Financial Resources & Help When You Are Divorcing with a Low Income
This article tells you about resources for financial help when you are divorcing and you have a low income.
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 certain 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 this form:
● Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs or an Appeal Bond (called Statement for short).
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: Article: Court Fees & Fee Waivers.
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 agreement of the spouses.
Spousal maintenance: Spousal maintenance can be ordered by a judge 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. - or -
- 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.
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.
If you need orders right away, you may ask a judge to make a temporary restraining order (TRO) and/or temporary orders. 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 is different from a temporary restraining order. If you need a family violence protective order call the National Domestic Violence 24 Hour Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE (7233).
Temporary orders in cases involving children can include any order necessary for the safety and welfare of the children and typically include 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 & Temporary Restraining Orders (TRO’s).
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 “non-custodial parent.”
- Ask for child support as part of your divorce case when there is not already a final custody order by using the following toolkit that includes instructions and do-it-yourself forms: I need a divorce. We have minor children.
- 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.
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.
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: Tex. Family Code chapter 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, Medical Support, & Dental Support.
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 support. In divorced filed after September 1, 2018, dental support will be ordered as well.
For more information, read: Child Support, Medical Support, & 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.
Continued health insurance when a divorce is pending can sometimes be ordered by a judge in temporary orders, or in standing orders of your divorce court. For more information, read: Article: Temporary Orders & Temporary Restraining Orders (TRO’s).
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.
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.”
A judge may or may not grant your request for interim attorney’s 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, and
- 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 (TRO’s).
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:
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): http://www.southcentralpension.org/html/services.html.
- For more information, read: Dividing Retirement Benefits upon Divorce – Fact Sheet.
Get more information about how property is divided on divorce here: Dividing Your Property & Debt on a Divorce.
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 & Training. This program provides work-related training, education opportunities, and assistance with searching for employment. Get more information here:
- 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. Get more information here:
- Job training and education programs are available through TWC here:
- Job seeker registration and job searching is available here: WorkInTexas.com.
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: https://www.sll.texas.gov/self-help.
- Texas Access and Visitation Hotline, operated by Legal Aid of Northwest Texas, offers free advice on common issues in divorce involving children: http://www.txaccess.org.
- For more information and resources for getting and enforcing child support, contact the Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division: https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cs/about-the-child-support-program.