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Family Law Guide

Navigating your way through a family law case can be confusing during what is often a stressful and emotional time in your life. Not knowing what to expect can make it even harder. This guide is intended to help you understand What to Expect in Texas Family Law Court.

Legal Assistance Organizations & Other Non-Profit Organizations

  • Legal aid organizations provide free legal help in civil cases for persons and families with low income. To get help from these organizations, you must go through an application process. The 3 largest, full-service legal aid organizations in Texas are:
  • Other legal aid organizations
  • Legal clinics are another way for low-income people with civil legal problems to get free legal advice and help from local lawyers who volunteer their time.

Texas Law Help

The Texas Law Help website is a resource for people who do not have a lawyer. They have information on many topics, including:

  • Eviction and other landlord issues
  • Foreclosure
  • Name changes
  • Divorce
  • Child custody and visitation
  • Child support
  • Criminal records
  • Occupational driver's license
  • Court fines and traffic tickets
  • Health and benefits
  • Debt collection and payday loans
  • Small estates
  • Transfer on death deeds
  • Veterans and military issues
  • Disability rights
  • Immigration rights

Texas Law Help also has a Live Chat service available through its website. With Live Chat, you can type messages to a lawyer or law student who can give you information about the law and point you in the right direction. Live Chat is free.

Alternative Dispute Resolution/Mediation

Going to court may not always be the best way to resolve a problem. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is one way to work out an agreement. Mediation, for example, involves a neutral third party who may help the parties reach a resolution. ADR can be used for many types of cases, including co-parenting, divorce, probate, contract disputes, other civil cases and appeals.

Limited Legal Help (Also called Limited Scope Representation)

Many people cannot afford to hire a lawyer. Limited legal help, also known as “limited scope representation,” is another way to get legal help. Under this kind of arrangement, a lawyer and client agree that the lawyer will provide specific services for an agreed fee. For example, the lawyer and client could agree that the lawyer do one or more (but not all) of the following:

  • only advise the client about the strength of the case;
  • help draft a document;
  • review a document the client has drafted;
  • coach the client for a negotiation;
  • help with the discovery process;
  • coach the client for a hearing;
  • appear in court on behalf of the client for one hearing only; or
  • any combination of these kinds of services.

Hiring a lawyer to handle part of a case can be an affordable alternative to hiring one to take care of the entire case (also called “full representation”), and may be preferable to representing yourself in court - a process that takes time and patience and can be confusing. People who act as their own lawyer are expected to know and follow the same rules that lawyers follow.

Not all cases are suited for limited legal help. Lawyers who are interested in providing limited scope representation may be found using the resources described above in the Finding a Lawyer section. Feel free to ask lawyers if they are willing to provide limited scope representation.

State Bar of Texas

The State Bar of Texas Client-Attorney Assistance Program helps resolve problems between clients and lawyers. Also, a person with a complaint against a lawyer may file a formal complaint (“grievance”) against the lawyer with the State Bar. On the State Bar’s website, select “For the Public,” and then select “Problems with an Attorney” and “Resolve a Dispute” if you have a disagreement with your lawyer, or “File a Grievance” for information on filing a complaint.

The State Bar also publishes a referral directory of legal services and other resources for low-income Texans.

Texas Law Libraries

Law libraries have print and online resources including statutes, regulations, court rules, and court decisions, as well as legal encyclopedias, form books, and books about specific areas of law. Most law books are written for legal professionals, but some books are written for people who are not lawyers. 

Law library staff cannot give legal advice, but they can show people how to use their resources.

Texas State Law Library
205 West 14th Street
Austin, Texas 78701-1614
(512) 463-1722

See their Self Help section.

About the Texas Court System

The Texas Judicial Branch website contains information about the Texas court system.

Texas Forms

  • TexasLawHelp has free forms. TexasLawHelp.org has free forms for many kinds of simple cases. There are 2 ways to get forms from TexasLawHelp.
    • First, TexasLawHelp has forms that a computer program will fill out for you. The website will ask you questions and fill out the forms with your answers. At the end, you can print out the completed form.
    • Second, TexasLawHelp has blank forms that you can print off the website and fill in yourself.
    • It is important for you to understand, though, that not all courts in Texas accept the online or fill-in-the-blank forms from TexasLawHelp.org. Call the clerk’s office to find out whether the courts in your area will accept forms from TexasLawHelp.org.
  • E-filing. The eFile Texas Self Help website has free forms for several kinds of cases. Persons who represent themselves may choose to file their documents electronically (hence “e-filing”) through eFile Texas instead of taking or sending their documents to the clerk’s office. The eFile Texas Self Help website will help you electronically fill out the form you want to file and submit it to the clerk of the court where you want it filed. E-filing requires that you select a service provider (an EFSP—Electronic Filing Service Provider), who will help you file your documents electronically. There are several EFSPs that offer free filing. You are not required to use e-filing, but you may use it.
  • Libraries may have forms. If your county has a law library or a public library, you may find forms there. You can also check with the State Law Library, www.sll.texas.gov,
  • Courts. Some courts have forms available online or in the clerk’s office or county law library. Check on your court’s or county’s website. The Supreme Court of Texas has approved forms for two kinds of cases:

Help Filling Out Forms

If you do not have a lawyer, you may be able to get free help filling out forms:

  • Use TexasLawHelp’s Live Help chat service to talk to a lawyer or law student.
  • A few counties have self-help centers where you may be able to get help in filling out forms in family law cases.
  • Free legal advice clinics are another option where you may be able to get help filling out forms. These clinics are usually put on by local attorney groups.