How Much Does a Divorce Cost in Texas?

Answering this question is like answering “How much does a car cost in Texas”? It varies drastically depending on a number of factors.  Although filing fees vary somewhat depending on what county you live in, that issue is not going to be what determines the cost of your divorce in Texas.  Other factors are going to play a larger role such as the following:

  • Are children involved?

  • Are issues related to your children in dispute?

  • Are there fault grounds being alleged?

  • Is there substance abuse involved related to one spouse?

  • Is one spouse angry, bitter or vindictive toward the other?

  • Has one spouse wasted assets during the marriage?

  • How much property is involved?

  • What is the nature of the debt involved?

  • Is characterization of the property in dispute?

  • What is the nature of the property involved?

  • Is there ownership in closely held corporations which are subject to valuation disputes?

  • Are there claims of reimbursement from one estate to the other?

  • Who is the attorney representing your spouse?

Cost of Uncontested Simple Divorce

If you haven’t been married long and you and your spouse just want to dissolve the marriage quickly, it may be relatively inexpensive to get a divorce.  If there are no children and very little property, these divorces are referred to as uncontested simple divorces.

Divorces where there are nominal assets and debts and where there are no children involved can be handled by many lawyers for under $2,500.  These types of cases do not warrant trial, litigation or the cost of a board-certified family law specialist.

Contested Divorces with Child Related Issues

Some of the most expensive divorces are those that are contested and involve children.  However, even some of these cases can often be simplified.  There are presumptive guidelines set forth in the Texas Family Code which provide parameters which judges normally follow, absent extenuating circumstances.  For example, there are presumptive guideline percentages of one’s income for child support purposes.  If that is in dispute, you should consult a seasoned divorce attorney who can remove a large part of the dispute.

Likewise, although some people may think they have a contested custody case, after an in-depth consultation with a board-certified family law specialist and after both sides attend mediation with their attorneys present, many of these cases which parent’s thought were going to be contested custody cases turn out to be resolved early on.  The “true custody cases” are ones where neither side is willing to budge on their demand to have the day-to-day care of the children, where both parents feel like they have been the primary caregiver of the children historically, or perhaps where circumstances such as substance abuse preclude one parent from functioning in that role any longer.  These cases can be expensive due to the amount of discovery needed to prove the claims being asserted.

Added Costs of Appointment of Amicus Attorney

If your divorce involves child custody, issues you may have to face the additional cost of an amicus attorney to represent the children’s interest.  Most judges will appoint an amicus attorney in contested child custody cases, whether the parties request it or not.  The amicus attorney is required to interview the children, the parents, collateral sources such as doctors, teachers, other caregivers and friends.  The amicus attorney also participates in depositions, mediation and trial.  The cost of the amicus attorney is shared amongst the parties.  It could be on an equal percentage basis or disproportionate basis depending on the earnings of the parties.

Cost of Contested Property in a Divorce

Even if contested child issues do not exist in your case, contested and complex property issues can significantly increase the cost of divorce.  For example, although all property owned by the parties is presumed to be community property, subject to being divided between the parties in an equitable manner, oftentimes a party may have substantial separate property he or she desires to preserve.  Separate property is property owned by one party either before marriage, given to that party as a gift during the marriage, or inherited by that party during the marriage.

Since all property is presumed to be community property, the party asserting a separate property claim must overcome that presumption proving by clear and convincing evidence that this property is theirs.  This process may be tedious and time consuming, depending on the length of the marriage, when these assets became the separate property of the spouse claiming them as their separate estate and whether these assets were commingled with other assets such as community assets.

 

To overcome the presumption, the party making this claim may have to retain a forensic accountant to trace not only the origin of when they came into ownership of the asset but to trace and segregate the assets from community property, if commingled, from that time until divorce. If the value of the separate property claim is substantial, then it is worth doing this tracing.  To determine the issue, and the cost involved, contact a divorce attorney in Houston.

Other property issues that may increase the cost of litigation include “reimbursement claims”. These typically involve claims where one party has used their own separate property, assets owned by them, to pay debts for the community estate or debts owed solely by the other party prior to marriage.  These reimbursement claims could also include circumstances where the community assets were used to pay debts owed by the other party’s separate estate.  These claims can become very intricate and may also require the retention of a forensic accountant to not only trace the source of funds used to pay the debts, but the amount of the debt paid.

Cost of Mediation in a Divorce

Mediation is mandatory in most cases before a trial is allowed to proceed.  It is commonly understood that mediation is useful in helping to resolve disputes in contested divorces.  While the mediator is not a judge, and therefore cannot make rulings, an experienced mediator can assist the parties and their attorneys to creatively craft a resolution to their issues that may not be available to a judge, and often at great savings.  Mediation usually occurs over the span of a day, and if the parties are well prepared going into the mediation, and sufficient discovery has been completed to narrow the issues in dispute, many cases can be resolved that day, saving days of trial and additional costs of legal fees, not to mention arriving at an agreement that both parties can live with.

As you can see, there are so many variables that govern the cost of divorce.  Unless the case is contested, it's very difficult for any experienced attorney to give a definitive answer to what the ultimate cost of handling a divorce will be.  It can even vary depending on what attorney your spouse retains.  Is that attorney knowledgeable and experienced in handling divorce cases? Is he or she reasonable to deal with?  There have been cases where attorneys have to increase their retainers simply because of a recalcitrant attorney on the opposing side.

A good divorce attorney may also set more reasonable rates if they know the other attorney is experienced in divorce matters. That is not to suggest that your attorney will be a push over.  The point is competent, attorneys will know what the evidence needs to be on certain issues and are willing to analyze issues early on to determine whether a real contest exists in a divorce. In short, it’s well worth your time to have an initial consultation with an attorney to discuss the parameters and issues involved in your unique situation.