Often times in a consult, a potential client will confess he or she is experiencing financial hardship and cannot afford a divorce. Both contested and uncontested divorces are costly. However, you can save some time and money if you have a low-conflict and straightforward case, by obtaining a child support order from the Office of the Attorney General’s Child Support Division prior to filing for divorce. The office cannot assist with the divorce but can assist with obtaining a child support order which is called a “Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship” (SAPCR).
In the State of Texas, a party can go to their local field office at the Office of the Attorney General’s Child Support Division and request services to initiate a child support order for “free”. The location of the field office is determined by your zip code. The phone numbers are listed on the official Attorney General website at www.oag.state.tx.us. The Attorney General’s Office can assist with establishing paternity, setting child support, custody and visitation. The office cannot customize the orders in any way and if the parties cannot reach an agreement the case will be filed in court. At that juncture, parties may need to hire their own attorneys or represent themselves in court. However, once the parties reach an agreement or the judge makes a ruling the order will be final and is fully enforceable.
Next, a party can then take the SAPCR order to a divorce lawyer and file for divorce. The only issues left to finalize would be the division of marital assets and liabilities. The SAPCR can then be attached and referenced in the final decree of divorce. This step will save a party time and money because the issues of paternity, child support, custody and visitation will all have been addressed in the SAPCR.
This is a viable option when you have a simple case and are on a tight budget. The downside is that the Child Support Division cannot customize the order to suit the parties’ needs. You are better off hiring an attorney if you need a customized visitation schedule, have a contentious relationship, custody is being contested, or where the parties cannot agree on any major issue such as the child support amount.
Finally, the option to use the Child Support Division is not available if a private divorce action is already pending. You need to open up a case with their office prior to taking any legal action. Once you obtain your SAPCR, go see a family law attorney to assist you in filing for your divorce.