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Why You should be Careful when Signing Texas Divorce Forms

There are many people who are getting a divorce but are choosing not to hire a Texas divorce attorney. Most of the time, it is because they underestimate the situation, thinking that it’s too simple to be needing a divorce lawyer’s advice. They also think that hiring an attorney is a waste of money because of the sheer simplicity of their case.

However, this is a misconception. There are many people undergoing a divorce who end up losing a lot of money just because they failed to hire a divorce lawyer to guide them properly through the divorce process. In a divorce, sometimes, the most expensive mistake you can make is not in paying for a divorce attorney but in choosing not to hire one.

In divorce cases, there are several documents and forms that need to be signed. These could easily be overlooked and even misunderstood if you are not equipped with the guidance of a divorce lawyer. Although everything may seem easy enough, you might be surprised by the financial consequences such forms and documents will burden you with – a few years later.

Signing a Waiver of Service

Signing this document means that you do not have to be served with citation, and sometimes means you are waiving even more rights than that. Signing a waiver of service often opts you out from receiving legal documents such as documents filed with the court, and most importantly from notices of hearings being set. In order to waive your right to be served, this ‘waiver of service’ must be properly signed, notarized and filed, and it is very important that you read the document you are signing and understand which rights you are giving up.

Let me give you an example of a disaster stemming from the waiver of service. I once met a client whose main concern was the amount he had to pay for child support. It was nearly as much as what he was making every month. He was now in massive debt because of this issue regarding the discrepancy between his income and the amount he had to pay for child support.

The Consequences of NOT Hiring a Divorce Lawyer

The thing that confused him the most (and what led him to get in touch with me) is the fact that he never received any legal document or any formal notification about this. The thing is, if he really has not been served, it’s sometimes possible to reopen the case. However, when I took a look at the copy of the court order he managed to obtain, I found out that he had actually signed a waiver of service in that case. Aside from that, there’s also the fact that no divorce lawyers were involved in the case, and he had nobody to advise him on what to do. To make things worse, he doesn’t even know whether he signed it or not (part of the reason that a notary is required for these). Most likely he simply signed the document without reading it! Trying to deal with the issue now would cost him so much more than what he would have spent if he just hired a Texas divorce attorney to handle the case from the start, and may even cause permanent damage.

Standard Forms Trap

These types of situations are all too common when people sign divorce forms with consulting with a divorce attorney. In another instance like this, I met with a client who should have hired a divorce lawyer from the onset of the case, and basically knew it by this point. The thing is, they settled their matters outside of the court through mediation. It sounds like a case that has no need for an attorney, right? Well, they agreed that they will divide the husband’s retirement account equally using QDRO. If you are not familiar with QDRO, it stands for Qualified Domestic Relations Order.

A QDRO is used to divide pension and retirement funds. It establishes the right of your ex to receive a certain percentage of your pension or retirement and tells the financial service provider how that distribution should work. In short, your ex-spouse will end up as a co-beneficiary of your account.

I found out that she has a MSA (Mediated Settlement Agreement) and a Final Divorce Decree that was downloaded off the internet. Now, QDROs are complicated and detail oriented even for those of us who practice in the field. In fact, they are so finicky that myself and many other divorce attorneys contract this out to other attorneys who specialize in them, so you can imagine how little of a chance a layperson would have. Sure enough, the husband ended up being granted 100% of the pension account despite their intent to do otherwise.

If she had hired a divorce lawyer to guide her through the process from the start, she would have been protected. A divorce attorney would have made sure that what was signed was actually what the parties intended to agree to and would have made sure no error has been made, accidentally or intentionally. We aren’t all-knowing sometimes either, but at the very least, as divorce lawyers we are much more likely to know what information we need, as opposed to a layperson who may have no idea that there is an issue at all.

Know Your Forms and Courtroom Procedures

In another case I came across with, the husband divorced his wife by default. He just gave her notice about the divorce by himself, without the aid of a Texas divorce lawyer. The wife ignored the notice and so, he managed to obtain the divorce by default. All seemed well until the wife hired an attorney and claimed that the husband didn’t use the correct court procedures. Sure enough, the husband had failed to file an inventory and appraisement with the court. This would have explained and justified the division of his property. Because of this, his wife was able to reopen the divorce case.

There are many costly issues post-divorce that would have been avoided if only guidance of family lawyers were available at the time of the divorce process. Forms and documents that you have to deal with during the divorce may look simple enough, but they really need to be handled with care. These forms contain hidden traps that you can easily avoid with help from an experienced divorce attorney.

If you are going through a divorce, or if you are planning to divorce your spouse, it is highly recommended that you seek the guidance of a Texas divorce attorney to make sure that there won’t be loopholes that might haunt you in the future.


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Mr. Hutton is a Divorce and Custody Lawyer based out of Round Rock, TX. His background is with child psychology at Arizona State University where he received a B.S. in 2006, and he continued this by working with the Children’s Right’s Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law where he received his J.D. in 2009. Throughout his practice, he has been a strong proponent of utilizing modern technology to improve his practice and the representation of his clients. He currently is the technology chair of CAFA of Travis County and is committed to improving and modernizing the practice of law in Texas. If you have any questions you can contact him at