If you are going through a divorce, you know how difficult it can be. On top of the emotional stress of ending your marriage, you are also required to wade through the legalities of splitting up your relationship, children, home, and family. Below, we answer some common legal questions about dissolution of marriage in Texas.
When the divorce petition is filed, either the spouse who files it (the petitioner) or the spouse whom it is served on (the respondent) must have lived in Texas for the past six months. One of the spouses must have been a resident of the county in which the petition is filed for at last 90 days before the filing.
The divorce process starts when one spouse files an "Original Petition of Divorce," is filed. The petition is a written document you submit to the Texas court, asking the judge to grant your divorce. The petition must be served on your spouse.
After receiving your petition, your spouse has the right to file a written response. Some attorneys believe there is a definite benefit in being the one who files the petition, while others think it makes little difference to the ultimate outcome of the case.
Like most states, Texas favors voluntary settlements in divorce cases, by which divorcing spouses attempt to resolve their conflicts without court intervention, if at all possible. To this end, Texas law allows the spouses to agree -- or the court to require the spouses -- to mediate their case. Most divorce cases are settled out of court, requiring only the court's signature on the Final Decree.
Yes, if you and your spouse essentially agree on all issues. Uncontested divorces are most common for couples who have no children, have not been married long, and have not acquired lots of assets (or incurred lots of debts) during their marriage. If you and your spouse are among the lucky few who are having a truly amicable divorce, you will have to put your agreement in writing and attend a hearing before the judge at which your divorce is finalized.
It depends on your situation. A contested case will take much longer than an uncontested case, for example. In any event, Texas law require you to wait at least 60 days after filing your petition before the court grants your divorce. This is called a "cooling-off period." In theory, it grants the couple time to reconcile before a Final Decree is issued. Of course, that doesn't happen often.
Texas allows divorce for both fault grounds and no-fault grounds. In a no-fault divorce, a couple essentially states that their marriage is no longer working, without assigning legal blame to either spouse. The grounds for no-fault divorce are:
The fault grounds for marriage include adultery, cruelty, abandonment, and insanity.
Texas is a community property state. The judge will divide the marital property equally between the spouses. Each spouse will get to keep his or her own separate property, which includes property the spouse earned prior to marriage and gifts or inheritances to that spouse alone during marriage.
Texas isn't particularly friendly to the idea of alimony. Generally, a court will award alimony only in limited circumstances. For example, if you are unable to support yourself due to a disability, or unable to work because you must care for a child with a disability, the court may award spousal support.
In Texas, both parents are typically appointed as "Joint Managing Conservators" of the child. In essence, this means the parents have joint legal custody of the child, and share the right to make important decisions about how the child is raised, educated, and so on. Texas law presumes that this arrangement is in the best interests of the children. However, the court will make other arrangements if there has been domestic violence or abuse.
The courts also usually implement the Texas Standard Possession order, which determines each parent's physical custody and visitation rights.
Child support guidelines in Texas are pretty cut and dried. The parent who does not have custody must pay a certain percentage of his or her net income for child support. The percentage depends on how many children the parent is supporting: For one child, the court generally awards 20% of the net resources of the non-custodial parent for one child, 25% for two, and higher percentages for more children.
This provides a baseline amount that is presumed to be fair. However, if a parent believes that the amount generated by using the guidelines is too high or too low, the parent can ask the court to change the award, based on a long list of factors provided in the Texas Family Code. These factors include the child's needs, any special expenses the child or parent incurs, and how much time each parent spends with the child.
Although it is possible to have an entirely do-it-yourself divorce, it is rarely advisable. Even if you and your spouse agree on most issues, it can be very valuable to get some legal advice about your rights and obligations, so you know what you are getting and what you are giving up. An experienced divorce attorney will be able to guide you through the legalities of a divorce and will have the skills and knowledge needed to ensure you get the best outcome possible in your Texas dissolution of marriage.