mydaddysprincessApril 2, 2007

Hello, my name is Jennifer, I am from Texas. My husband and I are planning on getting a divorce. We have tried to "work it out" for over a year now with NO success. This is what we both want. We are not fighting and are on good terms and we want to keep it that way. We have talked about it and worked out everything. We have been married for almost 6 years now and have a 5 year old little girl. We both agree that I will have custody of her, he will pay child support and of course have visitation. We have pretty much worked everything out. We are not going to get a lawyer, it's not even an option, we don't have the money. So what I want to ask, is how do I even go about filing for it? I have no clue. Does it matter who does it first? I just go to the court house and file and that's it? I know there is a "waiting" period but other than that, what should I expect? What should I know before filing? Any help/advise is greatly appreciated.

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You know what they say about people being their own lawyers, right? That they have a fool for a client.

Your daughter's health, support, future is at stake here. Even if you both agree now--who's to say that circumstances won't change? What if your husband loses his job at some point and decides he can't afford to pay support? What if he gets remarried to a witch who causes problems?

You can't afford NOT to have a lawyer for something so important. Believe me, it will cost you much more in the long run if you try to manage this yourselves. All lawyers don't charge an arm and a leg. You should be able to find one who will oversee your case for a reduced fee--or even pro bono. There is legal help out there for folks who have low incomes, too. If your husband doesn't want a lawyer, fine, but you absolutely must have one to protect your daughter's future. A good lawyer is going to take care of the needs she has now, and will be able to help you foresee and plan for those she will have in the future (who's going to pay for her braces? What about college expenses? what if she developes a chronic health condition where she would need constant care and you cannot work?).

Please, don't take such a risk. Your daughter deserves so much better, doesn't she?

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 2:48PM
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First, my compliments for behaving like an adult and being able to work together with your husband to reach an agreement about what you both consider to be best for your daughter. That says a lot about both of you, and bodes well for your daughter's future.

That said, Azzalea's right about your really needing a lawyer. NOT to fight things out with your husband, or even to 'get' all you can. Mainly just to be sure that your interests and your daughter's are protected and that you reach an agreement that addresses ALL areas of likely future conflict. Also, if you and your husband have agreed to the particulars, odds are good there will be some things you want to do differently than the "standard" Texas divorce and custody arrangments, and those will need to be written out in legalese.

There are some divorce lawyers that prefer to 'mediate' rather than litigate divorce agreements, and finding one of these sounds like a good fit for you. One of these lawyers will appreciate your choice to be 'civilized' and will work with you to keep things amiable. But at the same time, the lawyer will work to protect your interests. For example, there's a HUGE legal difference between saying "Father will provide health insurance for minor child" and saying "as additional child support, Father will provide health insurance for minor child" -- NOT the kind of thing you would know, right?

So get a good lawyer -- you don't need a 'shark', but don't go with a rookie either. To minimize your costs, do your homework and bring it with you to your meeting. Things to include:

- your proposed custody arrangements (regular days, summers, holidays, distance stipulations, who drives?, relocation restrictions?, anything that changes with the child's age?)
- financial information - assets and liabilities, and your proposed property distribution, tax issues, responsibility for debts, credit cards, accounts, etc.
- any special concerns you have -- medical? legal? religious? re-marriage issues? dating or 'sleepover' restrictions?

Check out some 'do it yourself' type divorce web sites for the types of information you'll need. But again, DON'T do it yourself!

Good luck to you --

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 3:15PM
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Actually, the saying is "a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client".

I think you should have a lawyer do a few things:

Draft & Finalize your property settlement;
Draft & Finalize your custody agreement and child support payments;
Review both 401k and pensions to be sure you are getting what you are entitled to.

Honestly, I would probably have a bit more handled, but if you are adverse, that would be the very minimum I would be comfortable with.

Please remember to re-do your will as well. Change your beneficiary on your life insurance policy, etc. There are many things to be done, just don't not do something so as to avoid a lawyer's office. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you can go to your local legal aid office, you may qualify for some free legal aid, and there's always the library to get the most up to date information. If you want to get the procedural stuff, call your county office and ask to speak with the clerk of the family division. They should be helpful.

What you do not want to do with a lawyer is make him your shrink/therapist. Billing is done on a 6 minute increment basis (hourly billing). If you call the office and talk to your lawyer for 2 minutes, he bills in tenths of an hour which means you are charged for six minutes, regardless if you only use 2 of those minutes. Keep your legal bills to a minimum. It sounds like you have your head screwed on right. However, sometimes as it gets closer to the actual finalization, people tend to get unraveled and emotions come into play.

Best of luck to you.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 4:46PM
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I appreciate everyones advice but there really is no need for a lawyer in my opinion. I am 23 years old he is 27, we don't have alot of property and stuff to really divide so I just don't see the need for an attorny. Couldn't we just write down everything as far as child support and all those things, sign the paper and have it notarized?

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 5:19PM
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The court doesn't care about your opinon. What they want is be able to sign off on the state's interest in your union and your child. And they don't like to be presented with muddles from inexperienced people. Especially since there is a child involved, the court will have an interest -- much more so than if it was just the two of you and your property considerations.

Uncontested divorces (although I've never actually known one -- good for you!) can be easy and cheap. However, unless you are a lawyer or know one, you should find one and have them wrap this up for you or at least tell you exactly what to do. Can't imagine it would be more than a couple hundred tops.

What you don't want is to get down the road a few months or years and find out something was left undone or improperly done. This is your life. You do need to make sure its properly wrapped up. On behalf of the child, the state will insist on it. One lawyer can serve you both. However, do get one.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 5:34PM
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What if you agree on $50 a week child support & your husband turns out to be a new Bill Gates?

& what if he decides that he should have your daughter?

& he'll have the money to keep you in court until you run out of money, & then he'll get what he wants by default.

or what if he re-marries & decides his youthful marriage to you is embarrassing & he doesn't want to acknowledge his responsibilities to your daughter?

If you're in or near Dallas, you can call the Dallas Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service at 214 220 7400, & they'll give you the phone # of an attorney who will counsel you for (seems like) 30 minutes for $20.

The attorney is actually doing it pro-bono; the $20 goes to the Bar Association to keep the Lawyer Referral Service going.

Write down what you think is the best way to handle the divorce, take it to the lawyer, & *write down every single thing he/she says.*

It'll be the best $20 you ever spent.

(forgot to say: sometimes the court will not grant a divorce where there's a minor child unless an attorney is involved; if the court suspects that the child's best interests are not being protected, the judge will appoint an attorney for the child no matter how "congenial" the divorce is for the parents.)

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 7:59PM
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Believe me, I'm all for keeping things civil, for being fair, for working with your spouse rather than against him, to the full extent possible...

And I'm as careful with a buck as the next person...

And I understand your not wanting things to take a nasty, competitive or combative turn...

But there comes a point where it's not being "nice" -- it's being foolish. No -- Stupid. You NEED a lawyer to review your agreements. You may not want one, but you need one.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 9:44PM
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If you have a child, you should be using a lawyer. The fact that you don't realize this and the fact that you say you don't have the money for a lawyer only drives home the point that you most definitely need one. Don't be foolish...you will be the one out..not your Ex.

You should also be able to consult with many lawyers free of charge if you are considering a divorce, why don't you at least try that first? If nothing else, they can tell you what to do. Call around; you should be able to find some that offer the first consult free, and even if not, one consult fee shouldn't kill you.

A divorce doesn't have to cost a lot. If everything is resolved beforehand the lawyers will just file things for you, but only they really know what and how to do that...you don't. Ask them about arbitration which 'may' be even cheaper.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 11:28PM
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I live in Canada so I'm not sure if this can apply but this is how we are handling our settlement. I have written down everything from how our visitation will work (days, holidays, taking out of province/state, etc), to division of assets, to tax benefits (who will declare our daughter as a dependant), everything that we could think of. I brought this document to a lawyer, who will present it to my husband. His lawyer will go over it and make any changes. My husband will sign it, and it will be drawn up as a final agreement. As I drew up the agreement, I consulted with him, so he has already agreed to the document. You do need a lawyer, but can minimize the costs this way.
Regarding your child, remember she has the right to see both of you, so try to be as flexible as possible with visitation - you'll come out looking like the winner. And never, ever criticize her(or allow anyone else) dad in front of her, she is half him and she will take that as a criticism of her. Best of luck to you, regardless of any circumstances divorce always hurts, especially children.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 6:43AM
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As long as a child is involved, you NEED a lawyer. No one can predict the future no matter what you both agree to now. So much can happen between now and when your daughter is of legal age to be on her own.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 1:14PM
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Call me crazy but I thought you had to have a lawyer!! I guess that shows how much I know...how can you get a divorce without having a representatvie? Anywho, my divorce was very civil and it cost $250 or $300 (uncontested of course). The lawyer covers completely everything that needs to be covered. As a matter of fact she tried to get me to get more money by adding this and that...until I told her that I wasn't trying to screw him over, we just wanted it black and white. We did not have much out of or marriage other than of course our dauther. We had a house and my daughter and I stayed in it. When I remarried, I sold it and gave him the % to up to the time he moved out. That was not in the papers. This is wonderful that you can get along this well, it will pay off! We have been divorced for 10 years and I have been remarried for 4 years, so is my ex, and we still get along. We have never even went back to look at our papers, couldn't tell you where they are! Now that doesn't mean you should look at it that way. Usually the only thing that can raise questions of divorce papers are new people in your life. Luckily there, that is not a problem for us. I would get an attorney though. You can filefor the divorce but that will be your attorney and your husband will not be represented. Gook Luck!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 5:32PM
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