Divorce is never fun, but a thorough understanding of the law is vital to protecting your rights. Texas divorce law is highly complicated, and it is important to hire an attorney to represent you. The more you know, though, the more you can act as your own advocate. Here is a general overview of Texas divorce law, without the sort of specific advice that can only come from your attorney.
Residency and Timing
To file for divorce in Texas, one spouse must have been a Texas resident for the prior six months and a resident of the county where the divorce is filed for the prior 90 days. If the non-filing spouse does not meet these requirements, the last marital residence must have been in Texas and no more than two years may have elapsed since that residence ended.
If the wife is pregnant, whether or not the baby is her husband’s, most Texas courts will not finalize a divorce until after the birth. This allows the baby’s welfare to be considered, and orders regarding his or her care to be included in the final divorce decree.
Texas law provides the option for the divorcing partners and their attorneys to draw up a dissolution of marriage settlement for the court to approve. This can be a great option if your divorce is simple and you and your ex are still friendly. However, if the process fails, both parties’ attorneys are required to withdraw and cannot represent them in divorce court.
Texas provides a variety of grounds for divorce, such as adultery or abandonment. Filing for divorce on grounds may affect the distribution of property or even child visitation orders. However, Texas also provides for no-fault divorce, in which the divorcing partners simply cannot continue to tolerate each other. This is by far the most common type of Texas divorce.
In this era of two-income households, spousal maintenance is not as common as it used to be. However, the court does have the right to award maintenance payments for specific reasons, from conviction of an act of family violence to the inability of one spouse to earn enough to provide for his or her basic needs.
In Texas, child custody is known as conservatorship. Where possible, courts tend to award joint managing conservatorship, in which both parents share legal responsibility for all decisions affecting the child. If this is not practical, though, one parent may be awarded sole managing conservatorship, while the other receives possessory conservatorship, or visitation. In certain domestic abuse cases, supervised visitation and other stipulations may be required or, if in the best interest of the child, possessory conservatorship may be disallowed for a period of time.
Child support payments are normally assigned based on a set formula that takes into account the obligor’s net income and the number of children involved. However, the court may deviate from this formula if it is determined to be in the child’s best interest. Child support typically ends when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is later, or if the child is emancipated by marriage or other means. However, many families draw up a plan that includes contributions to the child’s college education. These plans are typically approved by the court if they are considered reasonable.
Distribution of Assets
Texas is a community property state, and the majority of assets will be equitably (though not necessarily evenly) divided between the divorcing spouses. This includes retirement accounts and other employee benefits accumulated during the marriage.
However, some assets may be considered separate property, including assets that each spouse owned prior to the marriage, inheritances and gifts designated for just one spouse, and personal injury settlements awarded to one spouse (except for any portion designated to replace lost earnings). The burden of proof is always on the separate property-holding spouse to demonstrate that the asset is not community property.
Texas divorce law is fairly complicated, and many families have situations that are not cut and dried. It is always best to retain an attorney to give you specific advice and protect your interests throughout your divorce proceedings.
With 6 years of experience as a Harris County prosecutor and 11 years of experience representing clients in a variety of family, domestic, and criminal cases, past president of the Montgomery County Bar Association, Andrea Kolski, has the background you need to win your case. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call Nonstop Justice today at 832-381-3430.