Getting free divorce in Texas

Last Updated on May 2024

Divorce is often a very expensive process. Costs can become extremely high when spouses disagree on the divorce terms and opt for a contested marriage dissolution. The price of ending a marriage is usually much lower in an uncontested divorce, but parties still have to cover obligatory court fees.

However, it happens that spouses, particularly the filing one, claim they lack money to pay for a divorce. What should a petitioner do if they are in a difficult financial situation? Are there any legal options to get divorced without spending anything? Who can get the court fees waived? We’ll try to figure it out in this article.

We have described a general scenario when soon-to-be-ex-spouses lack money for divorce proceedings, elaborating on law specifics in Texas. So, you’ll learn how to get a free divorce in Texas, whether you qualify for a fee waiver, and what alternative methods you can use to dissolve your marriage at a low cost.

Can I Get a Divorce in Texas with No Money?

Yes, you can get divorced in Texas without spending money, but it isn’t really simple and happens rarely. First, let’s categorize divorce-related expenses. Roughly speaking, we can divide them into two categories:

  • Court fees.
  • Attorney fees.

Court fees include payments for filing a case, serving documents, and making copies. Currently, a filing fee in Texas ranges from $300 to $400, on average, depending on the county. Serving divorce forms to a defendant costs around $50-$100. If a petitioner can’t afford to file for divorce, they can ask the court to waive the mandatory payment. More information on the qualifying criteria and the process of filing a fee waiver will be provided further.

Attorney fees are typically optional spending. They arise if spouses apply for a contested divorce, which necessitates them to hire an attorney, or file for an uncontested one but still decide to turn to a lawyer’s assistance. A couple can avoid these expenditures if they manage to settle their disputes and proceed without legal representation. On average, a divorce lawyer in Texas charges $250-$400 per hour. The more consultations and hearings are required, the bigger the sum for assistance gets. Besides, an hourly rate usually depends on the expertise of an attorney and the location where they run the practice.

So, how to get a divorce with no money in Texas? Basic recommendations are:

  • Resolve any disputes outside the court
  • Take care of your divorce documents without third-party help
  • Avoid official document serving by asking a defendant to sign a Waiver of Service.
  • Prove your financial hardship by filing a fee waiver request.

Free Divorce in Texas for Low-Income: Options to Consider

Payments for legal assistance make up the biggest part of all divorce expenses. Talking about legal help, we mainly imply attorneys’ assistance. These professionals guide spouses on the divorce steps, can be in charge of document completing and filing, represent spouses when hearings take place, and help with other tasks during the divorce process.

It is convenient to delegate all confusing tasks to a lawyer, but it is not always possible when you lack money. Still, there are other ways to get free legal advice for divorce. Remember that such alternatives aren’t a complete replacement for an attorney. They are budget-friendly methods for divorcing partners to understand their rights and obligations during marriage dissolution so that they can navigate their divorce more efficiently.

  • Online resources. There are different websites where you can learn about a divorce in Texas. For instance, head to Texas State Law Library or TexasLawHelp. The platforms contain detailed descriptions of the divorce process, step-by-step guides, and other valuable data. Though it may take time to read the provided information, you can do that for free.
  • Pro bono legal aid services. Another way to get divorce assistance for low-income individuals is to contact local legal aid agencies. They help people who live below the poverty level with different legal matters. However, they usually meticulously select cases for review. If you start a contested divorce case with many debatable matters to resolve, you may not qualify for their services. Even if your case is as straightforward and peaceful as possible, you may have to wait long until experts help you. The issue is that their workload is typically huge. If you want to get free legal consultation, reach out to the companies operating in Texas, like Legal Services Corporation, Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, Texas LioGrande Legal Aid, etc.
  • Inexpensive family law attorneys. People who aren’t below a state poverty threshold but whose earnings are still insufficient to afford an experienced attorney with high rates can search for specialists who charge less. Such professionals can provide a general overview of divorce and give case-pertinent recommendations. However, if you have a complicated case with many issues to resolve, such assistance may not be sufficient.

To find a specialist who can help you, check out The Texas State Bar Association. The website has a very convenient catalog. You can select the needed county and see which lawyers are currently available.

Who Qualifies for a Free Divorce in Texas?

The cheapest divorce in Texas is possible if a petitioner and a defendant have come to an agreement on all divorce-related issues. They must settle topics such as property and debt division, child custody and support, alimony, etc. Therefore, they can start a divorce without reaching out to lawyers and save on attorney fees.  

Next, a petitioner should file a Statement of Inability to Afford Court Costs to prove their low-income status. It is necessary to show that their income and assets fall below a certain threshold and that paying the court fees will create a financial hardship. Currently, if an annual gross household income is at or below 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, it is possible to ask the court to remove court fees.

Besides, people who receive government benefits such as food stamps, TANF, Medicaid, SSI, or public housing, are also eligible to apply for a fee waiver.

How to File for Divorce in Texas for Free

Finalizing a divorce in Texas absolutely for free isn’t a simple task. It may take some time and effort, but if you do everything according to the law, you may terminate your marriage with little or no expenses. Follow the steps below to do it:

  1. Negotiate all debatable aspects of a divorce with a spouse. You should agree on how to divide property and debts, who will take care of kids, who will pay child support, whether alimony is required, etc. Be as detailed as possible to prevent any misunderstandings in the course of divorce.
  2. Download and complete the needed forms. You can find basic forms for divorce on the court website or ask the court clerk to provide them. Also, you can order them from a convenient online service, paying around $100-$150. It will not increase your expenses significantly but will allow you to get the court-approved and properly filled-out forms and save time.
  3. File the documents. A petitioner should file the forms with the court. Usually, it is necessary then to serve the other spouse. However, the serving can be avoided if a defendant waives the formal document delivery by signing corresponding papers. Make sure to add a fee waiver request to the Original Petition for Divorce.
  4. Complete a 60-day waiting period.
  5. Attend a court hearing if needed. Uncontested cases may be resolved without a formal hearing. However, sometimes, it still takes place, so be ready for self-representation.  
  6. Get a Final Decree of Divorce. After the judge signs a Final Decree of Divorce, you can get a certified copy of it. 

Where to Get the Forms to File for a Free Divorce

Texas state court website has a “Divorce” section. In addition to general guidelines for a divorce process, there are also free divorce forms stored there and categorized for streamlined navigation. The templates provided are free. Still, dealing with paperwork on your own can be challenging because there is nobody to explain to you which particular forms from a huge variety are required in your unique situation and how to fill them out properly.

People who are afraid of making mistakes when choosing forms and completing them may get help with divorce when it comes to paperwork from online services specializing in document preparation. Such companies can prepare a set of forms that comply with state laws and fully reflect your case. They usually assist couples who have a no-fault, uncontested marriage termination. Of course, such a help comes at a fee. Still, it is much lower than what attorneys charge for this type of work and much faster than when managing paperwork on your own.

How to Get Court Fees Waived

Getting a divorce for free is a viable option for couples with limited funds. If court fees can worsen their financial situation, they can ask the judge to waive the payment. To remove court fees, you should do the following:

  1. Determine your eligibility for a fee waiver
  2. Complete the Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs or an Appeal Bond.
  3. Submit the completed forms to the clerk.
  4. Wait for the court’s approval.

If your request is approved, you won’t need to pay court fees for starting a divorce. Otherwise, you will have to find money to cover divorce fees and follow a standard divorce procedure in Texas. Sometimes, it happens that the court postpones the payment, and once a petitioner gets the needed money, they will be obliged to disburse.

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