Once you have decided to get a divorce, another very important decision awaits you and your spouse: which path are you going to take to secure that divorce? This may surprise you, but in Texas, you have a choice in how you get divorced.
However, how you get divorced can be more important, or at least just as important, as your decision to seek divorce in the first place. So, I will be outlining in this series several roads to divorce you can take — the basics of how and why you might want to choose a specific path, and some pros and cons of each approach. It is my goal to offer enough information so you and your spouse can make an informed decision as to which route you want to take.*
An informal agreement
This approach to divorce includes what some call “kitchen table or back-of-the-napkin agreements,” and “do-it-yourself divorces.” Married couples who don’t have minor children or significant assets or debts often choose this option because it can produce inexpensive, quick and private settlements. Once a couple comes to an informal agreement on the details of their divorce, it can be taken to a lawyer for review (if not yet signed by each party, therefore offering the potential of revising the agreement) and/or formalizing and processing (if signed).
Going one step further, couples can find the forms they need to do-it-themselves via books or online. At Texasbar.com, click on “for the public,” then “resource categories” and “divorce” to find a wealth of information and necessary do-it-yourself divorce forms. Divorce resources such as these provide a check-list approach to basic property and child-related issues.
In both cases outlined above, when children, real estate or other major assets or debts are involved, each spouse may be giving up valuable rights or making mistakes without the benefit of advice from a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst or a divorce attorney. Sometimes the forms aren’t detailed enough to accomplish what you want to accomplish. In addition, you may not realize what options you have simply because you aren’t knowledgeable about divorce law, or your assumptions about the law are inaccurate. Also, the spouse who doesn’t have equal information or power in the marital relationship could get short changed.
One example that comes to mind was a couple who didn’t have children and only had a few assets, so were headed toward working out an informal divorce agreement. Then, the wife remembered when they married and several years afterward, her husband had worked at a large organization with a retirement plan. He had left the company and conveniently forgot about that asset and didn’t include it when they began developing their divorce agreement. As it turned out, by law, the wife had a community property stake in part of that retirement plan in the divorce.
I often advise couples to get a credit report on themselves and their spouse, and carefully review the details before proceeding with any type of divorce agreement. Keep in mind that one spouse may be listed unknowingly on a credit card account and that makes him or her liable for those debts, even after divorce. What you don’t know can hurt you in a divorce, so be aware of these risks as you proceed with developing an informal agreement.
The next installment in this series on Four Ways to Get Divorced will be Early Intervention Mediation.
*The information contained in this blog post is not a substitute for legal advice. It is intended to give you and your spouse general information on the basics of a particular approach to securing a divorce in Texas.