In 2011, the Texas Supreme Court created a task force comprised of judges, family law attorneys and members of the advocacy group Texas Access to Justice Commission to create divorce forms in an effort to increase access to the courts. In theory, the divorce forms would help low-income Texans end their marriages without the assistance of a divorce attorney.
Many family law attorneys and the family law section of the State Bar of Texas opposed the creation of the forms — even calling for the work of the task force to be suspended in early 2012. However, these efforts were rebuffed by the Supreme Court, which ultimately approved the divorce forms just last month.
The move was met with significant praise by TAJC officials, who pointed out that the majority of U.S. states already have such laws in place, and that both pro bono services and legal aid offices here in Texas only could handle roughly 20 percent of the total demand for divorce-related services in 2011.
“This really will change the lives of so many people who have not been able to get help through legal aid,” said Trish McAllister, executive director of the TAJC. “One of the reasons it’s important to get a divorce is that if you don’t and you have other relationships, have kids, maybe buy a house later down the road, that creates huge complications.”
However, many family law attorneys are understandably skeptical of the divorce forms, fearing they might fail to account for all legal issues and could even create messy legal problems if the people using them fail to file in the appropriate manner.
“You have to file the divorce in your county of residency,” said one Texas family law attorney. “If you fail to gain the court’s jurisdiction, you could have jurisdictional issues on whether you actually got divorced or not.”
It is important to note that the simple, standardized forms are only available to divorcing couples without children or real estate, and can be found in state courthouses. Thus far, court officials have indicated that demand for the forms has been low, but also point out that the holiday season typically sees a decline in divorce filings.
It should be interesting to see how this situation plays out over the course of the next year. Stay tuned for more from our Ft. Worth family law blog …
To learn more about dissolution of marriage, spousal support, property division, child support or other family law issues, contact an experienced and skilled legal professional.
This post is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.
The Texas Tribune, “Divorce EZ? New forms allow couples to divorce without attorney,” Audrey White, Dec. 7, 2012