Divorce rates have hovered near the 50 percent mark for many years. With so many societal influences, not to mention the financial dynamics, it can be challenging for any couple to hold together a healthy marriage, much less one that’s become unhealthy. When there are children involved, it must be approached in such a way that protects them instead of putting them in the line of fire. That’s a challenge in many Texas divorce cases. No longer is it two spouses who are parting ways, but rather, it becomes two parents who want to end the marriage but want to do so in the least traumatizing way for the little ones.Grounds for Divorce
Texas has seven grounds for divorce. Most end because of “Insupportability”, which simply means the marriage can no longer function in any healthy or meaningful way. There may be problems that cannot be overcome or disagreements that snowballed into real damage to the marriage. These are the only grounds for divorce that doesn’t require blame.
The remaining six grounds for divorce in Texas:
- Felony conviction
- Physical distance (if the spouses have lived apart for a considerable amount of time)
- Admission into a mental facility (requires one party to have been confined for at least 3 years)
Texas is a “Community Property” state. This means that all property acquired during the marriage is presumed to be community property, meaning it is subject to division by the Court. The division of community property is presumed to be equal; however, a judge has the discretion to divide the community estate in an unequal manner for certain equitable reasons such as fault in the breakup in the marriage, disparity of earning capacity of the parties, and numerous other factors which are defined by case law, not the Family Code. Fighting for a disproportionate division can be a significant issue in a divorce.
“Separate Property” is generally defined as property that a party owned prior to the marriage or acquired during the marriage by gift or inheritance. There are other kinds of separate property as well. This is important because the Judge can NOT take away a party’s separate property. Proving separate property is the burden of the party wanting it characterized as such and requires a stronger level of persuasion than is generally the case. Very important to have an experienced attorney on this issue.
The unpaid debt will also be divided, based on a couple’s unique circumstances and how the debts are characterized.Children’s Issues
If there is a child of the marriage, the divorce also includes a “Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship”, meaning the Judge must make orders for the custody, visitation (in Texas, called “conservatorship”) and support of the child. There is more information on this elsewhere on this site. Needless to say, SAPCR issues are extremely important as the outcome can have a major impact on how your child is raised and supported and on the parties as well. It is extremely important to consult a qualified attorney before making any decisions in SAPCR issues.Spousal Maintenance (Alimony)
In 1995, Texas for the first time in its history enacted a limited “alimony” statute. Originally it was designed to apply only in lengthy marriages where one spouse had been out of the workforce for a long time or suffering from a disability. Not surprisingly, since then, the law has grown in scope. Today, maintenance could very well be an issue in a divorce.Do You Need a Lawyer?
While divorce is never easy, those couples that are able to see past the pain are the ones who have a much easier time during the divorce process. When there are children involved, it becomes that much more important. As parents, we have a responsibility to deflect as much of the trauma as possible in order to protect them. In fact, custody issues are always a top priority in a divorce.
Having an experienced attorney is critical in a divorce- it is very hard to be objective about your own case, so you need the unbiased, objective advice of someone to guide you in making these life-changing decisions. Also, even if you are able somehow to be objective, do you know the law? Many people think they do because the Internet makes resources available online, but many key parts of Family Law are determined by appellate court rulings, not just the statutes of the Texas Family Code. Finally, once you decide what you want and why you need a seasoned lawyer to review the wording (what lawyers call “the form”) of your agreement to make sure you do not lose what you bargained for. So yes, even if you have reached or want to reach an agreement, you need an attorney. And you can imagine how much more so you need a good lawyer if you cannot agree and have to go to trial.
More fathers are seeking – and the courts are granting – full custody of their children. We specialize in representing fathers in those cases, as well as in visitation, support, property, and maintenance issues. Traditionally, mothers received physical custody in a divorce with children; our modern society no longer makes that assumption. Texas law states custody is to be decided regardless of gender.
To learn more about filing for divorce in Texas, or if you wish to modify a divorce and custody agreement already in place, please contact our office today. We stand ready to provide legal guidance so that you can pick up the pieces and move forward.