When divorce comes knocking on your door, you may find it tempting to get the whole thing over with and file for dissolution of your marriage using forms from the internet, or by otherwise representing yourself in your divorce case. After all, your friend’s brother did it, and everything turned out fine for him, right? How complicated can getting divorced be?
Technically speaking, you can represent yourself in your divorce, whether you use downloaded forms or not. However, just because this is technically permissible does not mean it is wise, especially in Texas. Texas divorce laws are substantially different from divorce laws in many other states, and those differences do not make the process easier to navigate.
Before you choose to represent yourself in your divorce, consider how much you have to lose if you make a misstep along the way. A strong legal strategy created with high-quality legal resources and guidance not only ensures that you keep your divorce on track over the months or even years it takes to resolve, it also helps protect your rights throughout the process.
Texas marital property law
Here in the Lone Star state, the law requires spouses to divide their marital property equally. This means that both spouses must receive equal value in their divorce settlement. Other states use equitable division standards, which allow spouses to agree that a settlement is fair, even if it is not technically equal. It is easy to see how complicated the property division process may become if you do not have assets and liabilities that you can split evenly with ease.
It is also important to understand that many types of property may qualify as marital property, even if you don’t realize they do. For instance, if you own a business, then your spouse may have a claim to half of your owned stake in the business, or some similar arrangement.
On the other hand, property that you owned prior to your marriage may not qualify as marital property, depending on how you and your spouse used or did not use that asset during your marriage.
If, for instance, you own a home prior to your marriage, the court may consider it separate property because you claim that it is separate. However, if your spouse used their own resources to improve the value of the home, then a court may consider it a marital asset.
Very few parents are able to maintain proper perspective on custody matters during divorce. This is normal, because our children are typically prized above any material asset, but it does not make the custody negotiations easier.
Even if you have the ability to reasonably represent yourself in the property division portion of your divorce, which is a difficult task in itself, you are unlikely to have the tools you need to protect your rights as a parent while also reaching a fair parenting and custody agreement with your spouse.
Before you move forward with representing yourself in your divorce, examine what you have to lose if the whole experience goes sideways and you do not achieve your goals. It is wiser to take stock of all the legal resources and guidance that you have available and use all the tools within reach to protect yourself and your family during this difficult season.