The Family Law Section of the State Bar of Texas announced today
that do-it-yourself divorce forms approved by the Texas Supreme Court
last week could put the property rights of Texans at risk.
"Because of the potential for confusion and chaos in legal
services posed by the use of forms without pro bono lawyers to interpret
them," says Diana Friedman, Dallas family law attorney and Chair of the
Section, "members plan to continue working on efforts to provide pro
bono legal services to indigent citizens faced with the prospect of
The Court recently issued an order concerning do-it-yourself
divorce forms to be approved by the Court for pro se representation in
divorce cases throughout the state. Texas family law attorneys have
reviewed the order and the divorce forms and found many inconsistencies.
The Section's full statement follows:
"While the Family Law Section of the State Bar of Texas opposes
the Texas Supreme Court's order approving forms for pro se divorce, the
Court's actual words affirm our basic premise that having an attorney in
legal services to hanle a divorce is far superior to any possible form.
… the Court recognizes that obtaining legal representation, pro
bono or otherwise, for every pro se litigant would be ideal …
We believe approval of the divorce forms is a rush to judgment by
the Court. It is a decision that lacks vision and innovation by simply
going along with what has been offered in other states. The problem is
not too few pro bono lawyers to handle this situation. It's a failure of
organization, of taking a systematic approach to serving the indigent
With this in mind, we will continue to mobilize the pro bono
lawyers of Texas to increase efforts beginning with our award-winning
Pro Bono Initiative of identifying attorneys willing to train and take
pro bono divorce cases across the state.
We are ramping up the activities of our program Family Law Cares,
with plans to team up with non-family lawyers in large-city firms, bring
the use of technology to teamwork between lawyers and the state's legal
services providers and utilize recent law graduates and law students.
The Court's order mentions that 58,000 Texas divorces were filed
pro se in 2011. We believe that approving Court-sanctioned divorce forms
will increase that number. Some people divorcing with the use of forms
could wind up waiving their property rights or other rights because they
don't understand the process. It could also lead to clogged courtrooms
and a slow-down of the civil justice system around the state because
judges will have to take their time to explain what attorneys do now.
If you start with divorce forms sanctioned by the Supreme Court,
then more and more people will rely on forms. If legal representation is
the most important part of the system, you may still have some who
divorce using forms, but more people will have the advantage of a real,
live attorney at this most difficult and emotional time of their lives."
The Texas Family Law Council is the governing body of the Family Law
Section of the State Bar of Texas. The Section is made up of about 6,000
attorneys statewide who handle divorce and other family law-related
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