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In Texas, debate continues over standardized divorce forms

Standardized divorce forms are at the heart of an ongoing professional dialogue in Texas, one that centers on low-income state residents' access to legal guidance in the event of a marital split.

The Texas Supreme Court is now promoting the publication of standardized forms for "do-it-yourself" divorces. Some argue that these forms will grant greater legal accessibility to Texans that are struggling financially. However, others believe the forms' seeming simplicity will mask the inherent complications of property division, child support, spousal maintenance and other complex aspects of family law.

Texas is one of only 13 states that lack standardized divorce forms. Some divorcing couples use these important pieces of paperwork in what are known as pro se divorces, or cases in which individuals advocate for their own interests instead of having an attorney present.

Standardized divorce forms allow parties to essentially represent themselves in divorce court, a practice many cite as problematic for their own cases. Even in relatively simple divorces, overlooking just one legal component can provide for costly ramifications later on.

Currently, Texans going through a divorce can use these forms, but state courts are not necessarily required to accept them. The state Supreme Court formed a Uniform Forms Task Force last year, spurred in part for a push to make divorce easier for low-income couples.

However, experts say that many people who try to represent themselves in court end up going back to court again to fix the mistakes caused by inexperience with the legal system -- making the process perhaps not as simple as the task force would hope for.

Source: Austin-American Statesman, "High court, family lawyers debate push for standardized divorce forms," Cristina Peña, April 2, 2012

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Attorney Christine K. Lincoln

Christine K. Lincoln offers sound counsel and legal services to protect clients and their families facing divorce and other family disputes.

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