There are 10 specialized courts in Harris County dedicated to handling exclusively family law matters. In those ten family law courts there were over 18,485 original suits filed in January 2022 alone. Most, if not all, of these families wonder, “How much does a divorce cost in Houston, Texas?” or “What will this custody suit cost me?”. Unfortunately there is no clear cut answer to this question. Each family is different.
The issues that emerge from one family to the next vary widely as do the emotions that litigants bring to the process, both of which can increase expenses associated with their proceeding. The cost of your divorce or child custody proceeding will hinge on complexity of the underlying issues as well as the level of acrimony between you and your spouse or child’s parent. Most family law attorneys bill by the hour with varying rates depending on their experience.
How Much Does a Divorce Cost in Houston, Texas, If I Don’t Hire a Lawyer?
The law doesn’t require you to have an attorney to get a divorce. Litigants who choose to represent themselves are referred to as “pro se” litigants. If you are pro se, you must submit the petition for dissolution of a marriage, appear in court, and file other required documents within the timelines. Although pro se litigants are not attorneys, they are expected to be familiar with the law as it applies to their proceeding and follow it accordingly.
Sometimes proceedings may not involve children, extensive assets, or there is a low level of conflict between the spouses. In those instances, some individuals feel they can handle the divorce process on their own and, in some instances, do so with success. However, it is risky to go through a divorce without an attorney, especially if your spouse has a lawyer. While it may be tempting to simply accept the terms your spouse presents you with to end the process quickly, this can cost you big later. You may find yourself stuck in a custody situation you don’t really think is best for your child or without property which you would have otherwise been entitled to receive, resulting in an unfair division of your estate. If you have an attorney to assist you through the process, he or she will be able to advise you of your rights and fight to ensure those rights are protected throughout the process.
How Much Does a Divorce Lawyer Cost in Houston, TX?
The cost of a divorce depends on the level of conflict and the number of issues. The more time your attorney needs to spend with you preparing for hearings, appearing in court, mediating, and reaching agreements will add to your costs. Many people hire an attorney for full representation, but you can hire a lawyer for certain aspects of your case if you need to budget. For example, if you and your spouse have worked out a parenting plan, you can have an attorney review your agreement before submitting it to the court.
Houston Divorce Attorney Cost Increases with Conflicts, Hearings, and Trial
The total cost of a divorce attorney will depend on the lawyer’s rate and the amount of time the lawyer must spend on your case. If your divorce is “high-conflict,” the lawyer will need to spend more time preparing you for court and working out issues. High-conflict cases involve:
- Repeated reliance on the adjudicative process,
- Anger and distrust, and
- Difficulty in communicating about and cooperating in the care of children.
In these cases, your costs will be higher than if you can cooperate with your ex-spouse. When you need to go to trial, the cost of your divorce can more than double.
How Much Does a Divorce Cost In Houston: Major Factors That Can Drive up the Cost of Divorce in Texas
When thinking about how much is a divorce in Houston, Texas, consider how many issues you need to resolve and how contested the issues are. The longer it takes to reach an agreement, the more expensive the divorce will be. Consider these common issues.
Fault or No-Fault
Texas law includes seven grounds for divorce. Three are no-fault, meaning that no one is at fault, and you don’t need to give further reason for the divorce. The no-fault grounds are insupportability (you cannot support the marriage because you disagree), living apart for at least three years, and confinement in a mental hospital. A divorce on these grounds usually costs less because you don’t need to present additional evidence or contest the facts.
If you are applying for a fault divorce, you must prove that one person is at fault for the divorce. You’ll need to present evidence of cruelty, adultery, felony conviction, or abandonment with the intent not to return. Your attorney will need time to help you collect the evidence and prepare you to present it at trial.
Texas law presumes no need for spousal maintenance, alimony, or spousal support. However, if one spouse cannot earn sufficient income to provide for their minimum reasonable needs, the providing spouse may have to make maintenance payments for some time. In these cases, the time your attorney will need to spend asking for or defending against the case for alimony will add to your costs.
When a divorce involves children, you and your spouse must develop a parenting plan. You can work out a plan independently, or the family court judge will order one for you. Your parenting plan will outline the rights and duties of each parent when they have possession of the child and how you will make legal decisions for the child. Child custody agreements are one of the most hotly contested issues and can quickly increase the cost of your divorce.
Division of Assets
The Texas Family Code presumes that property obtained during the marriage is community property divided at divorce. The court will order division depending on its opinion of what is just and right, considering the rights of the spouses and any children. Disagreements over asset division frequently involve lengthy negotiations and, in some circumstances, a trial.
The Stout Law Firm, PLLC, and Comprehensive Houston Divorce Attorneys Cost
When you’re facing divorce, it’s a good idea to have an experienced, compassionate divorce attorney to support you through the process. At The Stout Law Firm, we’ve helped many families through complex and contested divorces. Our attorneys are certified specialists in family law and are experienced with the Texas Family Code and family courts. While divorce is expensive, we can help you simplify the process and leave with a divorce decree that accomplishes your goals. Contact us today.