Uncontested divorce is a common path for people who have simple divorces or can agree on the terms of the divorce and want an affordable divorce. Agreed divorces in Texas are good options for many people in Texas. However, it’s not a good fit for every person seeking a cheap divorce or a quick divorce in Texas. When questioning whether an uncontested divorce is right for you, you should consider several factors and make a decision that is best for your future. Today’s post explores the top ten uncontested divorce questions to help you determine whether an agreed divorce is right for you.
1. What is the difference between uncontested divorce and contested divorce in Texas?
The first question most people consider when they hear about uncontested divorce is–what is it and what is a contested divorce? Under the Texas Family Code no distinction exists between a contested divorce and uncontested divorce. The legal process is the same. These phrases are merely terms of convenience.
Some courts, like the Tarrant County family courts in Fort Worth, Texas, have uncontested and contested dockets for cases. This has no effect on the legal procedures or law involved in a divorce. It is just a way for the courts to manage the docket to distinguish between cases where the parties have an agreement and those where the judge needs to hear evidence and render a decision.
However, as terms of convenience, divorce lawyers distinguish between contested and uncontested divorce in the same way–as divorces with or without an agreement.
Uncontested divorce in Texas
In an uncontested divorce the parties reached or will reach an agreement on the terms of the divorce so there is not a need for a trial or other contested hearing. An uncontested divorce could follow all the same procedures as a contested divorce; but generally does not require them because the parties have an agreement. The goals of an uncontested divorce lawyer should be to help clients turn a good agreement into a good divorce decree and maneuver the family courts with as little difficulty as necessary.
2. What is the uncontested divorce process in Texas?
Let’s first talk about the contested divorce process because anything in a contested divorce could occur in an uncontested divorce.
Contested divorce process in Texas
In a contested divorce the following steps normally occur:
- One spouse hires a divorce attorney.
- The divorce attorney files a petition on the spouse’s behalf–may include a request for ex parte temporary orders.
- The petitioner requests temporary orders from the court and sets a hearing.
- Petitioner serves the other spouse who then hires a divorce lawyer.
- The other spouse’s divorce attorney files an answer.
- The parties appear in court for a temporary orders hearing (or multiple hearings) and the judge enters temporary orders for custody, child support, property protection and home possession.
- Parties engage in formal or informal discovery.
- The parties attempt to settle and/or engage in mediation to settle.
- If no settlement is reached the parties move forward with trial.
- The divorce lawyers file pre-trial motions.
- Divorce lawyers appear in court for hearings on the motions.
- The divorce lawyers prepare for trial.
- A trial occurs on the divorce, resulting in a judgment on the divorce.
- The parties negotiate over the language of a divorce decree and eventually draft the divorce decree.
- The divorce is granted on the basis of the judgement and the judge signs a divorce decree.
- Post-trial hearings may be filed and heard.
- The parties may appeal.
As a whole this process usually takes six months to two years–much longer if either party instructs their divorce lawyer to appeal. Total cost for contested divorce: $2000-$20,000 (or more).
Uncontested divorce process in Texas
By comparison an uncontested divorce is typically a shorter process. A typical uncontested divorce in Tarrant County involves:
- The parties discuss the divorce and either reach a full agreement or most of the agreement.
- One or both parties hire uncontested divorce lawyers.
- The uncontested divorce lawyer files a divorce petition.
- The other spouse agrees to sign a waiver of service instead of being served by a process server.
- The parties wait the mandatory sixty day waiting period.
- Meanwhile the uncontested divorce lawyer drafts a divorce decree on the basis of the parties’ agreement.
- The parties sign the divorce decree.
- The uncontested divorce lawyer and his client appear in court for a brief hearing to ask the judge to sign the decree.
- The judge signs the divorce decree at the prove up hearing.
On average an uncontested divorce can finish as quickly as sixty-one days but is usually complete in under ninety days. Average cost: $800-1500.
As you can see, one process is shorter, less expensive and requires less difficult procedures. This is the benefit of an uncontested divorce in Texas.
3. How long does uncontested divorce take in Texas?
Under the Texas Family Code a divorce typically requires a sixty day waiting period beginning with the day after your uncontested divorce lawyer files your divorce petition. Therefore, the shortest period for most uncontested divorces is sixty-one days. There are rare circumstances in which a judge may waive the sixty day period.
During the sixty day period your uncontested divorce lawyer will draft your divorce decree and coordinate both parties signing it. This is usually the right length of time to send out a waiver of service, receive it from the other spouse, draft the divorce decree, get signatures and schedule time to go to court to wrap up the divorce.
There is no requirement that a divorce must resolve that quickly. It is better to have an uncontested divorce built on solid terms and include a well written divorce decree than rush the process.
4. What happens in a Texas uncontested divorce with children?
Generally in an uncontested divorce in Texas the parties will work out the custody and child support issues. In my opinion, a reasonable agreement on child issues from the beginning is almost always the best solution. Inserting generic custody language or fighting over custody usually leads to problems down the road. By working out an agreement to custody terms the parents take ownership of the co-parenting relationship.
Some family courts in Texas require the standard possession order in the Texas Family Code to appear in the divorce decree. The Tarrant County family courts do not, especially if the parties hired uncontested divorce attorneys to draft the divorce decree.
As an uncontested divorce lawyer I do not consider my role only includes drafting the custody agreement into an enforceable divorce decree because sometimes the parties have not considered how future changes in their lives may affect the agreement. I work with my client to make sure the custody terms make sense and my client understands what may happen in the future.
5. Do I need uncontested divorce lawyers in Texas?
You can end your marriage in Texas without hiring a divorce lawyer. The question is not so much whether you must hire an attorney but whether you should hire uncontested divorce lawyers in Fort Worth. An uncontested divorce lawyer will do the heavy lifting drafting documents and ensuring your divorce decree contains enforceable language should problems arise in the future.
Your divorce lawyer will guide you through the courts. There is value in this help, especially to ensure your agreement survives as an enforceable divorce decree. You may not have children or significant property that needs protection so you may find less value in hiring an uncontested divorce lawyer, at least for that reason.
Cost of hiring uncontested divorce lawyers vs. cost of doing it yourself
Whether the value of protecting your property and your relationship with your children is greater than the cost of uncontested divorce lawyers is a question you must answer for yourself. The cost of fixing a problem in the divorce decree, especially after time passes from the court granting the divorce, goes up considerably. Therefore, you must also ask whether you believe you can draft a divorce decree without potentially adding future cost to do what you intended to do with your divorce decree.
In Tarrant County, if you file for divorce without a lawyer (as a pro se party) you will be placed on the pro se docket. The problem is that to get from filing for divorce and a court date to ask the judge to grant the divorce is currently around six months right now. The courts only hear so many cases on the pro se docket daily so there is a long backlog right now.
If you are anxious to divorce or want to remarry and need a quicker divorce then hiring a lawyer can get that done without a longer wait.
6. Is there affordable or cheap uncontested divorce in Texas?
The cost of a divorce in Texas comprises several elements:
- Filing fee
- Process server fees
- Divorce lawyer fees
In an uncontested divorce you pay the same filing fees as any other divorce. In Tarrant County this ranges from $280-330 depending upon whether you have kids. Hopefully your spouse will sign a waiver of service so you will not have to pay a process server. Your legal fees for a divorce lawyer will depend upon how much the lawyer charges for the work and how much work you require in the divorce.
7. What happens to my property in an agreed divorce?
You will work out an agreement on how to divide the assets and how to apportion the liability for debts. In an agreed divorce you can choose to divide assets in almost any way you wish. Few assets carry problems with property division in an uncontested divorce. This is usually a problem for putting the property in the title of the receiving spouse rather than awarding legal ownership.
Debts in a Texas divorce
The greater problem in an uncontested divorce is usually debts. In Texas a debt is a contract between lender and borrower. The divorce court cannot merely change liability for a debt from one spouse to another. The divorce decree may order one party to reimburse another for part of a debt.
This happens frequently because a credit card or other debt is in one spouse’s name but used by both spouses.
It also often happens when a car or home carries debt in both names but one spouse keeps the property.
The divorce decree will order the spouse keeping the property to pay all the debt. The creditor’s rights are not destroyed by the divorce. It is up to the parties and their divorce lawyers to figure out how to draft enforceable language that ensures payment of debts.
8. Is there anything I cannot do in an uncontested divorce that I could in a contested divorce in Texas?
No. An uncontested divorce is legally the same act as a contested divorce under the Texas Family Code. Your uncontested divorce lawyer can do anything for you in either type of divorce.
9. Will an uncontested divorce attorney try to convince me to not agree on the terms of my divorce?
Sometimes, yes. Sometimes parties come to my office with an agreement but the agreement is not a good idea for the parties. Some examples include:
- The agreement lacks provisions dealing with child or property issues that must be a part of the divorce decree; so the agreement needs more work.
- The agreement sets up the client for future property problems like a high risk of foreclosure on a home or there are better ways to ensure a debt will be paid that the parties could agree to include.
- It includes custody terms that will be difficult to follow or carries a high probability of needing future changes.
- The agreement is blatantly unfair and the client does not understand it.
- The agreement was obviously the result of abuse or a threat of abuse.
In most cases my goal is not to convince clients out of uncontested divorces but to help them reach an agreement that will put them on the best path for a solid future. Rarely a client has an agreement that is so unfair that I strongly suggest continuing to work on an agreement that is more reasonable but even then if it is what the client really wants and understands why it is unfair then I will move forward. If a client obviously did not voluntarily agree to the terms of an agreement then I will try to convince the client not to lock himself or herself into a difficult future because of domestic violence or the threat of domestic violence.
10. Who should not get an uncontested divorce in Texas?
There are a few situations where an uncontested divorce should not happen.
When domestic violence forces the hand of an uncontested divorce with unfair terms towards the victim I do not believe that is a good result. There are other ways to leave a dangerous marriage.
Disagreement vs. quick divorce
If the parties have meaningful disagreement then it’s usually a good idea to work out that disagreement than force an agreement to get the divorce over. Working through disagreement does not have to include every facet of a contested divorce or have to be extremely expensive.
Any agreement that unnecessarily sets up a client for problems down the road is usually not a good solution if a better agreement is probable. As a divorce lawyer I definitely understand the desire to get out of the marriage as quickly as possible and not want to spend a lot of money to end the marriage. However, a quick end to the marriage followed by years of financial struggle or harming your relationship with your children is often a worse situation.
The choice is not between an easy agreement or a vicious divorce. Most divorces fall somewhere in the middle with some legal proceedings and eventually reaching a meaningful agreement. I may not help you as an uncontested divorce lawyer but can still help you with a divorce in a contested divorce.