Seeking Durable Solutions for Divorce, Asset Division, Child Custody, Child Support, And Other Issues
Divorcing spouses in Texas have much to consider, and much to do, before they can terminate a marriage. At Moran Law Firm, our Tyler divorce lawyers have more than 18 years of experience in helping clients to reach their goals despite difficult circumstances.
We meet with our clients, discuss their circumstances and options thoroughly and advise them regarding their prospects for reaching their goals, whether they are considering a divorce trial or a divorce settlement. If you are considering a divorce, or have been served with papers, we can help you resolve issues involving custody of your children, splitting up your assets or resolving other important issues.
Texas Divorce Process: The Steps
Among the first questions our clients ask us is “What happens if I divorce?” Most Texas divorces involve these basic steps:
- Petition. One spouse, known as the “petitioner”, files a divorce petition with the divorce court. This document explains the basic reasons the petitioner is filing for divorce and what he or she is seeking. Next, this petition is delivered, or “served,” to the other spouse, known as the “respondent.” If the spouses are cooperating on the divorce, the respondent may instead sign a document waiving the right to be served papers. At the time the petition is filed, the petitioner may also ask the court to issue a restraining order, if there has been domestic abuse or threats of abuse.
- Answer. If no restraining order is issued, the respondent is given about 20 days to file a response document, called an “answer.”
- Temporary orders. The divorce court may issue orders that define temporary requirements for each spouse regarding child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, using property, paying bills, and other important issues and responsibilities. These requirements usually last for the length of the divorce proceeding.
- Discovery. The spouses (aided by their lawyers) may begin the information-gathering stage of the divorce suit, known as “discovery.”
- Potential for negotiation. If the spouses have not already prepared a settlement prior to filing for divorce, they may attempt to reach a divorce settlement at this stage. If a settlement is reached, the case ends.
- Mediation. If a settlement is not reached, the case will be scheduled for trial. But first, the spouses must usually pursue nonbinding mediation led by a neutral third party, in an effort to resolve remaining issues. Often, mediation can eliminate “stumbling blocks” that prevented a settlement at an earlier stage.
- Divorce trial and decree. If a settlement is still not reached, however, the case goes to trial before a judge. During this time, both sides present evidence supporting their desired outcomes for property division, child custody and other issues. At the end of the trial, a judge will usually issue a divorce decree. This document will contain the court’s decision on any previously unresolved matters (including property division, debt division, child custody, child visitation, child support, spousal support, and other important financial and child-related issues) and all terms the divorced spouses will be expected to fulfill in the future.
How Long Will My Texas Divorce Take?
Another question our clients ask us frequently is “How long will it take to complete my divorce?”
Divorce in Texas is not instantaneous. Before you can even file for divorce, either you or your spouse must have been a resident for 60 days in the county where the divorce is filed and have lived in the state for six months.
After a spouse is eligible to file for divorce, another 60 days must pass before the marriage can be terminated legally. This means that the minimum time to complete a divorce, even if divorcing spouses agree on everything and are ready to settle, is 60 days, and 120 days if residency is an issue.
However, if the issues to be resolved are more serious, requiring intensive negotiations, mediation or a court trial, you should expect to wait months, or even more than a year, for all issues to be settled. That said, divorcing couples who opt to resolve their differences through settlement usually save substantial amounts of money, time and emotional energy than those who fight it out in court.
My Spouse Cheated On Me; Can I Take The House And Kids?
Yet another question from our clients concerns whether a spouse’s actions, such as having an extra-marital affair or being physically abusive, can affect the divorce court’s decisions about child custody and asset division. The question is, essentially, “Is Texas a ‘no-fault’ divorce state, or an ‘at-fault’ divorce state?”
The answer is, “both.” Or more specifically, “either, depending on how the case was filed” Texas is both a “no-fault” and an “at-fault” state. Which type of divorce one pursues depends on circumstances and the goals of each spouse.
In a no-fault divorce, neither spouse is considered liable for the marital split. When this type of divorce is pursued, the court may perform an “equitable division” of the shared assets accumulated during the marriage. Generally, assets are divided 50-50 according to their value.
In an at-fault divorce, certain grievances are weighed by the court when dividing assets. These grounds may include: adultery, cruelty, abandonment, long-term incarceration, mental illness and estrangement. There are specific criteria within each category that must be met — such as time spent in jail or a mental hospital, or type of abuse endured — however, an aggrieved spouse may be able to obtain a greater share of marital assets if he or she can prove the other spouse was at fault.
Please keep in mind that every divorce is different, and court decisions always depend on the judge, the skill of the attorneys and, most importantly, the circumstances of the “at-fault” behavior at issue.
Why Negotiation Or Mediation Could Be Your Best Choice
As you can see from the information above, divorce in Texas is highly complex, and should only be entered into with the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney. At Moran Law Firm, we encourage our clients to settle their differences out of court, either through direct negotiations or mediation. The reasons are manifold: it is usually cheaper, quicker and less emotionally draining for divorcing spouses to settle important conflicts peacefully than to fight over them in court. It also tends to be a less traumatic process for any dependent children.
Despite this, we clearly understand that not every divorce can be resolved in a settlement. If you are considering a divorce, or are in the middle of a divorce, our lawyers will do everything in their power to help you retain as much of your time with your children, money, and property as possible.
For answers to your divorce questions, contact the lawyers at Moran Law Firm in Tyler, Texas, today. We will be happy to discuss your circumstances and a divorce solution that will work best for you and your children.