Understanding the Divorce Process in Texas
Texas is one of several states where couples must go through a formal court proceeding called a divorce. This begins with filing paperwork in a county clerk's office. Once the case moves into family court, it becomes much more complex. At this stage, both parties are represented by attorneys who negotiate settlement agreements and prepare motions for the judge to approve.
The most contentious issue in many cases is how property will be divided. In some instances, spouses agree to split everything equally. However, if there are children involved, parents often want to keep certain assets separate. A good rule of thumb is to divide marital property 50/50 unless there is a compelling reason why it shouldn't be done that way.
Child support payments are another important aspect of divorce proceedings. In Texas, parents are required to pay monthly child support based on their income level. The amount varies depending on the number of kids, whether they live with either parent, and whether they attend school full time. Child support payments usually continue until the youngest child reaches age 18.
In addition to providing financial assistance, child support allows courts to ensure that children receive adequate medical care and educational opportunities. Parents cannot be held responsible for supporting children beyond the age of majority.
Divorce proceedings generally take about six months to complete. Afterward, a final decree is signed and filed in the county clerk's records. This document officially ends the marriage and transfers ownership of all property to each party.What's Involved in Filing for Divorce
Divorce cases are usually very complicated affairs. They involve many different types of legal documents, including property division agreements, prenuptial contracts, child custody agreements, child visitation schedules, and even temporary restraining orders. In addition, there are often financial matters involved, such as child support and alimony payments.
In most states, both parties must live in the state where the divorce petition is filed for at least six months before filing it. This requirement exists because the court system in each state handles divorce differently. Some states don't allow you to file for divorce unless you've lived in the state for at least six months. Other states give couples the option of living together while they wait for the paperwork to go through, but once those papers do come through, the couple must move into separate residences within 30 days.
If you're getting divorced, you'll probably want to hire a lawyer to help you navigate the process. A good attorney will know what steps to take and how best to handle every situation that might arise during the proceedings.No-Fault Divorce in Texas
Texas is one of four states where couples can obtain a "no-fault" divorce, meaning neither party must prove fault on the other's part for dissolving the union. In those four states -- California, Idaho, Nevada, and Washington -- couples can file for divorce based solely on irreconcilable differences or simply say "I do."
However, Texas courts will consider whether the couple separated due to adultery, cruel and abusive conduct, incarceration for a year or longer, or some combination of the above. If there is evidence of such behavior, Texas judges may award greater shares of community property to the offending spouse. For example, if a husband commits adultery while his wife works full time and cares for the children, he could receive a larger share of the marital estate.Property Division
Texas law states that spouses are entitled to equal shares of their marital estate upon divorce. This includes assets acquired during the marriage, such as real estate, stocks, bonds, cash, retirement accounts, vehicles, boats, jewelry, furniture, appliances, etc. In addition to dividing up the couple's assets, courts must determine how much each party should pay toward debts incurred during the marriage.
The court makes this determination based on several factors, including income, education level, health, age, and financial contributions to the household. If one partner earns considerably less money than the other, he or she may have to contribute more towards paying off joint debt.Spousal Maintenance
In Texas, there are three types of spousal maintenance: temporary, rehabilitative, and permanent. Temporary support is awarded during a short period of time, usually less than five years, while the court considers whether it is appropriate to award permanent support. Rehabilitative support lasts longer than temporary support, typically up to 10 years, and allows the receiving spouse to complete education or training. Permanent support is the longest form of spousal maintenance and is granted when either party no longer needs assistance financially.
The amount of spousal maintenance depends on the facts of each case and varies according to several factors, including:
- The length of the marriage
- The age of both parties
- Whether the parties have children together
- Income levels
- Health status
In some cases, one parent may refuse to allow the children to see the other parent. This is called "primary residence." One reason for primary residence might be because the parent does not want his or her spouse to visit the children. Or the parent may feel he or she is better able to meet the children's needs. In such cases, the court may decide that it is in the best interest of the children for the custodial parent to retain primary responsibility for raising them.
If both parents are willing to live together and share parenting responsibilities, the courts may choose to award joint custody. Joint custody usually means each parent gets equal amounts of time with the children. However, there are many exceptions to this rule. For example, if one parent is abusive toward the children, the court may give sole custody to the other parent.
A third option is shared legal custody. Under shared legal custody, each parent retains legal authority over the children but shares decision-making authority. Shared legal custody allows both parents to make important decisions about the children's health, education, religion, and social life.
The final option is sole custody. Sole custody gives one parent total control over the children. There are no restrictions on what either parent can do with the children. The court may grant sole custody if one parent has abused the children, abandoned them, or committed adultery.How Family Lawyers Can Help With Divorce
A good divorce lawyer in Harris County, Galveston County, Fort Bend County, Montgomery County, Brazoria County, Houston, Sugar Land, Missouri City, Stafford, Texas at Thornton Esquire Law Group, PLLC, understands how to handle sensitive issues like child custody, property division, and alimony. Also, it will help you understand what options are available to you during a divorce and how to choose among those options. Contact us today at Thorntonesquirelawgroup for a free consultation.