There’s no way around it— divorce is hard. It’ll likely cost time and money for both parties, not to mention the physical and emotional impact. Even the most amicable of splits can bring more than a few headaches when it comes to dividing finances and belongings.
Here’s a look at what you can expect to spend on divorce in Texas and how you might prepare and protect yourself financially.
Cost of Divorce in Texas: Factors and Considerations
No two divorces are alike. The exact costs associated with a finalized divorce depend on any number of things. With that caveat aside, the following are some of the most significant factors that can make an impact on how much you’ll end up spending on legal fees.
Contested vs. Uncontested
In Texas, filing for an uncontested divorce is faster and easier than a contested one, which typically must be brought into court to settle. With an uncontested divorce, both parties agree to the terms, including:
- Parental custody and visitation;
- Child support amount;
- Spousal alimony;
- Division of assets and property;
- Division of debts.
In an uncontested divorce, both parties can generally divide property as they see fit, whether the final agreement is 50-50, 60-40, or even more. Keep in mind that “property” doesn’t just include real estate or a home. From a legal standpoint, “property” includes everything you own, including vehicles, pets, bank accounts, and more.
Spouses cannot be compelled to engage in an uncontested divorce; either they agree to all of the terms laid out, or they do not. If one party does not agree on the terms of the divorce, it becomes contested. It must be settled with the help of legal professionals. If both parties seem headed towards a contested divorce, it's important that you start keeping track of your finances as proper accounting will plan an important role in what comes next.
Attorney hours make the contested/uncontested status one of the most significant factors in determining costs. An uncontested divorce costs significantly less; once attorneys are hired to hash out any issues, you have to expect higher legal fees. In Texas, the average divorce attorney fees average $12,400. They’ll charge at a rate anywhere from $50 to $350 per hour.
Most legal professionals bill hourly. If a case goes to court, attorneys must spend time to prepare your case. You’ll also pay for the time that your attorney spends working on your case behind closed doors, not just the time that you spend in a room with them.
Fault vs. No-fault
In Texas, no-fault divorces are more common than fault divorces. No-fault divorces cite insupportability as the cause for separation, which means that the two parties have irreconcilable differences.
In a fault divorce, the cause of the split can be one of five things:
- Cruelty, such as mental, emotional, or physical abuse
- Severe mental health issues resulting in confinement to a psychiatric hospital
By citing fault, a spouse may receive a more substantial portion of the community property or larger alimony payment. However, a spouse’s guilt may be harder to prove, especially in cases of adultery. For this reason, the fees and the amount of time that it takes to settle a fault divorce are typically higher than that of a no-fault settlement.
Kids vs. No Kids
Having kids can also complicate matters and raise the costs associated with divorce. On average, Divorces without kids in Texas are $8,200 less than those with minor children involved. The reason behind this is the time that it takes to settle any custody or child support disputes that may arise.
Other Expenses in a Divorce
Expenses that you face during a divorce may extend beyond the attorney and court fees. Consider costs such as:
- Witnesses, Consultants, Appraisers. Any time you have to bring in an expert to help sort through the property, financial, or custody issues, it’ll probably cost you extra.
- Lodging and Storage. If you and your partner have separated, you might need to pay for temporary accommodation or storage for your belongings.
- Mental Health. It’s essential not to neglect your mental health during this time, but therapists and counselors may come with a price if not covered by your health insurance.
Average additional expenses in Texas are higher than the national average— expect to pay $3,300 or more.
Length of the Divorce Process
Like the cost, the length of your divorce will depend on all of the factors listed above. Texas has a mandatory waiting period of 60 days, so your divorce will take a minimum of two months if both parties agree on all the terms.
If the case has to be taken to court, expect the amount of time to increase significantly. Many couples find that their divorce takes anywhere from 7 to 19 months to complete.
How to Prepare and Protect Yourself Financially
To come out of your divorce as financially unscathed as possible, consider taking the following steps to minimize costs and potential loss.
Know Where You Stand
It’s a smart move to know where you stand financially before or soon after the divorce process begins. There’s no doubt that a divorce will cost you, but you can avoid being left in financial ruins if you start planning right away.
Request a copy of your credit report to get a good idea of your current financial situation. If there’s something that raises concern, speak to a professional and try to fix the issue as soon as possible.
You may also want to take this time to open a bank account and credit card in your name if you currently only share joint accounts. These individual accounts will allow you to start building up your independent financial footprint. Just make sure to use the accounts wisely.
Get Your Documents in Order and Make Copies
Make sure to gather financial documents and make copies. Experts recommend having at least five years of financial documents such as tax returns, pay stubs, investment information, and property records. Having everything in order early on will save you from the headache later if things start to get messy. Keep a copy of documents in a secure second location, just in case a file goes missing.
Divorce is hard, but it is also a time for fresh beginnings. You still have the rest of your life ahead of you, so it’s essential to look out for your future by planning and preparing when possible.