Financial Resources and Help When You Are Divorcing with a Low Income
Here, learn about possible financial and other resources if you are going through a divorce and have a low income. For example, court fees can be waived. There are workforce training and re-entry programs. Also, in some circumstances, you can get temporary spousal support. You can apply for legal aid or ask lawyers if they will work on a sliding scale or offer limited-scope legal representation.
What if I don’t have money to pay for court costs?
It costs money to file (turn in) an Original Petition for Divorce, and for other filings in your divorce. Court costs include, for example, fees paid to file a counter-claim (also known as a counter-petition) if you are the respondent or asking the judge to make specific orders in your case.
However, if you have a low income, you may qualify to have your court fees waived. To ask the court for a fee waiver, fill out a Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs or an Appeal Bond. This form tells the judge you cannot afford to pay the court fees. Fill it out completely in blue or black ink and sign it. Do not leave blanks. For more information, read Court Fees and Fee Waivers.
How can I get financial support from my spouse while my divorce is pending and after my divorce is final?
The law says that certain parties in divorce are eligible for financial support from their spouse while a divorce case is pending, and for a set amount of time after a divorce is final. The different types of support include:
Temporary spousal support: While a divorce is pending, the judge may order one spouse to make temporary payments for the support of the other spouse. A judge can order temporary spousal support if the judge decides it is necessary and fair. You can ask for temporary spousal support by filing a Motion for Temporary Orders and setting a hearing.
Contractual alimony: Contractual alimony is money one spouse is ordered to pay the other spouse after the divorce based on the spouses' agreement.
Spousal maintenance: A judge can order spousal maintenance even if the parties do not agree. Spousal maintenance can be hard to get. The judge can only order spousal maintenance if the spouse asking for it will not have enough property after the divorce to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs and:
- The other spouse has been convicted or received deferred adjudication for a family violence offense against the other spouse or the other spouse’s child within two years of the filing of the divorce or while the divorce is pending; or
- The spouse asking for spousal maintenance is unable to earn enough money to meet his or her minimum reasonable needs because of an incapacitating physical or mental disability;
- The marriage has lasted for at least 10 years, and the spouse asking for spousal maintenance lacks sufficient property or income to provide for his or her reasonable needs; or
- The spouse asking for spousal maintenance is unable to earn enough money to meet his or her minimum reasonable needs because the spouse is the primary caretaker of a disabled child of the marriage. The disabled child may be an adult.
Read the law here: Texas Family Code, Chapter 8.
Important: The TexasLawHelp.org divorce forms do not include requests for temporary spousal support, contractual alimony, or spousal maintenance. Talk to a lawyer if you want temporary spousal support, contractual alimony, or spousal maintenance.
Note for immigrant spouses: If a spouse is a sponsored immigrant, he or she could enforce the Affidavit of Support executed by the other spouse and ask the judge to order the other spouse to provide support until the immigrant spouse becomes a U.S. citizen or until he or she has earned 40 credits of work history. Talk to a lawyer if you think you qualify.
For more information, read Filing a Divorce with Children and Filing a Divorce without Children
What if I need financial support from my spouse right away?
If you need orders immediately, you may ask a judge to make a temporary restraining order (TRO), temporary orders, or both. A temporary restraining order lasts until you can have a temporary orders hearing. Temporary orders typically last until the divorce is finished.
Note: A family violence protective order differs from a temporary restraining order. Call the National Domestic Violence 24-Hour Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) if you need to find an agency to help you get a family violence protective order.
Temporary orders in cases involving children can include any order necessary for the safety and welfare of the children and typically have orders regarding:
- temporary conservatorship (custody)
- temporary possession (visitation)
- temporary child support
- the provision of health insurance
- the exchange of financial information necessary to set child support
In divorce cases, temporary orders also can include:
- temporary use of property
- temporary payment of debts
- temporary spousal support
- interim attorney’s fees
- the exchange of information necessary to fairly divide property and debt
Read this short article to learn more: Temporary Orders and Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs).
How do I ask for child support?
A parent who does not have primary custody of a child is expected to pay child support. The parent ordered to pay child support is called the obligor or noncustodial parent.
- Ask for child support as part of your divorce case when there is not already a final custody order by using the following guide that includes instructions and do-it-yourself forms: I need a divorce. We have children under 18.
- If a judge has already made a final custody order about your child, you can ask the judge to change the order to include child support as part of a modification case with this toolkit: I need to change a custody, visitation, or support order.
If you need help choosing the correct forms, use our Ask a Question tool to chat with a law student or lawyer online or use our Legal Help Directory tool to search for legal help in your area
Note: The instructions are for uncontested cases (agreed or default). If your case is contested, it is best to get help from a lawyer or the Texas Attorney General Child Support Division.
How much child support is typically ordered as part of a divorce?
Texas law sets the following general guidelines for calculating child support. Child support based on these guidelines is called “guideline child support.”
1 child = 20% of the non-custodial parent’s average monthly net resources
2 children = 25% of the non-custodial parent’s average monthly net resources
3 children = 30% of the non-custodial parent’s average monthly net resources
4 children = 35% of the non-custodial parent’s average monthly net resources
5 children = 40% of the non-custodial parent’s average monthly net resources
6 or more children = not less than 40% of the non-custodial parent’s average monthly net resources
Read the law here: Texas Family Code 154.125. You can use the Texas Attorney General Child Support Calculator to calculate guideline child support.
Note: There are exceptions to the general guidelines. For example, guideline child support is slightly different if the noncustodial parent has other children. Get more information here: Child Support in Texas and Child Support and Lower Incomes.
Will my spouse have to continue providing health insurance for our children during or after divorce?
Continued health insurance coverage (or cash medical support) for children is commonly ordered as part of a divorce case. The parent that is ordered to pay child support is usually the parent that is ordered to pay medical and dental support.
For more information, read Child Support, Medical Support, and Dental Support.
Are there any free resources for assistance with child support, medical support, and dental support?
Yes. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) offers free help getting child support, medical support, and dental support.
Although the OAG cannot represent you, the OAG may be able to help you get a custody, visitation, child support (including back child support), medical support, and dental support order. For information about opening a case with the OAG, call (800) 255-8014 or go to its website: Texas Attorney General Child Support Division.
Will my spouse have to continue providing health insurance for me during or after divorce?
A judge can sometimes order continued health insurance when a divorce is pending in temporary orders or the standing orders of your divorce court. For more information, read Temporary Orders and Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs).
Talk with a lawyer right away if you need continued health insurance coverage from your spouse. If the insurance is cut off, you may not be able to get it back.
Note: The TexasLawHelp.org divorce forms do not include continued health insurance for a spouse after divorce.
Can I get my spouse to pay for a lawyer to represent me in our divorce?
If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, you may ask that your spouse be ordered to pay for a lawyer to represent you in your divorce. This is usually called “interim attorney’s fees.” Read Attorneys' Fees in Family Law Cases.
A judge may or may not grant your request for interim attorneys' fees. A judge is more likely to grant your request for interim attorney’s fees if:
- your spouse has a lot more money than you do;
- your spouse has a lawyer; and
- the issues in your divorce are complicated.
You can ask for interim attorney’s fees as part of a Motion for Temporary Orders. Get information about temporary orders here: Article: Temporary Orders & Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs).
It’s a good idea to talk with a lawyer in your county about local practice regarding interim attorney’s fees. If you need help finding a lawyer, you can:
- Use our Legal Help Directory to search for a lawyer referral service, legal aid office, or self-help center in your area.
- Check our Legal Events and Clinics calendar for free legal clinics in your area.
- Use Ask a Question to chat online with a lawyer or law student.
What share of property can I expect to get as part of our divorce?
Your separate property: 100%. The law says that separate property cannot be divided on divorce. Once something is proved to be separate property, a judge will confirm that property as the separate property of that spouse.
Community Property: A “just and right” division. (This does not necessarily mean 50/50.) Common examples of community property include:
- Wages and bonuses of either spouse earned during the marriage;
- Retirement savings of either spouse earned during the marriage;
- Property bought by either spouse during the marriage (paid for with community property);
- Payments for the personal injuries of either spouse (for lost earning capacity during the marriage and medical expenses during the marriage);
- The following investment earnings or growth: Cash dividends and interest earned on either spouse’s separate property during the marriage; and dividends on community stock and capital gain on community property.
Retirement Benefits Earned During Marriage: Usually community property subject to a “just and right” division. Texas Legal Services Center’s (TLSC’s) South Central Pension Rights Project helps eligible individuals with Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs).
Get more information about how property is divided on divorce in Dividing Your Property and Debt on a Divorce.
How can I get help with job training and entry into the workforce?
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) offers workforce training, job seeking assistance, and financial assistance for childcare to qualified individuals through the following programs and sites:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Employment and Training. This program provides work-related training, education opportunities, and assistance with searching for employment.
- Child Care Services Program. This program offers financial assistance for childcare to low-income families so that they can attend training, education activities or so they can work.
- Job training and education programs are available through the Texas Workforce Commission.
- Job seeker registration and job searching is available here: WorkInTexas.com.
Where can I get more information on financial help during a divorce?
The websites listed below offer additional resources for self-help, free legal advice and financial support:
- The Houston Bar Association Family Law Section published the following handbook with helpful information: Family Law Handbook.
- For program names and contact information on need-based help with food, medical and financial assistance generally, read this short article: Public Benefits.
- The Texas State law Library has free, self-help legal resources:
- Texas Access and Visitation Hotline offers free advice on common custody and visitation issues.
- For more information and resources for getting and enforcing child support, contact the Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division.
I need a divorce. We have children under 18.
I need a divorce. We do not have minor children.
I need a divorce. We have minor children. A final custody and support order is already in place.
My spouse filed for divorce.
Attorneys' Fees in Family Law CasesThis article discusses fee shifting: when the court orders an opposing party to pay the other party’s attorneys’ fees.
How to Select a LawyerThis article explains what to consider when hiring a lawyer.
Dividing Your Property and Debt in a DivorceThis article tells you about dividing your property and debt in a divorce.
Dividing Retirement Benefits Upon DivorceThis article explains retirement benefits and how they can be divided in a divorce.
Temporary Orders and Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs)This article tells you about temporary orders and temporary restraining orders (TROs) in family law cases.
Child Support in TexasThis article discusses child support in Texas, including how to get or change a child support order.
Divorce and Real EstateThis article tells you about getting divorced when you and your spouse own (or are purchasing) a house or land.
Court Fees and Fee WaiversIf you don’t have enough money to pay the court fees, you can ask a judge to waive the fees.
Food Stamps (SNAP)This article explains the basics of food stamps, also known as SNAP benefits.