Texas Wants to Make DIY Divorces Easier, But Judge Asks: Aren't They Easy Enough Already?

Categories: Legal Battles

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The state Supreme Court is considering developing a uniform, simplified do-it-yourself form for uncontested divorce filings, an effort to increase access to the justice system for people who can't afford a lawyer.

Not surprisingly, some Texas lawyers feel the legal system is too complicated to be boiled down into checked boxes. So a Supreme Court advisory committee took recommendations from both sides of the debate last week, according to the Texas Tribune, and will decide soon whether DIY divorces get their own form and what that form should say.

Meanwhile, Dallas County Family Court Judge Lynne Cherry says either way, the forms would make little if any difference -- at least in her DIY-friendly courtroom.

The Supreme Court wants to make the whole process easier with one standard form to be used across the state, which is why they established the Uniform Forms Task Force last year to do exactly what its name implies. The form already exists in many states.

"It simplifies it for people who don't have a lot of conflict, who don't have property," just as existing forms already do, Cherry says. "I guess I'm not understanding what the panic is about."

People in her courtroom go through divorce proceeding on their own behalf all the time, she says. Other forms exist to aid people in pro se divorce litigation, and they're used so commonly that she once had her intern photocopy a stack to have them on hand in her court. In fact, pro se cases often consume the better part of her day, as she directs people back and forth to the law library and explains things like whose name goes on the "petitioner" line. She doesn't imagine a new form will change any of that.

In cases where the couple has a retirement plan, property, child support payments or any number of complicating factors, Cherry says, no form can serve as a substitute for an attorney. "If it's anything outside the box, they need some extra help," she says. Ideally, she thinks there should be an attorney available for free to help people through filing for themselves, which is offered in Smith County.

She adds that if lawyers fear that providing forms for people is going to cut into their business, it's not. The people who already represent themselves using existing forms -- the same ones who would use the new forms -- couldn't afford attorneys if they wanted to, she says.

And while a lot of lawyers are in Austin speaking out on both sides of the issue, she suspects it could be the case that many don't understand just how often these forms are already used. After all, clients representing themselves don't turn to attorneys. It's the judge, she says, who ultimately must help them help themselves.

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Kwikshot
Kwikshot

IS this a new part of the "Defense of Marriage Act" ? Laughable! 

Separazione E Divorzio
Separazione E Divorzio

Its not always true that the reason behind a divorce will cause another divorce as well. Each and every couple have their different way of thinking, and way of living. So there can be any reason if they are getting divorce from each other. But still, there are certain factors which may be the reason behind most of separations. This tend to make a pattern of divorce.

Vermin
Vermin

If pro se representation cuts into the liar-yer business then write some more laws to complicate things up a notch. The best justice is the one that only some can afford. The emotionally tattered going through a split-up are the most vulnerable prey so by all means, keep those masses within reach of the cattle prods of the old school system.

If things still aren' t complicated enough convince the soon-to-be ms. that it would be in her best interest to claim spousal abuse so that each time a party wants to talk to the other side they have to pay a hefty hourly to deliver a message about junior's soccer practice being cancelled.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Having gone through a divorce exactly like that, I can confirm it's pretty easy as-is. When you're not fighting over custody or money it can be very cut and dry, but if they've got a way to streamline it more to ease the courts, go for it; let the youngins get out of their starter marriages without killing them financially.

Is Rick Perry going to try and find a way to cut funding for divorce courts because he's religiously opposed to a legal act?

Clancey
Clancey

When I was first licensed the filing fee for a divorce was about $50,   back then there was a Minimum Fee Scale,  the least a lawyer could charge for something.  That was in the 70's,  the minimum for a divorce was $300.  

Filing fee in Dallas is now $311,  I've seen lawyers advertising at $50.

Occasionally on Craig's List there's an ad for a lawyer with at least three years experience,  pay ranges from $11 to $16 an hour.   I'm not kidding.  Who knows,  maybe $50 is good pay.

Back then a divorce with kids could be typed on three pages.  Now days it's ten times that,  with all the boilerplate that's in there.   I've always thought,  if we still used typewriters,  there'd be lots less paperwork.

 

Guest
Guest

 I've always thought,  if we still used typewriters,  there'd be lots less paperwork.

I think you're on to something there.

Montemalone
Montemalone

This can't be allowed to happen.WE MUST protect the sanctity of opposite sex marriage. Nowhere in the biblebook does it say anything about pro-se divorce, or any kind of divorce for that matter.I would have thought our Texas Supreme Court would know that. What, are they all of a sudden radical atheist liberals? Everyone should immediately contact their elected officials to denounce this unholy attack on marriage, and put a stop to it.

RTGolden
RTGolden

No no no.  this is for poor people.  the people taking advantage of this are never going to be in the upper west side of heaven.  they'll obviously be in Purgatory, Hell, or one of the southern suburbs of heaven, so it's all good.

Tam_tagon
Tam_tagon

I'm confused.... wouldn't the abstinence booster club, anti-abortion, Christian Coalition leadership in Texas want to make divorce more difficult?   

RTGolden
RTGolden

If they make it really easy, and really commonplace, they can levy a 'sin' tax against it.  That'll help them 'find' the money they just gave back to the Feds for the Women's Health Program.

T. Erickson
T. Erickson

But if it's good for business, then maybe it's OK.

Guest
Guest

Despite not having any assets to speak of at the time and neither of us contesting anything, my divorce took four years.

We both had lawyers, which turned out to be the bulk of the reason it took so long (our lawyers didn't seem to communicate with each other, and they certainly weren't communicating with us. They seemed to be under the impression that the two of us never spoke and, apparently, tried to use that to their own advantage).

Adam from East Dallas
Adam from East Dallas

I highly doubt this story.  Lawyers are bound by their client's instructinos and direction.  The only reason this to an almost unheard 4 years, is because one party - husband or wife - wanted to drag it out as long as possible.  Don't blame the lawyers for the client's demands.  Absurd.

Rooster
Rooster

Your post is almost laughable.

You've confused how family law is "supposed" to work with how it actually works.  The only thing important to a family law attorney is to generate fees.  A quick divorce does not facilitate that.

I'll leave you with a quote from a corporate lawyer friend of mine:

"You will not find a bigger cesspool of greed, corruption, and collusion than you will in family law."

Guest
Guest

Well, one. Prosecutors are supposed to turn over Brady evidence, but we find hundreds of cases in short time periods in which they don't. What a person is sworn to do is often different from what they do.

It may well be these attorneys just didn't think we were important enough to pay any attention to, but we weren't arguing over anything. We didn't have anything to argue over. But it eventually got solved when my estranged wife and I got together and just said, let's end this right now and decided that her lawyer would draw up the final papers and send them to my lawyer. She went to her lawyer, he tried to talk her out of it, she insisted. Lawyer drew up papers, I waited for a call from my lawyer. Weeks went by. I called my lawyer to ask for an update, he says he'd not received any papers. I call the ex-wife. She calls her attorney, he says he sent papers over, but he'll check again. Papers never show up (the distance between the two lawyers offices is about fifty feet, by the way). We then decide we'll just let my lawyer handle drawing up the papers. I go to lawyer, he draws up papers. Soon-to-be ex waits to hear from her lawyer to go sign papers. Weeks go by, she never gets a call. She calls her lawyer, he says he's never gotten any papers.

It went back and forth like that on everything.

Ultimately, we just go to my lawyers office and she signs the papers he drew up. Divorce is finally taken care of.

Admittedly, there was a lot of time that we weren't pushing our lawyers because we had lives and thought they were handling things and nothing was going anywhere, but even when we pushed, they stalled and at least one of them lied about producing or receiving divorce papers.

Paul
Paul

 Yup ... and I have seen lawyers drag their feet so much that time came to a stop.

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