Answers to Frequent Texas Divorce Questions
Answers to Frequent Texas Divorce Questions Empower Families to Take Next Steps
Frequent Texas divorce questions are about what happens to children, property, and families in a Texas divorce. From deciding to file for divorce to exchanging discovery, attending mediation, and preparing for settlement or trial, Attorney Leslie Barrows and her team at the Barrows Firm in Southlake answer frequently asked questions about what happens when families divorce in Texas. In this article, we appreciate the opportunity to share some of the common responses to questions and issues that arise in a Texas divorce and child custody case. It is imperative to explain to people that every family is unique, and people have different needs, so do not compare your situation or family to others.
A winning strategy in any divorce or family law matter is to set the family in the best position possible to achieve all their hopes and dreams with the least amount of acrimony and drama over the difficulties families may experience with one another. Let us not forget that divorce is a serious life-changing event for everyone in the family and it is not something to approach lightly. How the entire process is handled is so important because it should set everyone up for success.
Successful families facing challenges in divorce and child custody appreciate the value of hiring the best legal counsel and representation to protect the family and set everyone in place well, attending to the best interests of the children and as well the esteem and positive mental states of the parents.
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Deciding to File for a Divorce in Texas
Where can I file for a divorce, and what if I move during the divorce?
Most people who file for divorce have lived in their home for the required time of 90 days in their current county and six months in the State of Texas, and that is what is necessary for the local district court to have jurisdiction over a divorce in the county where you are going to file. Sometimes there are jurisdictional issues, and we handle them as they arise, and at times cases are withdrawn, refiled, or transferred if appropriate.
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Does it matter who files it, and what if I need it filed to stay in the home?
There is a difference of opinion on whether the person who files, being the Petitioner, has any advantage in their divorce. It truly depends on the facts and circumstances, and how things go. However, in cases of domestic and family violence, the Petitioner has access to an emergency hearing for Protective Order and they may seek exclusive possession of the marital residence as well. In cases where the spouse has less access to money to leave the marital home and temporarily live somewhere else, the court can provide temporary relief and a temporary court order about who goes where and who pays what expenses during the divorce.
How do I leave an abuser and get family violence help?
October is domestic violence awareness month, and we should pay close attention to the sensitive needs of the victims of domestic and family violence and abuse. There are all types of situations where people are threatened and harmed and too often outsiders never know. Deciding to leave is scary for many and it takes serious planning and proper execution. In any situation where someone is being hurt or fears imminent harm, call 911.
Hiring a Family Lawyer and Preparing for Divorce
What should I look for in a family lawyer?
Divorce and child custody matters are some of the most important challenges we face. Hire the best family lawyer you can find and get ready to fight for the best results to position you and your family for success. An experienced divorce attorney who practices in daily high-stakes divorce and custody cases knows how to get you where you need to be in negotiating and settling your contested issues. And when it is necessary to go to trial, an aggressive divorce lawyer is necessary. The wise person spends there sources to get it done right the first time. Set the tone and pace of your future in co-parenting and giving your children the best life.
What if my spouse hires a big family law firm and has more money?
It’s a common threat in divorce litigation to outspend the other party so they cannot keep up in a divorce and custody trial. Bullies have been puffing their chests since the beginning of time, and the sophisticated divorce lawyers people trust know exactly what to do with opposing parties and opposing counsels who just want to play games and burn up your money. Interim fee petitions are there to level the playing field when one spouse needs access to marital funds to fund litigation. Also, contributions to attorneys’ fees can keep the other side in check when they are committed to harassment.
How can I prepare my information for my divorce attorney to save resources?
Be organized and able to explain your finances, healthcare, childcare, parenting, and other elements of life that are issues in divorce and custody matters. Prepare financial statements in orderly collections of information and present them to your family lawyer electronically or in a binder, or, however. Think about how you want your attorney and team to spend their time, and the more time they can spend on the most important issues, the better.
What Happens to Children During a Divorce?
How soon can we get a Temporary Order for the children?
If your case gets to the judge on an emergency basis, for example, in a protective order hearing, such as in a domestic violence situation, the temporary orders state what happens to the kids and who pays for expenses. In the regular course of a divorce case, the temporary orders hearing can happen within a few weeks of filing, and if some of the uncontested issues can be resolved in advance, more time at the limited temporary orders hearing can be used on the hotly contested issues.
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Who pays for what bills and childcare expenses?
At the temporary orders hearing the court hears from the parties and their attorneys about the pending issues and any of their immediacy in nature. The court’s order often includes standard instructions to maintain the status quo and not disturb any of the community property and money in accounts outside of the normal expenses. At times there are decisions to make and things that must happen before anyone has a chance to get to their lawyer or court, and it becomes helpful to maintain records and a journal of questions and issues that may arise. Keep good records.
Are my kids going to be involved in the process?
It depends on the situations and contested issues in a child custody case, for example, to determine whether the children are involved in the litigation process. There may be a mental health professional working on a custody evaluation and report which can involve interviewing a child. But the dramatic scenes we see in movies of children on witness stand picking which parent they want to go with, that is more for television than what happens in real life. A judge may interview a child in chambers, and it all depends on the situation.
Community Property Valuation and Division in Texas Divorce
Does community property mean everything is split 50/50?
Community property in Texas is all the property that was acquired by the parties during the marriage. All other property is considered separate property. The property people bring to the marriage can be kept separate and distinct from community property. Inherited money or property is an example of what may be separate property not subject to division. The Texas Family Code talks of division based on what is right and just, and in many cases that means 50/50, but that is something that can vary based on the allegations and situations. Findings of family violence, for example, can affect property distribution.
Can I keep the house and give my spouse a greater share of other assets?
Selling everything and splitting cash down the middle is the simplest example of property division, but that’s not what happens. Sure, the house can be ordered for sale, but otherwise one of the spouses may want to stay in the house and that might mean they accept a lesser share of other assets to make equitable distribution possible. Especially considering real estate markets, decisions on buying and selling are best determined on a case-by-case basis.
What happens to debts where my spouse and I are both liable?
In a Texas divorce, debt incurred during the marriage is subject to equitable division just like the assets and in most cases, the parties will share equal responsibility for the debt, unless there is an agreement otherwise. It does not matter which spouse incurred the debt, just like it does not matter which spouse earned the income, community property rules apply to both. And likewise, debt that is kept separate, and debt incurred before the marriage may be considered separate and not to be assigned to the other spouse in the divorce. When negotiating property division, the debts and partial equity in assets are all valued for division.
Establishing Necessary Child and Spousal Support
Who gets spousal support in Texas divorce?
If spouses have been married for at least ten years and the person requesting support is not able to earn enough income to meet their basic needs, they can qualify for spousal support, also called spousal maintenance or alimony informally.
Is there a maximum amount of spousal support in Texas?
Maximum amounts of spousal support are set by the Texas Family Code, and the current cap is $5,000 per month or 20 percent of the average monthly gross income of the paying spouse. However, if you have a premarital agreement that provides for support in greater amounts, that is done through contract provisions in a pre-marital agreement or a post-marital agreement.
What happens with child support payments in Texas?
Texas child support payments are based on guidelines for child support. For one child 20 percent of net monthly income, for example, is ordered to be paid by the child support obligor. A child support withholding order is usually used to be accepted by the court and sent to the employer to withhold child support money for collection and distribution through the Attorney General’s child support unit. Sometimes child support payments are made directly, as well as reimbursements and payments for necessary child expenses and it is important to always keep good records.
The Discovery and Pretrial Negotiation and Mediation Process
What happens when one spouse has more financial information than the other?
It’s not uncommon for one spouse to handle the family’s financial information and transactions. During the discovery process, the parties in a divorce and custody case are asked to provide their lawyers with the information necessary to represent them in the divorce. If the one with the information fails or refuses to disclose necessary information, the court can order the information to be produced and subpoenas can be sent directly to banks and institutions with the records.
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Do I have to go to mediation, and are there situations we can avoid it?
When your judge orders you to attend mediation, it should be considered an opportunity to resolve some of the easier issues so that time and attention can be allocated to the difficult issues. In some situations, however, such as where family violence is alleged, mediation might not be appropriate. Giving mediation a solid effort makes sense and has value.
How do settlement negotiations work and can we settle certain issues easily out of court?
The more you can resolve out of court, the less information becomes a part of the public record. When going through hearings and trials, the evidence used and presented, including the testimony of witnesses can be a lot to deal with and if you can save yourself the time and pressure in court, it makes sense to resolve issues in settlement negotiations.
Being Prepared for Court for Hearings and Trial
How often am I going to have to go to court?
Court attendance is necessary when one is ordered to appear in court by the judge, or when one is called as a witness in a hearing or trial. Be prepared to appear at court for temporary orders hearings as well as hearings and trials on issues where the judge may need to ask questions, or you may be required to testify formally. Otherwise, for most financial issues and updates on the case status, and progress reports, the lawyers may not require the client to be present.
Will I need to get witnesses ready to offer supporting testimony?
Witnesses can help prove your allegations in a divorce and custody case. Especially when children’s issues and best interests are in focus, there can be a need to get supporting witnesses to testify where they have relevant personal information and knowledge of facts. However, a circus of naysayers becomes counterproductive. Quality is measured over quantity when it comes to the information we present for scrutiny by a judge and the opposing party. It all depends on the situation and this topic is another example of how important it is to hire a family lawyer with experience in challenging litigation strategies.
How long do most divorce hearings and trials last?
A better understanding of timing may concern the initial orders in a family law case to determine who pays for what and who cares for the kids and how during the pendency of the litigation. Otherwise, there may be a goal of getting to a final order within a set amount of time. It depends on the family and the complexity of the litigated matters. The more there is to fight over, the longer the battles may continue. Where there is a timing element, find a family lawyer you trust to do whatever they can to get timely results, while knowing many intervening factors can affect how long things take.
Enforcement and Modification of Court Orders, Judgments
How does court order enforcement work in most cases?
At the end of the divorce, a judgment and final order are entered, incorporating the resolution of all the issues in the divorce or custody matter. If after the fact there is a reason to ask the court to enforce the terms of a court order, that is a separate lawsuit with a specific request for enforcement relief. It will require a petition and service on the other party and all the formalities of the court process. In many cases, a strongly worded letter can urge a dragging party to comply with the court’s order.
What must happen to qualify for a modification case?
There needs to be a significant change in circumstances to ask the court to order a modification of an existing order and judgment. This could be a change in the employment of a parent or their relocation to a job, that requires a change and modification of what was originally ordered. Several factors can be presented arguing that there is enough to give the court cause to modify the order.
How can we resolve problems without going back to court and filing new suits?
Parents who tell their children to pick and choose their battles should heed the same advice to keep their heads in the game and not let emotion or difficult people drive them back into court. The time we have with our children before they grow up and start their own lives is so short. Some families become so used to fighting that before they know it the children are getting ready to graduate from high school. The better we can work to resolve issues, the better we can move forward in life with a positive attitude and winning spirit.