Updated on June 2, 2023
Divorce is the dissolution of a legal contract, but it is also a difficult emotional hurdle. Your divorce will be singular to you and your situation, but knowing the basics about what to expect in a Texas divorce can help you make better-informed decisions along the way—and may even help you determine if a divorce is right for you in the first place.
One of the most strategic steps you can take before moving any further with the divorce process is consulting with an experienced divorce attorney in Williamson County. Your financial and parental rights are too important to leave to chance. To schedule a FREE consultation with a Williamson County, Texas, divorce lawyer, call our office today at (254) 781-4222.
Know about the Elements of Your Divorce
Every Texas divorce takes several issues into consideration. Make sure you are familiar with the elements of your divorce before beginning the divorce process.
Grounds for Your Divorce
The State of Texas allows for divorce based on either fault or no-fault grounds. However, it is important to note that the vast majority of divorces are no-fault divorces in which fault does not play a significant role.
A no-fault divorce is predicated on your marriage no longer being supportable because of existing conflicts between you and your spouse that you have no reasonable expectation of reconciling. The legal term for this situation is insupportability.
If you seek a fault-based divorce, it virtually guarantees that your divorce will require the court’s intervention. Fault-based divorces are based on one or more of the following grounds:
Abandonment of at least one year
Living apart for at least three years
Conviction of a felony that leads to at least one year behind bars (This does not apply if a spouse’s testimony was used to obtain the conviction.)
Confinement in a mental hospital for at least three years with little chance of improvement
It is important to note that even if your divorce is not based on fault, it can ultimately affect how the court makes certain decisions in your case. For example, if your spouse was pouring lavish amounts of money into an affair during your marriage, it can directly affect the division of your marital property.
Your Child Custody Arrangements
Another primary divorce term focuses on child custody arrangements, which are divided into legal and physical custody (or parenting time).
Legal custody determines how spouses will address primary parenting decisions that arise post-divorce, including those related to the following arrangements:
Where the children make their primary home
The children’s schooling
The children’s medical care
The children’s extracurricular activities and travel
The children’s religious upbringing
Both spouses can share this responsibility equally, but other options include these arrangements:
Both parents make the decisions together, but one parent has the authority to break a tie if the need arises (after a concerted effort to reach a mutually acceptable decision).
One parent has sole legal custody and makes the decisions alone.
Both parents divide the responsibility according to the kind of decision that is being made.
All emergency decisions and day-to-day decisions remain the responsibility of the available parent.
Physical custody—or parenting time—determines the schedule by which children will divide their time between parents. Basic scheduling options include the following arrangements:
One parent takes on the role of the primary custodial parent, while the other has a visitation schedule.
Both parents split parenting time more evenly.
If you and your ex are able to devise a schedule that meets your needs and that you are both willing to sign off on, the court will almost certainly include it in your final orders. If not, however, the court will likely order one of its standard parenting time schedules.
Factors That Affect Child Custody Decisions
When Texas courts make decisions about child custody, they always give the children’s best interests top billing. In the process, they carefully consider important matters like the following:
Each parent’s preferences on the matter
Each child’s preferences on the matter – if the child in question is mature enough to offer a reasonable preference
The degree to which each parent participated in raising the children during the marriage
Each child’s unique needs, including any special needs any of the children have, and each parent’s ability to adequately address these needs
Whether or not domestic violence, child abuse, or neglect is an issue
How well the children’s current living situation (including their home, school or daycare, and community) serves their best interests
The likelihood that each parent will encourage and support the other parent’s ongoing healthy relationship with the children
Each parent’s age, physical health, and mental health
The stability of the home that each parent provides
Any other factors deemed relevant by the court
Texas courts tend to pay special attention to the status quo and how it is working for the children at the time of making child custody determinations. For example, if you remain in the family home as the primary custodial parent while your divorce is pending and the setup serves your children well, the court may be inclined to write orders that maintain these arrangements.
Both you and your children’s other parent will remain financially responsible for supporting your minor children, and child support is calculated in an effort to divide this support equitably between you.
Calculating Child Support
Child support is generally a matter of plugging the appropriate numbers into the state’s calculation tool. If, however, the court determines that there is a compelling argument for going outside the calculation guidelines, it has the discretion to do so. The court may take factors such as the following into consideration when calculating child support:
Each parent’s earning capacity and earning potential
Each parent’s contributions to the marriage, including contributions made in the form of childcare and housekeeping
Each child’s needs, including any special needs that require additional resources
The childcare expenses that would be incurred if the recipient of alimony worked outside the home
The total income and resources available to the alimony recipient
The amount of time each parent has the children
The expenses associated with education, health care, and daycare incurred by each child
Any extraordinary expenses incurred by any of the children, including the cost of necessary tutoring, mental health counseling, extracurriculars, and more)
How the marital assets and debts are divided between both spouses
Any other factors deemed relevant by the court
The parent with a more considerable income is typically the obligor (even if parenting time is divided equally). The court will not tolerate a parent who maintains underemployment – or unemployment – in a bid to pay less child support. Child support is generally ordered until the child in question turns 18 or graduates from high school—whichever happens later.
If divorcing spouses cannot agree regarding child custody and child support, the court will do so on their behalf—based on what it determines to be the children's best interests.
The Division of Marital Property
In Texas divorces, marital property is divided in a manner that is considered just and right. A just and right division of your property is not necessarily an equal division of property. Instead, it is a fair division based on a wide range of variables. For more information, read this article about the division of marital property.
Marital and Separate Property
Generally, the property that you and your spouse acquired during your marriage is considered marital property, regardless of who made the purchase. However, this issue can be complicated. These kinds of property are often considered to be separate property:
Gifts received in one’s own name
Property and assets brought into the marriage and kept separate throughout
Personal injury awards (unless the recovery covers medical bills, lost wages, or any other type of property that is considered community property)
Separate property will not be subject to division upon divorce. However, it is not uncommon for married couples to commingle separate and marital property, which can alter the separate nature of specific assets. Further, even when an asset is kept strictly separate, any increase in its value – such as with retirement accounts – will very likely be categorized as a marital asset.
Factors Affecting the Division of Marital Property
The factors the court generally takes into consideration when it comes to the equitable division of marital property include all the following:
The length of the marriage
The size of the marital estate
Each spouse’s separate assets
The tax implications of the proposed division
The divorce-related legal expenses
Each spouse’s level of education and overall employability
Each spouse’s age and overall mental and physical health
The number of shared children and the cost of supporting them
Whether either spouse dissipated marital assets or otherwise engaged in an act of financial fraud regarding community property
The debt load each spouse leaves the marriage with – and the relationship between that spouse and each creditor
Any inheritances that are anticipated in the future
Whether or not the divorce is fault based
Any other factors deemed relevant by the court
If you and your divorcing spouse are on fairly equal financial footing, you can expect an equal division of property – or a division that is close to equal. If, on the other hand, you gave up your career to support your spouse’s earning power, the court may be inclined to address this discrepancy by providing you with a larger percentage of marital assets.
One important step you can take to help ensure that your rights are well protected in terms of the division of marital property is gathering all the relevant documentation. Work closely with your divorce attorney to obtain an accurate accounting of your marital assets, especially if your spouse is more involved in your family’s finances than you are.
Factors That Complicate the Division of Marital Property
Each divorce is taken on a case-by-case basis, and while the division of marital property always has the potential to become very complicated, factors like the following increase that likelihood:
When either spouse or both own a business
When high assets are involved
When marital and separate assets are tightly intertwined
When one spouse has far more control over the marital finances than the other
Alimony in Texas is reserved for those divorces in which one spouse is left without the financial ability to support himself or herself post-divorce and the other has the means to provide financial assistance.
Alimony is determined on a case-by-case basis, and some of the primary factors that help determine when it is appropriate (and if so, for what amount and what duration) include these considerations:
The length of the marriage
Each spouse’s ability to provide for his or her own reasonable needs
The level of education and the employment skills of each spouse
Each spouse’s age, overall physical and mental health, and employment history
The amount of time necessary for the recipient of alimony to gain the education or job training to become more financially independent
Each spouse’s ability to meet his or her own needs while paying child support (when relevant)
Whether any marital assets were wasted, concealed, destroyed, or otherwise dissipated during the course of the divorce
The degree to which either spouse contributed to the education, career, or earning power of the other
The amount of separate property owned by each spouse
The homemaking and childcare contributions made by either spouse
Whether or not misconduct played a role in the dissolution of the marriage
Any history or pattern of family violence or child abuse or neglect
Any additional factors deemed relevant by the court
Alimony is more common after longer marriages and in situations in which one spouse supported the other’s career by staying home with the children and taking care of the home – thus diminishing his or her own earning potential.
Generally, alimony is set up at an amount and for a duration that allows the recipient to obtain the further education, job training, or experience necessary to become more financially independent.
You Have Options for Divorce Service
Either you or your divorcing spouse will need to file for divorce and have the other served with the divorce papers. Serving your spouse with divorce papers out of the blue, however, can set the stage for a bitter battle. It’s generally better to discuss the matter of divorce with your spouse ahead of time, which allows him or her to waive the need for service.
If your spouse is going to cause contention no matter how hard you try to keep things civil or if there is any concern that your spouse may hide or dissipate marital assets while your divorce is pending, the amicable approach may not be the best strategy. You should try to maintain an amicable divorce, but if there is no hope of doing so, you must proceed accordingly.
Your Williamson County divorce attorney’s experience and legal savvy will help you make the right decisions for your unique situation throughout the divorce process.
Your Divorce Will Very Likely Be a No-Fault Divorce
Many states across the nation have done away with divorces that are based on fault, but Texas is not one of them. However, this is not to say that your divorce is likely to involve fault.
Texas is a no-fault divorce state, which means that there is no need to appoint blame in a divorce. If either of you wants a divorce, you are free to pursue the dissolution of your marriage without having to prove that your spouse is at fault.
No-fault divorces are generally less time-consuming, less costly, and less contentious. The vast majority of divorces in Texas are not based on fault. Instead, most divorces are predicated on insupportability, which is similar to what you may think of as irreconcilable differences.
If your divorce is fault-based, however, the judge can consider fault in the process of dividing your marital property. In order to obtain a fault-based divorce, you will need to prove your spouse’s fault in the matter. The forms of fault that typically apply include adultery and cruel treatment.
Whether your divorce is fault or no fault, it is important to consult with a Williamson County divorce lawyer. He or she can help you negotiate with your spouse and come up with terms that will be mutually beneficial.
Texas Has Residency Requirements for Divorce
It is important to know that there are resident requirements before you can file for divorce in Texas, including both of the following qualifications:
Either you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months prior to filing for divorce.
One of you must have lived in the Texas county in which you file for at least 90 days prior to filing for divorce.
If your spouse lives in Texas and you do not, you can file in the Texas county where he or she lives (as long as he or she meets the residency requirements).
Your Divorce Will Take at Least 60 Days
If you come to the difficult decision that you need a divorce, you probably want the process to be swift. A Texas divorce, however, takes time.
First of all, after the Petition for Divorce is filed, at least 60 days must elapse before any divorce can be finalized. If you and your divorcing spouse have already determined how you will resolve the terms of your divorce, you will need to wait these 60 days before the court will make your divorce official.
Generally, however, divorcing couples use this waiting period to negotiate terms, which often takes considerably longer than 60 days. The divorce process itself often takes about six months to a full year. Further, if contested financial or child-custody issues complicate your divorce, it can take much longer.
If you and your divorcing spouse can come to mutually satisfactory terms that you are willing to sign off on for every important divorce issue within that 60-day timeframe, it may be possible to have a divorce finalized at the end of the waiting period. The divorce issues in question include the following important matters:
Child custody arrangements
The division of marital property
If you and your divorcing spouse cannot come to an agreement on these terms, it is very likely to increase the amount of time it will take you to obtain a divorce.
Because it’s far more important to obtain divorce terms that support your financial and parental rights than it is to attach an artificial deadline to your divorce, it is a good idea to be more concerned with getting your divorce right—rather than obtaining a speedy divorce. It is important to have realistic expectations when it comes to the timeline of your divorce.
There Are Standing Orders in Place
Once you file for divorce, the court will expect both of you to refrain from making major financial or child custody decisions or changes prior to the conclusion of your divorce. In Killeen, there are standing orders in place that prohibit actions such as the following for every divorcing couple:
Closing financial accounts unilaterally
Taking the other spouse off of marital credit cards unilaterally
Taking the children out of state without permission to do so
Changing your children’s home, school, daycare, or any other primary concern related to their lives without resolving the matter with your divorcing spouse
Unilaterally altering a life, health, or car insurance policy
The court expects you to maintain the status quo to the degree possible while your divorce is pending to help ensure that neither of you is angling for an unfair advantage during the divorce process. The court expects both parties to proceed in good faith, and the court can take any failure to do so into careful consideration when determining the terms of a divorce.
Related: “If Your Spouse Plays Dirty in Your Texas Divorce”
You Might Face Temporary Orders
If you and your divorcing spouse are unable to agree on issues related to your living situation, finances, or parenting, the court may issue temporary orders to make decisions for you while your divorce is pending. These orders may determine any of the following arrangements:
Who will be paying for what, including credit card bills, the mortgage, utilities, car payments, and more
Who will take possession of which vehicle
What the parenting time schedule that divides your time with the children will be like
If temporary child support will be necessary
If temporary alimony will be necessary
Matters related to any family pets
Temporary orders can help you and your spouse move forward and make decisions in your divorce case. If you could benefit from temporary orders, contact a Williamson County divorce attorney today.
You Should Establish Divorce Priorities
Your Williamson County divorce attorney will help you understand how the terms of your divorce are likely to be resolved and will help you identify your divorce priorities. Once you recognize the elements of your divorce that are most important to you, you will be better prepared to strategize a path forward.
Adopting a “winner take all” approach is not likely to do you any favors. Focusing on your priorities, however, can provide you with the direction necessary to make the tough decisions that need to be made.
It Is Very Likely That Your Case Will Not Go to Court
Many divorcing couples believe their temporary orders will segue directly to court, but the truth is that most divorces are settled out of court. As long as you and your divorcing spouse are able to negotiate terms related to all of the following issues, you will not need the court to intervene on your behalf:
The division of your marital property
Child custody arrangements
You and your divorcing spouse will be given every opportunity to resolve the terms of your divorce between yourselves. If you and your ex are able to resolve one or more terms between yourselves, those are terms that you will not require legal intervention.
You are not, however, required to spontaneously agree, which is often unrealistic for two people who are divorcing. All the following negotiation options are available to you:
Hammering out whatever terms you can between yourselves (with the professional legal guidance of your respective divorce attorneys)
Turning to your respective divorce attorneys to negotiate terms on your behalf
Engaging in a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), such as mediation, in which you, your spouse, and your respective divorce attorneys meet with a professional divorce mediator who serves as a neutral third party who helps you explore your best options and who helps you better understand how the court is likely to rule in your divorce case.
It is important to ensure that the terms you sign off on support your rights and best interests, and a seasoned divorce attorney can help you with that.
Only if you exhaust each of these options and still have terms left to resolve will you need the court’s intervention. Most divorcing couples prefer not to let go of their decision-making authority when it comes to matters that directly affect their futures as well as their financial and parental rights, which can be very motivating. You might find that a scheduled court date motivates both of you to dig a bit deeper in terms of your negotiation efforts.
Giving up your ability to make decisions that directly affect your financial and parental rights generally is not appealing, but there are times when going to court is the best option. A prime example is if your spouse is more interested in making the divorce process as difficult as possible than reasonably resolving the terms that remain undetermined.
Mediation May Be a Good Option
Mediation involves a professional mediator in the role of a neutral third party who will go back and forth between you and your divorce attorney and your spouse and theirs – helping you to explore potential term resolutions.
Mediation can be very motivating and tends to elicit more authentic negotiations – due to the fact that it allows the involved parties to make their own primary decisions. An important note about mediation is that if your spouse is absolutely not interested in engaging in fair negotiations, the process can become just another step on the way to court.
Texas Does Not Recognize Legal Separation
Many married couples believe that not living together will eventually render them legally separated, but this simply is not the case. In Texas, there is no legal separation.
This means that while you and your spouse live apart, your separate financial situations (both the assets and the debts) will continue to accrue as part of your marital property, which is subject to division upon divorce.
Even if you and your spouse only obtain assets and debts in your own names, you will still both possess legal ownership of those assets and be legally responsible for those debts. In Texas, you remain married and your finances remain intertwined until you obtain a legal divorce.
Your Personal Information Can Be Scrutinized during the Divorce Process
Many people believe their private texts, emails, phone calls, and social media posts are off-limits when it comes to divorce, but this is not the case. Information like texts, emails, and social media posts frequently find their way into divorce cases. Your spouse’s attorney can even request that the judge in your case order you to produce your private medical records.
In the end, very few matters are entirely private when it comes to divorce, and you should expect and plan for everything coming out. This includes letting your dedicated divorce attorney know what kind of information will likely make its way into your case. Surprises are never a good thing when it comes to divorce.
You Will Need to Find an Alternate Form of Health Insurance
If you and your children are on your spouse’s employment-based health insurance, your children can remain on their other parent’s policy after the divorce, but the same is not true for you.
There is a federal law (known as the Consolidated Budget Reconciliation Act, COBRA) that allows you to remain on your spouse’s group plan for a specific amount of time. COBRA plans can be quite robust, but they tend to be very expensive, and the amount of time you are allowed to continue purchasing the coverage is limited.
It is important to note that health insurance arrangements are your responsibility—family courts in Texas do not address this concern.
Your Texas Divorce Will Affect Your and Your Children’s Future
Your divorce will affect your life going forward in significant ways that obviously include your finances and your living arrangements. The fact is that even if you are the primary custodial parent and your children live primarily with you, they will not be living in your home full-time like they once were.
The consequences of your divorce are so significant in your and your children’s lives that they should not be left to chance—work closely with an experienced Williamson County divorce attorney from the outset.
A Judge Will Need to Sign Off on Your Divorce
While it is true that you will not need the court’s intervention if you and your divorcing spouse are able to resolve each of the terms that apply in your case, this does not mean you will not need the court to finalize your divorce – because you will.
This court visit generally amounts to at least one of you appearing before the judge for what is called a prove-up, which typically lasts about five minutes. Your prove-up, in essence, will be a checklist that allows the judge to make your divorce official (only in rare instances will a judge refuse to sign off on terms that a divorcing couple has agreed to).
You Should Not Navigate Your Divorce Alone
Divorce is complicated, and emotions run high. However, your divorce settlement will likely have significant financial repercussions far into your future. Do not rush headlong into a settlement for the sake of expediency.
Your financial future and your access to your children are too important to leave to chance. An experienced Williamson County divorce attorney will help you navigate the often-rocky terrain of divorce and will help protect your rights in the process.
Turn to an Experienced Williamson County Divorce Attorney for the Help You Need
Handling a divorce without legal guidance is never a good idea. Divorce is complicated, and you need the skilled guidance of a legal professional to ensure that your financial and parental rights are well protected.
The dedicated legal team at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Williamson County, Texas, is committed to helping you through this very difficult experience. Our knowledgeable divorce lawyers have the skill, experience, and compassion to guide your case toward its most positive resolution. We are here to help, so please contact us online or call us at (254) 781-4222 today.