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Basic Information About Divorce and Separation

A divorce is a court judgment terminating a legal relationship called marriage. There are different kinds of divorces, depending on what you want to happen. If you want to end your marriage, you must file for divorce. You can do this either in person or online.

If you want to split up property or debts, you might need to go to court. This is called equitable distribution. You can do it yourself or hire someone to help you.

You can also ask the court to decide custody of children, visitation rights, child support, alimony, and even whether you pay taxes jointly or separately.

Is Divorce My Only Option?

Married couples may choose to live separately for religious, personal, and financial reasons or for other reasons such as the protection of one spouse against the other. If you are separated, you may want to consider living separate lives even though you are still legally married. This is called "living apart together."

In some states, there may be no legal grounds for separating. In others, it may be possible to obtain a judgment of separation. However, in most cases, the couple must continue to live together and cohabit for a period of time before obtaining a final decree of dissolution of marriage.

If you are considering whether to pursue a legal separation, you might ask yourself questions like:

  • Do I really want to end our relationship?
  • Am I willing to give up certain things?
  • How much money do we have saved?
  • Will my family support me financially?
What is the Difference Between a Divorce and Separate Support?

A judgment of divorce ends the marital relationship. A judgment of separate support does NOT end the marriage.

Although there are differences between them, a separate support judgment can cover many of the same issues as divorce, including custody, parenting time, child support, support payments for one of the spouses, and property division.

You file different types of paperwork depending on what type of case you are filing. If you want to seek separate support, you must file a petition for separate maintenance. If you want to file a divorce where your spouse was found to be at fault, you must file a complaint for divorce. If you want to pursue a divorce where neither party was found to be at blame, you must file a no-fault divorce action.

What is a Legal Separation?

If you decide to live separately from your partner, you do not have any obligations to pay child support, alimony, or maintenance. You cannot take away his/her assets. You do not have to agree to anything. You do not have any obligation to provide financial assistance to your spouse.

You can still go through probate court to end your marriage. You can also file for a judgment for separate support. A "judgment for separate support" is a court order requiring one party to pay money to another party.

What Issues are Decided in a Divorce Case or Separate Support Case?

Some of the issues that need to be decided in a divorce case are:

  • Custody of children
  • Support of children
  • Parenting time or visitation with the children
  • Division of assets (for example, pensions, bank accounts, or stock)
  • Alimony (or support for the spouse).
When Should I Consult a Lawyer?

You should speak with an attorney in Harris County, Galveston County, Fort Bend County, Montgomery County, Brazoria County, Houston, Sugar Land, Missouri City, and Stafford, Texas, at Thornton Esquire Law Group, PLLC if you want to make sure that you understand how the law applies to your situation. If you do not know what happens next, it might be best to talk to someone who does. An experienced family law attorney can help you determine whether you need to file for divorce, separate support, or just support. Contact us today at Thorntonesquirelawgroup for a free consultation.

Does it Cost Money to File for Divorce or Separate Support?

Yes, the Probate and family courts charge fees for filing and handling some documents. But if you are on welfare or if your income is 125% of the current poverty threshold ($15,856), the court is supposed to waive those fees. This is called waiving fees. It happens automatically unless you ask for the waiver.

If your fees and costs are being waived this way, you do not have to pay the $50 to $100 fee that the deputy sheriff charges to serve the court paperwork. The state pays.

The court may require additional information or documentation from you. You might have to provide proof of income, assets, and expenses. Or, you may have to prove that you cannot afford to pay the fees and costs.

What is a Separation Agreement?

A Separation Agreement is a contract that deals with the terms of ending a marriage. In most cases, a couple signs a Separation Agreement because they want to avoid a legal battle over child custody, alimony, property division, and/or visitation. A Separation Agreement is similar to a prenuptial agreement. However, unlike a prenuptial, a Separation Agreement does not protect each party's financial interests.

Instead, it sets out the terms of the party's separation.

The document typically includes provisions for the following:

  1. Custody of Children
  2. Parenting Time or Visitation Rights
  3. Support of Children
  4. Property Division
  5. Alimony
What if the Case Gets Complicated?

If you and your spouse have joint custody of your child(ren), and one parent wants to relocate out of state, there are many steps involved in making sure that the move does not affect the child(ren). This includes getting the court's permission for the relocation, obtaining temporary custody of the child(ren), and filing for permanent custody. In addition, if the custodial parent wants to change primary residence, he/she must file a motion requesting permission to move, obtain temporary custody of the child, and file for permanent custody.

The law requires courts to consider certain factors when deciding whether to grant a request to relocate. These include:

  1. Whether the proposed relocation is in the best interest of the child;
  2. Whether the relocating party has met his/her burden of proof regarding the reasonableness of the proposed relocation;
  3. Whether the proposed relocation poses a threat to the safety and well-being of the child;
  4. Whether the relocating parent has established a new home for the child and the reasons why such a move is necessary;
  5. Whether the relocating person has shown that s/he cannot return to live with the child's natural parents;
Client Reviews
Selecting an attorney can be one of the most difficult decisions a person has to make. In what seems like an overwhelming sea of attorneys who do you choose? Are they qualified, compassionate, and are they willing to fight for you without compromising their integrity? When faced with this decision in 2016 I received this and more when I retained Rahlita Thornton as my attorney. Since 2016 she has represented me on several court cases and I've never been disappointed. She is well versed and very knowledgeable on many aspects of the law. Attorney Thornton and her staff work diligently to ensure no stone is left unturned and justice is served. When I was crippled with fear, bullied, and felt like giving up she was my voice. She is highly recommend and I'm truly blessed to have her in my life. TTW
It was a divine power that drove me to call. There are ton of lawyers online but I knew this attorney was the one for me. C.B., Divorce Client
Attention & communication is very good when working with this professional legal team. They are here to help you whenever questions arise and explain details as they go. Thank you for taking the time to accept my case & working with me. P.L.