Sometimes couples grow apart. Sometimes a marriage just runs its course. Other times, divorce is necessary to escape abuse or adultery. There are many reasons that may prompt married people to separate and divorce.
Whatever the reason, we understand that contemplating divorce is a major step. We know that the divorce process is stressful. We will be fierce advocates for you in the courtroom and objective counselors in private consultations. We will never push you to divorce if reconciliation is possible and desired. For those who do go through with a divorce, we will work to get you the best possible start in your post-divorce life.
Divorce Process and Timeline
Most people considering divorce want to know how long the process will take. The absolute minimum amount of time is sixty days because the Texas Family Code mandates a 60-day waiting (or “cooling-off”) period between the initial filing of the divorce petition and the entry of the final decree of divorce. Of course, most divorces take longer than sixty days, particularly if they are highly contested.
The judge can enter temporary orders shortly after the filing of the divorce. Temporary orders are basically specific requirements that each party must follow while the divorce is pending. These orders may govern custody of the children, child support, spousal support, access to assets such as bank accounts, and even the conduct of the spouses, especially if there are allegations of family violence.
During the waiting period, and often beyond that, each side will typically prepare inventories of property (and debt) and work on coming to agreements on the division of property (and debt), as well as conservatorship and visitation schedules for child custody if there are children of the marriage. Any remaining issues are handled at mediation or final trial.
You have probably heard that Texas is a “community property state.” That is true, but it does not mean that marital property is always divided 50/50. Instead, the division of community property must be “just and right.”
The court takes many factors into account when making a just and right division of property. The court will consider many factors including the spouses’ earning power, conservatorship of the children, and whether either party was at fault in the break-up of the marraige. Typical fault grounds include abandonment, adultery, cruelty, and felony conviction.
Marital property is presumed by law to be community property. It is therefore up to each spouse to prove that certain property is actually his or her separate property. Separate property is specifically defined under Texas law to include: property owned before the marriage, property inherited during the marriage, and property received as a gift during the marriage. It is important to understand that community property is subject to division by the court, but separate property is not. Separate property must always be awarded to the spouse owns that property. Remember, however, that if the spouses executed a valid prenuptial agreement, that agreement will, of course, control the division of property and debt.
Most married couples accumulate debt in addition to accumulating community property. Apportioning debt between the spouses is an important and sometimes very contentious aspect of the divorce process. The court will consider evidence of who incurred the debt and for what reason. The court will also consider each spouse’s ability to pay in dividing up the community debts. Any secured debts will typically be assigned to the spouse that will retain the property securing the debt. For example: the spouse awarded a particular car will alsohave the responsibility for paying off the loan on that car.
Just remember that joint debts, even credit cards listed in just one spouse’s name, are still subject to agreements with the creditors even after a couple divorces, meaning that it is important to be realistic in dividing debts. Setting up a spouse for failure if he or she cannot afford to pay the debt will often have repercussions for the other spouse, too.
“Spousal support” is the Texas Family Code version of what people commonly call “alimony.” The award of spousal support is case specific.. The court must decide if spousal support is necessary for each party to be able to maintain the lifestyle he or she had been accustomed to while married. The judge will consider many factors, including: how long the parties were married, the relative earning capacity of each spouse, the relative level of education of each spouse, the ages of the spouses, the health or disability of each spouse, whether one spouse will have primary responsibility for the couple’s children, and how the property and debts are to be divided. Spousal support may only be awarded on a temporary basis during the pendency of the divorce, or it may be awarded to continue after the divorce is final, but it is usually not awarded for an indefinite length of time.
Other Divorce Law Matters
This firm handles a variety of cases involving divorce-related matters such as:
- Agreed Divorce
- Common-law Marriage
- Contested Divorce
- Division of Business Assets
- Divorce without Children
- Fraud on the Community
- High-Asset Divorce
- Postnuptial Agreements
- Prenuptial Agreements
- Uncontested Divorce