The Texas Supreme Court said couples with simple divorces should be allowed to complete do-it-yourself forms to save money.
The court said it will allow the public to comment on the idea until Feb. 8, 2013, and then will likely sign it into law.
The new form, if approved, would go into use only for uncontested divorces where there are no child custody dealings or property to split between the two members of the couple.
In potentially allowing the change to do-it yourself forms, the Supreme Court has been questioned by family law attorneys and officials in lower courts who fear people will not understand the document filing process and create problems in their offices.
One Texas lawyer who spoke for family law lawyers called the idea of do-it-yourself paperwork “dangerous.” He said his colleagues did not believe that these forms would protect people adequately. He said the forms are designed to be used in any simple divorce, yet some people have different circumstances and don’t have one-size-fits-all needs. That will lead the errors, he said.
Texas is far behind when it comes to this legal innovation. Already 48 states have the capacity to use documents that are self-filed.
The move is designed to reduce the number of pro bono family law cases in Texas each year. In the high court’s ruling, the justices said that last year, about 58,000 such cases were filed. The judges, mindful there aren’t enough pro bono lawyers to go around and that not everyone can afford a lawyer, said Texas needs to try this method.
A divorce, even a friendly, uncomplicated one, is tough. While it might sound like a good idea for people to file paperwork on their own, that is not something to toy with. A married couple needs to have their interests best represented, but that might not be possible with such forms. Often, there is no substitute for an attorney.
Source: Star-Telegram, “Texas Supreme Court simplifies paperwork for some divorce cases,” Elizabeth Campbell, Nov. 26, 2012