Despite a desire to have a lasting marriage, many spouses are often left with one option: divorce. Divorce is often a complicated matter. With a marriage comes shared property, shared finances, and oftentimes a shared family. Divorce proceedings aim to divide all assets and create rules for child custody. Divorce is an incredibly emotional experience for all parties involved, and many will struggle or become frustrated when the law becomes so deeply intertwined with their personal lives. Divorce can be a slow and cumbersome process, but it helps to know what the basic steps are for a divorce in Texas.
Filing For Divorce In Texas
Texas, like many other states, provides the ability for spouses to file for a "no-fault" divorce. What this means is that both spouses have acknowledged that the marriage has collapsed to the point where it is now irretrievably broken. This is the most common grounds for divorce in Texas. However, in spite of this, Texas also allows for a fault divorce scenario, where one of the spouses may acknowledge the fault of the other in breaking down the marriage. Fault divorce grounds may include adultery, abuse, or abandonment. Fault divorce does not require a separate procedure, however, the "fault" can and most likely will come into play in the courtroom, when property is being divided among the two spouses.
There are certain requirements that the spouses must fulfill before filing for divorce. One of the spouses must have lived in Texas for at least 6 months, and must also have been a resident of the county where the divorce is being filed for at least 90 days. If both of these requirements are met, then one of the spouses may initiate the filing at their county district court. The spouse who initiates the divorce paperwork will be known as the petitioner, while the other spouse will be known as the respondent. While these are traditionally adversarial terms, they will be used regardless of however amicable the divorce is. At the time of a filing, the Petitioner can make a request for a temporary restraining order from the Respondent. This order will create boundaries for any property to remain where it is until divorce proceedings are over, and require that the spouses not make any attempt to harass, threaten, or otherwise interfere with one another's lives. The next step in the process is for the Respondent to file an "answer" and either acknowledge or take issue with the Petitioner's divorce claim. The "answer" must typically be field within 20 business days of the initial filing. During this time period, however, the court may issue temporary orders for custody and support for spouses and children.
The next phase is a discussion and discovery period for the spouses to agree on property division, confirmation of separate property, and other matters pertaining to the divorce including provision relating to the children. IF this cannot be done, the spouses will likely go to mediation either by agreement or by court order. The goal of mediation is to attempt to resolve these issues before the matter must go to a trial. Cases that settle at mediation can save both spouses thousands of dollars by avoiding a final trial.
Clients benefit greatly from the guidance of an attorney throughout the entire divorce process. Experienced Family Law attorneys will be able to provide the necessary legal knowledge, insight, and guidance for spouses going through a divorce. If mediation fails, and the spouses are unable to come to an agreement, the divorce will then move onward to an evidence and argument based trial. Having an attorney at this stage is absolutely crucial, as court hearings will demand representation, and knowledge of court-specific rules of argument, evidence, and conduct.
Additional Issues Pertaining To Divorce
Any individual who has personally experienced divorce or knows someone who has, knows that the dissolution of a marriage is never as simple as just ending the marriage. In fact, there is much more to divorce than what the spouses themselves even consider. A Family Law attorney knows the always evolving law, the pertinent case law, and has the experience to target issues and deal with them appropriately. An experienced attorney is the key to protecting your interest.
In Texas, some spouses may be able to get temporary spousal maintenance while the divorce is pending. This is because income during marriage is community property. The higher earning spouse may have to pay the lower earning spouse some spousal support. In most cases, the court seeks to equalize income between the parties while the case in pending.
Post-divorce alimony or court ordered spousal support are much more difficult to get in Texas. There are a multitude of factors that a court may consider to determine if a spouse should receive spousal support. Before a court can even consider spousal support, the parties must have been married at least 10 years.
Post-divorce alimony is money that is paid to a former spouse as a result of an agreement between the spouses. Alimony is enforced under contract law principles. Alimony is also relatively uncommon, but there are cases where a one spouse may agree to pay alimony for a limited time.
It is important to consult with your attorney about the facts of your case to determine the likelihood of receiving post-divorce spousal support.
Texas courts must divide community property in a just and right manner. Property possessed by either spouse during marriage is presumed to be community property. Separate property may be proven by clear and convincing evidence. Some spouses are concerned that their spouse will take everything. Rest assured this scenario is very uncommon in Texas. An experienced attorney will help you understand the likely outcome of your property division case. It helps to have an attorney on your side who is compassionate, and understands your needs as a client. If you or a loved one is undergoing divorce proceedings, contact Mary Holland and Janine Wilson today.