No divorce is ever easy or comfortable. Watching your hopes and dreams collapse can be devastating emotionally. If you are seeking a divorce or anticipating a divorce in the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area, you must be represented by an experienced Dallas divorce attorney who can aggressively fight for your interests while remaining sensitive to your own needs and concerns.
Approximately 75,000 couples seek a divorce in Texas every year. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about divorce in the state of Texas. The answers, of course, can only be general responses, because every couple is different and the details are different in every divorce. For specific advice and guidance regarding your own circumstances, you’ll need to consult an experienced Dallas divorce attorney.
Q: Does it matter under Texas law who initiates the divorce and files the papers?
A: It doesn’t matter legally who files for the divorce. Other than the minor procedural “advantage” that the spouse who files for the divorce gets to talk first, there is no particular legal advantage to filing the divorce papers.
Q: Does one spouse have to show that the other is “at fault” to obtain a divorce in Texas?
A: No. You do not have to show fault to get a divorce in Texas, but if there is fault – such as adultery, for example – it can sometimes be a consideration in the division of marital property and assets. Fault-based grounds for divorce in this state include adultery, cruelty, abandonment, conviction for a felony, living in separation for at least three years, and confinement to a mental hospital, which requires one spouse to be confined to a private or public mental hospital for a minimum of three years and that “the mental disorder is of such a degree and nature that adjustment is unlikely or that, if adjustment occurs, relapse is probable.”
Q: How long does it take to divorce in Texas?
A: Texas law requires at least sixty days to finalize a Texas divorce. Most divorces will take longer. How long any particular divorce takes depends on a number of factors. such as how complicated and extensive the couple’s finances are, how many and which matters are in dispute, and whether or not children are involved. Some Texas courts expedite divorces more-or-less quickly, while other courts in Texas are in no hurry at all.
This includes how complicated and extensive the couple’s finances are, how many and which matters are in dispute, and whether or not children are involved. Some Texas courts expedite divorces more-or-less quickly, while other courts in Texas are in no hurry at all.
Q: How much will a divorce cost in Texas?
A: A divorce can cost quite a lot if the divorcing spouses fight about every detail. Couples can save money – as well as time and aggravation – by pursuing a divorce mediation process that keeps them out of the courtroom. Still, the final cost of a divorce can’t even be roughly estimated until your attorney has an opportunity to review a couple’s financial circumstances.
The cost will depend on a variety of factors that include but are not limited to:
– the extent of the couple’s assets, properties, and debts
– whether or not spouses can agree regarding the division of property, assets, and debts
– whether or not spouses can agree regarding child custody and support
– how long it takes to reach those agreements
– whether a trial is necessary because agreements cannot can be reached
Q: Why do most divorce attorneys require a fee up-front?
A: Most Texas divorce attorneys charge a retainer fee up-front, quite frankly, to make sure that they get paid for their efforts. Most divorce attorneys in Texas are also willing to work with clients and to offer several kinds of payment plans. If you are concerned about attorney fees going into a divorce, speak to an experienced Dallas divorce attorney. Almost always, some kind of reasonable payment terms can be worked out.
Q: When the custody of a child is in dispute, how is that dispute resolved?
A: The ultimate decision regarding which parent will have the primary custody of a child will be made by the court, and courts in Texas make what the law calls a child’s “best interests” the top priority in any decision that involves a child. Nevertheless, in a Texas divorce, when a child is age 12 or above, that child can sign a document called a “Choice of Managing Conservator” which expresses the child’s wishes regarding custody arrangements to the court. The document is in no way binding but will be taken into account when the court makes a final custody determination.
Q: Is legal separation available as an alternative to divorce in Texas?
A: Unlike many states, Texas law does not recognize the concept of legal separation. What this means for someone seeking divorce is that even if you have separated from your spouse, all of the property either of you acquire – and all of the debt – is marital property and marital debt. In other words, in Texas, you’re married until you’re divorced, and there is no legal middle position. Have your lawyer explain the property and debt division rules for divorce so that you understand everything that’s at stake.
Q: Exactly how are assets, properties, and debts divided in a Texas divorce?
A: Texas divorce courts begin the division of property procedure by presuming that all property acquired during the marriage is community property. If either spouse acquired property that should be identified as personal property, the spouse must prove it with what the law calls “clear and convincing evidence.” The court is obligated by law to divide the community property in a “just and right manner” which usually means an even split.
However, in some divorces in this state, unequal earning power or grounds for fault in the marital relationship will be a consideration in the division of assets and properties. Again, every Texas divorce case is different, and the various financial details and circumstances of each couple will be considered when the court makes a final decision regarding marital assets, properties, and debts.
Q: Can spouses receive alimony after a divorce in Texas?
A: In most cases, the answer to that question is no, but there are exceptions. Alimony is called “spousal maintenance” in Texas law, and to receive it, a spouse must prove that there will not be enough property after the division of properties, assets, and debts to meet that spouse’s reasonable, minimum needs.
Having proved that, the spouse requesting spousal maintenance must also prove that at least one of these four situations exists:
– The marriage endured for ten or more years and the requesting spouse has made industrious efforts to either earn sufficient income or to develop income-earning skills while the divorce is pending to meet his or her reasonable, minimum needs.
– The requesting spouse has an incapacitating disability.
– The other spouse has committed family violence.
– A child from the marriage – either a minor or an adult child – has a mental or physical disability that keeps the spouse who cares for the child from earning an adequate outside income.
Q: Can court orders regarding custody, visitation, or child or spousal support be changed?
A: The courts understand that life’s circumstances change. When you divorce, it’s impossible to know the future. Over time, parenting plans and child custody orders can become unworkable or outdated. However, if you need to change a custody, child support, or spousal support order, you’ll need an attorney’s help to request a modification.
On the other hand, if you need to oppose a modification request that your ex has made, you’ll also need a lawyer’s help. When ex-spouses are parents, Texas courts will approve only those modifications that are deemed in the best interests of the child. Modifications may be requested for reasons including but not limited to:
Modifications may be requested for reasons including but not limited to:
– either parent’s new job, loss of a job, or need to relocate
– the incarceration or serious injury of either parent
– the remarriage of either parent or the birth of a new child to either parent
– a change in amount of time either parent spends with the child
– a change in the child’s child care, educational, or medical needs
– any factor that substantially impacts the post-divorce court orders
Divorce law and family law are complicated in the state of Texas, and you can’t go it alone. If you are divorcing or considering divorce, or if you need to change any part of your final divorce decree because circumstances in your life have changed, get the help you need from a lawyer you can trust, and discuss your rights and legal options with an experienced Dallas divorce attorney.