Updated on July 8, 2023
Your divorce will not be exactly like anyone else’s, but there are some basic tasks that every divorcing couple should take into consideration prior to beginning the divorce process in Texas. The more preparation you put into your divorce, the better off you will be.
If you are preparing for a Texas divorce, it is important to move forward with a plan—rather than simply hurling yourself into a divorce and hoping for the best. By considering your options carefully and moving forward with purpose, you help to ensure that your financial and parental rights are well protected throughout the divorce process.
It is advisable to contact a knowledgeable attorney to help you prepare for your divorce in Texas. A Killeen divorce attorney at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard will help you navigate the legal process and ensure that you do everything you need to prepare for your divorce.
Face the Divorce Question
You did not marry with the intention of divorcing, and you may not have even considered it a possibility. Sometimes, however, couples have to face the fact that divorce has become their best option. If you are considering divorce, take the time to contemplate whether divorce is truly the resolution you seek.
If you are not sure that divorce is the answer, take the time to explore your options and make the right decisions for you. It is important to remember that divorce will not only disrupt your children’s lives but will also take a significant financial and emotional toll.
Speaking with a couple’s counselor or therapist can help you get in closer touch with where you actually are in your marriage. Your trusted friends, family members, congregants at your place of worship, and your family law firm are all good resources for finding a counselor who is a good fit. (Read more: “Can Your Marriage Be Saved?”)
If you have made the difficult decision that divorce is right for you, then it is time to commit to the process and take the necessary steps forward. If you are at this point, it can help to look at divorce as the gateway to your post-divorce future. Doing your due diligence prior to (or soon after) filing can help you keep your divorce moving forward with purpose.
Consult with an Experienced Divorce Attorney
The best step forward toward divorce—regardless of your situation—is to consult with an experienced divorce attorney. Taking this step does not mean that you will necessarily file for divorce before discussing the matter with your spouse, but it will allow you to understand better what your options are and how best to proceed.
Depending upon the circumstances involved, your experienced divorce attorney may or may not advise you to file for divorce prior to discussing your decision with your spouse. If you have a good chance of keeping your divorce uncontested, your divorce attorney will likely recommend that you discuss it first and file after.
Because divorce is so difficult and fraught with emotions, you may be tempted to forego a careful decision-making process in favor of a quick fix—moving out of your marital home, for example. This move is rarely in your best interest and will likely result in unexpected consequences. Discuss major decisions like this with your divorce attorney before you proceed.
Divorce is a complicated legal matter that can quickly become even more complicated. Matters that tend to complicate divorce include the following concerns:
Highly contentious custody concerns
Ultimately, protecting your rights is key, and once you find a divorce attorney who understands your primary concerns, who helps you understand the process and set your divorce priorities, and whom you are comfortable working with, you will be well prepared to move forward.
The outcome of your divorce will reverberate into your and your children’s future in significant ways that you may not have even considered. Finding a divorce attorney with whom you are comfortable working and who inspires your confidence is critical.
The divorce decisions that you make now are too important to leave to chance. Working closely with an experienced Killeen divorce attorney will help ensure that your rights are well protected throughout the legal process.
Discuss the Matter with Your Spouse
Because an uncontested divorce in which you are both willing to negotiate terms between yourselves is nearly always preferable, the first step you may want to take is discussing your decision to seek a divorce with your spouse.
No one likes to be blindsided, and even if your spouse sees the writing on the wall, taking the time to discuss the issue with him or her can go a long way toward keeping the peace. There are, however, situations in which this approach isn’t your best option, and making this distinction can be complicated.
Consider How Fault Can Affect Your Divorce
Most Texas divorces are based on insupportability, which means they are not fault-based. However, the State of Texas does allow you to seek a divorce predicated on your spouse’s fault, such as adultery, but the burden of proving their fault is entirely on you.
Unless your spouse accepts fault in the matter, which is unlikely, you can expect a divorce based on fault to be resolved in court.
No-fault divorces tend to be more straightforward, less contentious, and less costly, which can make the process easier for everyone, including the children involved. You should know, however, that your spouse’s fault could play a role in how your divorce terms are resolved – even in a no-fault divorce.
The court has considerable discretion in resolving divorce terms, and if, for example, your spouse poured marital assets into wining and dining an extramarital affair, the judge can take this fact into consideration when determining the division of your marital property.
Needless to say, choosing to base your divorce on fault is a big decision. Work closely with a Killeen divorce attorney to determine the best path forward for your case.
Understand Divorce Requirements in Texas
To be eligible for a divorce in Texas, you and your divorcing spouse must meet several administrative requirements for obtaining a divorce in Texas:
At least one of you must have been a resident of Texas for at least six months prior to filing.
At least one of you must have been a resident of the Texas county in which you file for at least 90 days prior to filing.
Finally, there is also a 60-day cooling-off period required, which means that, even if you and your divorcing spouse are in absolute harmony regarding every divorce term when you file, you will need to wait 60 days before your divorce can be finalized. Most divorcing couples, however, use this time to hammer out their divorce terms, and many divorces take much longer.
Prepare for a Divorce Financially
As you probably know, divorce is a costly process. The cost of your divorce depends on several factors. Before you file for divorce, it is important to make sure that you are prepared for it financially.
The legal costs and attorney’s fees are not the only expenses you should prepare for. For many people, housing expenses associated with moving to a new place after filing for divorce can significantly impact their budget.
If you lived with your spouse during your marriage, one of you will have to move out and find a new apartment or house while the divorce pends, unless, of course, you are prepared to live together during this time. You should consider housing costs even if you stay in the home. Can you afford housing bills and living costs on your own if your spouse no longer pays their share?
When going through a divorce in Texas, it takes a lot of planning to make sure that you can survive the divorce process financially. If you are unemployed or have a part-time job, you may need to find a new job to earn enough income to cover your housing expenses during the divorce.
Obtain Credit in Your Own Name
If you don’t have any credit in your name alone, now is an excellent time to change that. Having a healthy credit score is necessary for taking advantage of many financial opportunities and for moving forward in an independent life. Steadily building your own personal credit score after divorce is far easier than attempting to bring up a low score brought on by inattention.
Building your credit can be as easy as opening a new credit account. Obtaining a credit card you use and paying according to its terms can do wonders for your credit.
Forge a Working Knowledge of Your Marital Assets and Debts
If you are not closely involved with your family’s financials, it is time to become better acquainted with your marital assets and debts. Your divorce settlement will hinge upon these numbers, and you must have a working knowledge of what is involved.
Work closely with your knowledgeable Killeen divorce attorney to help ensure that your financial rights are well represented throughout the divorce process. If your divorcing spouse is in charge of your joint finances, it can make obtaining a reliable financial snapshot both more difficult and more important.
Understand the Division of Property in Texas
Texas is a community property state. This means that your marital assets and debts will be divided according to what is considered “just and right.” This term does not mean that the court will split your marital property down the middle. If you and your spouse cannot come to a settlement agreement, the court will get involved and determine your settlement for you.
Move Forward with a Plan
After determining you need a divorce, the worst thing you can do is rush forward with no plan in place. Filing for divorce requires careful planning, and without a map forward, you are far more likely to lose sight of your divorce priorities and be unprepared to protect your rights throughout the legal process.
It is essential that you map out the divorce process for your case and take into account your divorce priorities. Consult with a divorce lawyer to help you build a solid plan to protect your rights during divorce.
Gather Information to Prepare for Your Divorce
If you are considering filing for divorce, you can start gathering the necessary information and compiling the documentation for your divorce case. Being organized and proactive can give you an edge.
Documents are the pieces that make up the puzzle of your marital financials, which is why there is no such thing as collecting too many. If it is a document that pertains to either you or your spouse, it could be relevant, and you should have a copy. Some of the basics include the following forms of documentation:
Your mortgage statements
Information about your and your spouse’s employment and salary
Your and your spouse’s separate and joint bank account and credit card statements
Your income taxes for the last several years
Titles to your vehicles
Payment information for any vehicles you are in the process of purchasing
Corporate and partnership tax returns
Retirement account and pension plan statements
Investment account statements
Proof of state residency
Real estate appraisals or market value opinions
Life insurance policies
Social Security benefits statements
Documentation of any other assets owned by either of you separately or by both of you jointly
Prenuptial or postnuptial agreements
Information about previous marriages
Information about children
Current custody arrangements
This is not the full list of documents that you need to prepare for your divorce case in Texas, but gathering as much information as possible before filing for divorce can help you save time, energy, and money during the divorce process.
Once you have gathered all the necessary information and documentation for your divorce, you can proceed with filing an Original Petition for Divorce. It is advisable to contact an attorney to help you prepare the divorce paperwork and ensure that you fill out the forms correctly.
If you are not fully aware of your finances and property when filing for divorce, do not worry. Texas law requires both spouses to complete financial affidavits during the divorce proceedings to ensure that all assets and liabilities are accounted for.
Make a Budget that Addresses Your Finances
Your budget—just like your divorce—is unique to you and your living situation. In order to negotiate for financial terms that support your best interests, you need to have a solid working knowledge of your household budget.
The fact is that you will almost certainly live on less once you are divorced. Many people downsize their homes and make other important financial adjustments to address this fact. Your budget should carefully address your housing needs and costs, along with the other regular expenses you will face, including the following expenses:
Your mortgage and the cost of your utilities
The cost of your life, health, home, and car insurance, as well as any other policies you carry
Your and your children’s average (and any ongoing) medical expenses
The cost of groceries for you and your children
The cost of clothing for you and your children
The cost of your children’s education and daycare
Your children’s extracurricular expenses
Your transportation expenses, including your car payment and the cost of gas
The cost of your monthly memberships and subscriptions
Your entertainment and vacation expenses
The legal costs associated with a Killeen divorce lawyer
Any other pertinent expenses
You may also experience expenses that are unique to your situation. Divorces involving business ownership, high assets, or other financial complications tend to require more in-depth efforts. You know your situation best, so make your budget as detailed as possible to defend your financial rights during your divorce.
Negotiate Your Child Custody Arrangements
As hard as divorce is on you, it will likely be even more difficult for your children. If you and your divorcing spouse can find a middle ground on child custody, you can spare your children some of the heartache involved in divorce.
Even if you and your spouse do not see eye-to-eye on the issue of child custody from the outset, the option of mediation is available. You will be best prepared to negotiate effectively if you understand your priorities regarding child custody arrangements.
Outline Your Priorities
If you head into divorce with your sights set on gaining whatever advantage you can – with no real plan in terms of your parental and financial rights and what is best for you and your children – you are not doing yourself any favors.
Instead, you should focus on your own unique divorce priorities. It is essential to recognize and vocalize these priorities as well as you can. You cannot strategize an effective plan to reach your goals if you are not able to outline your goals.
Review all of the following significant components of divorce and consider which are most important to you and which are open to compromise:
The Division of Your Marital Property
In Texas, the property that you and your spouse acquired as a married couple is divided in a manner considered just and right—or fair—upon divorce. Getting this division done correctly is critical to your future financials.
Any separate property remains the property of the spouse who brought it with them into the marriage, but in order for an asset to retain its separate nature, it must be kept scrupulously separate throughout the marriage. When separate assets intermingle with marital assets, they typically become marital and must be considered in the division of marital property.
Your Child Custody Arrangements
If you have children, your child custody arrangements are your top priority and should receive your closest attention. Child custody in Texas is addressed in terms of both legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody determines decision-making authority when it comes to major parenting decisions that relate to categories such as the following concerns:
Your children’s schooling
Your children’s healthcare
Your children’s participation in travel and extracurricular activities
Your children’s religious education
When it comes to legal custody, you have several options for dividing this decision-making responsibility:
You and your spouse continue to make these decisions together.
You and your spouse continue to make these decisions together, but one of you assumes the authority to break a tie in those instances when your good-faith efforts to reach a consensus fail.
You and your spouse split this decision-making authority according to the kind of decision that needs to be made.
One of you assumes sole legal custody and makes these primary parenting decisions on your own.
Physical custody sets the parenting schedule that determines when your children are with you and when they are with their other parent. Although parenting time schedules vary considerably, they can all be classified into one of the following two categories:
One parent becomes the primary custodial parent, and the children spend the majority of their overnights with them.
Both parents divide the number of overnights they have with the children more evenly.
Child support is based on state calculation guidelines and is usually paid to the primary custodial parent by the parent with the visitation schedule. However, even when parenting time is divided evenly between both parents, the parent who is the higher earner usually has the child support obligation.
Alimony (or spousal support) comes into play when one spouse has a post-divorce financial need and the other has the financial ability to help. When alimony is considered appropriate, it is generally ordered for an amount and duration that allows the recipient to obtain the education or job training necessary to gain greater financial independence.
Each of these components, as applicable, will play an essential role in your post-divorce future. The more forethought you put into each of these issues and the more negotiating you do in good faith regarding each, the less chance there is that you will need the court to intervene on your behalf. Contact a lawyer today to create a plan that will protect your divorce priorities.
Find Ways to Keep Your Divorce Manageable
Even couples who begin the process with their sights on obtaining an amicable divorce can find themselves in the middle of a divorce that is anything but. However, you can do some things to help keep your divorce as manageable as possible. Consider the following methods for keeping your divorce under control:
Trust your divorce attorney to help you make the right decisions for you and carefully follow their skilled advice.
If you cannot communicate civilly with your soon-to-be ex on a face-to-face basis, use a more neutral form of communication – emails and texts can help reduce the associated stress.
Keep your focus on your legal rights and try to let the rest go.
Turn to trusted friends, family members, or a professional counselor to help you process your thoughts.
Find a healthy means of relieving your stress, such as taking a walk or relaxing with a cup of tea.
Consider Other Helpful Steps toward Divorce
As you are preparing for divorce, consider these other steps to help you work towards a smooth and efficient divorce in Texas:
Consider marriage counseling if there is a chance for reconciliation.
Make a list of all the property and assets that rightfully belong to you.
Decide whether you want to stay in the marital house or move out to find a new place to live during the divorce process.
Make sure that you have enough money to afford the living expenses after moving out or staying in the marital residence.
If you have a Last Will and Testament, consider updating it if you plan to file for divorce.
Open a credit card, a checking account, and a savings account in your name.
Get a free credit report.
Hire a Killeen divorce attorney and formulate a plan forward with him or her.
Remain willing to negotiate with your ex without losing sight of your rights and priorities.
Divorce is a difficult process, but the more effort you put into your preplanning, the better prepared you’ll be.
Your lawyer will help you stay organized throughout the divorce process to ensure that you secure a favorable outcome in your case. Schedule a FREE case review with our divorce lawyers at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard to talk about your situation.
An Experienced Killeen Divorce Attorney Can Help
Many people overlook the importance of hiring a skilled attorney when filing for divorce. However, being represented by a knowledgeable divorce attorney can make a huge difference in your case.
Your divorce attorney will help you prepare for the divorce and navigate the legal process. Your attorney will also compile all the documents and information you need to move forward with your case.
The path toward divorce is often rocky, but Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is an accomplished divorce attorney with the legal skill, savvy, and drive to efficiently ensure that you obtain divorce terms that work for you. We are here to help, so please do not wait to contact us online or call us at (254) 781-4222 today.