Supreme Court of Texas gives thumbs up to divorce form task force

Forging boldly ahead on January 25, the Texas Supreme Court paved the way for the state to release a standardized set of forms that could be used in divorce courts.

In 2011, the Supreme Court created the Uniform Forms Task Force to craft divorce forms in an effort to increase access to the courts. In theory, the forms would help low-income Texans end their marriages without necessarily needing assistance from a Texas divorce attorney.

However, the uniform form initiative is far from perfect. The State Bar of Texas had urged caution, explaining that family law is far too complicated to be quickly condensed into a simple do-it-yourself divorce form.

In a letter dated January 25, Justice Wallace Jefferson, the Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, made it clear to the State Bar that he had no intentions of slowing the Task Force’s work. Instead, the Chief Justice wrote that he intends to pass the forms as-is to the Supreme Court Advisory Committee. If ultimately approved by the Supreme Court, the forms would be accepted in any Texas court.

Even if the uniform forms are approved, they should be used sparingly by the public. For divorces that involve little contentiousness, few assets and no children, standardized forms may be adequate. But any added complexities could render the services of a Texas divorce attorney invaluable.

It is important for anyone facing divorce to get sound advice when it comes to child custody and visitation arrangements, child support terms, marital property division and spousal support (otherwise known as alimony) provisions. A stand-alone form may not be able to fully encompass these issues and provide leverage to ensure fair treatment in all legal aspects of a divorce.

The Supreme Court Advisory Committee’s recommendations are expected in April, and Chief Justice Jefferson wrote that he intends to review them in May. In the meantime, Chief Justice Jefferson has encouraged the State Bar to make recommendations for improving the forms.

Source: The Texas Tribune, “Texas High Court Moves Forward to Create Divorce Forms,” Anna Whitney, Jan. 25, 2012