outs of your marriage. In such a situation, it is far easier for your spouse to pull one over on you and hide assets (or otherwise make your marital assets seem less robust than they actually are).
Discovering this on your own while going through a divorce can be next to impossible, but having an attorney watching out for your financial rights (and putting together a complete picture of what your assets are) can mean the difference between obtaining a just division of your marital assets and being left financially disadvantaged post-divorce.
The answers to some of the most frequently asked questions related to divorce may help you make the right decisions for yourself.
What if I trust my spouse?
Hiring an experienced divorce attorney is not an indictment of your spouse and should not be seen as a sign of your distrust. Working closely with your dedicated divorce attorney is simply a way for you to better understand what your divorce and divorce terms are going to mean for you and to protect your own and your children’s best interests in the process.
If the stress of divorce does get to your spouse and things do begin to go south, you will be better prepared to face the issue with an attorney by your side (having an attorney, however, does not make this more likely).
Will hiring an attorney slow down the process?
Obtaining a divorce is a complicated legal process, and without a divorce attorney guiding your case, you are far more likely to face administrative complications that can slow you down.
It also must be said that many amicable-seeming divorces go completely off course with the passage of time, and having a divorce attorney guiding your case can help you spot the warning signs and keep things moving forward.
What role does a divorce attorney play?
The fact is that your divorce will be unique to you and your circumstances, and you may need considerable guidance and assistance from your divorce attorney, or you may require only basic legal oversight as you and your divorcing spouse negotiate terms between yourselves that you can both live with.
Consider the following array of tasks that your divorce attorney is well prepared to take on (as necessary):
Ensuring that your divorce papers are in order and filed correctly
Filing any motions that become necessary along the way
Guiding discovery to ensure that you have the documentation you need to make well-informed decisions
Helping you explore your options and recognize your divorce priorities as you devise your negotiation strategy
Guiding your divorce toward its most expedient conclusion (while protecting your rights along the way)
Helping you address any post-divorce modifications that may arise
What are divorce priorities?
Your divorce priorities are those matters that are the most important to you. Your divorce attorney will help you determine which terms you are willing to fight for and which you are willing to loosen your grip on.
This can give you more leverage when it comes to negotiations and helps you avoid taking a scattershot approach that isn’t likely to serve your best interests. The upset of divorce can leave you wanting to win every point (regardless of whether it is significant to you or not), and identifying your divorce priorities early on can help you avoid this distraction.
Turn to an Experienced Killeen Divorce Attorney for the Legal Guidance You Need
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is an accomplished divorce attorney who is committed to helping you obtain divorce terms that protect your rights while streamlining the divorce process to the greatest extent possible.