The Building Blocks of Your Texas Divorce
There are some universal truths about divorce, and one of them is that yours will not follow exactly the same path as anyone else’s. Your divorce will have its own ups and downs, its own dramas, and its own resolution. This said; however, the building blocks of every Texas divorce remain the same, and better understanding these building blocks can help you move forward with greater purpose and more confidence (both of which are good things when it comes to divorce). Keep reading to school yourself in what you need to know about your Texas divorce.
When You Know, You Know
There is no quiz or checklist that you can consult with to find out if a divorce is the best path forward for you. In fact, if you are not sure, there may be a chance that you can save your marriage, and that is something that is worth considering. Options that can help you explore this possibility include:
Heart to hearts with your spouse about improving your relationship (sometimes facing the fact that there are problems is enough to motivate a couple to dig a bit deeper)
Conversations with trusted friends, loved ones, family members, and/or clergy in which you explore your feelings more deeply
If, on the other hand, you know that divorce is the answer you are looking for, there is no need to second guess yourself, berate yourself, or do anything other than take the next step and consult with an experienced divorce attorney. This may or may not come after you have discussed the matter with your spouse (depending upon your situation and what the right choice for you is).
If Your Spouse Is Asking You for a Divorce
If the divorce is not your choice, but your spouse has already filed, it is time to consult with a dedicated divorce attorney of your own. While you can offer to attend marriage counseling and to work on the problems in your marriage (which are inevitable in every marriage), it will not do much good if your spouse is not interested in giving things another chance. The fact is that if your spouse’s mind is made up, there is very little you can likely do to change it (and at this point, you have to ask yourself if you would really want to).
The fact that your spouse has already filed for divorce puts you in the position of having to play catch up in terms of gathering important documentation and more, which means reaching out to a seasoned divorce attorney sooner rather than later is important.
If you are headed toward divorce, you naturally want to know how long it is likely going to take you to get to the other side, and the answer is a resounding – it depends. As with everything else related to divorce, yours will proceed according to the unique circumstances involved. One time element that applies across every divorce in Texas, however, is that there is a 60-day waiting period between filing for divorce and its finalization.
If you can resolve every term of your divorce within these 60 days, you can consider yourself well ahead of the game. Most divorces – even relatively straightforward divorces – take considerably longer. Here are some factors that seriously complicate a divorce and tend to make it require that much more time to finalize:
Divorces that involve high assets or any other financial complication, such as intermingled separate and marital property, business ownership, ownership of multiple properties, and more
Divorces that are highly contentious (if your divorcing spouse chooses to make your divorce as difficult as he or she possibly can, there is very little you can do to mitigate the effects)
Divorces that involve complicated child custody concerns
Divorces that require the court’s intervention (and that, therefore, proceed according to the court’s clogged docket)
Ultimately, rushing your divorce is very unlikely to do you any favors. Doing the prep, staying the course, and remaining open to fair compromise is the best way to move your divorce along as effectively and efficiently as possible.
Your Uncontested Divorce
If you and your divorcing spouse are both committed to keeping your divorce as amicable as possible and hammering out the terms of your divorce between yourselves (under the guidance of your respective divorce attorneys), you may be able to resolve your divorce within the 60-day waiting period, and that is something worth patting yourself on the back over.
If you do not come up against any major snags in the process, your uncontested divorce may be smooth sailing, but even if you do, sticking to your resolution to continue meeting your spouse in the middle (while continuing to protect your financial and parental rights) is worth pursuing and is likely to serve you well.
The Divorce Process
While your divorce will proceed how it will proceed, the steps in the divorce process remain consistent and include:
Initiating your divorce by consulting with an experienced divorce attorney and filing the Petition for Divorce
Obtaining temporary orders that address who will live where, who will take care of which bill, how the children will divide their time between the two of you, and temporary alimony (if applicable) while your divorce is pending
Entering the discovery of evidence phase in which you and your divorcing spouse exchange all necessary financial documentation (as well as other categories of documentation)
Entering into negotiations in which you attempt to hammer out mutually acceptable terms for all those divorce issues that remain unresolved
Exhausting your negotiation options, including mediation, as necessary
Moving forward toward trial, if there are any divorce terms that you are unable to resolve between yourselves
Obtaining your finalized divorce decree, which lays down the terms of your divorce in exacting detail
The Terms of Your Divorce
Before you negotiate the terms of your divorce, you have to know what they are. One of the universals of a Texas divorce is that, while every divorce is unique, the terms (as applicable) do not vary.
The Division of Your Marital Property
The assets, properties, and other things of value that you and your spouse acquired while you are married are considered marital property (in the eyes of the law), and these assets must be divided between you equitably in the event of divorce. Equitable means fair in the context of a wide array of factors that the law considers relevant to this division. Any property that follows you into the marriage and that you are able to keep strictly separate throughout your marriage will remain your own, but it’s important to understand that keeping an asset strictly separate can be a very difficult task.
Marital finances tend to get messy quickly, and keeping what is yours, mine, or ours separate from one another is not easy in the best of situations. Suffice to say that this divorce term has the potential to become the most contentious element of your divorce, and factors that can make it more so include:
Intermingled assets that combine separate and marital property
In Texas, custody is broken down into both legal and physical custody. Legal custody guides who will be making the major parenting decisions, including those related to the following:
Your children’s healthcare needs
Your children’s schooling
Your children’s extracurriculars
Your children’s religious education
One parent can take on this important decision-making authority solo; you can share the responsibility; you can share the responsibility, but one of you will maintain tie-breaking authority should the need arise, or you can divide the responsibility between you according to the kind of decision being made.
Physical custody dictates when the children are with you and when they are with your ex. If you are able to come to a determination between yourselves, you will have considerable flexibility regarding your parenting time schedule, but if the court’s intervention is required, you will likely receive one of the court’s standard schedules.
When it comes to physical custody, there are two basic approaches that include one of you becoming the primary custodial parent (while the other has what amounts to a visitation schedule) or you and your ex splitting your parenting time equally (or nearly so).
The State of Texas – like other states – requires both parents to maintain financial responsibility for their children post-divorce, and child support is the legal tool used to help facilitate this requirement. Child support is calculated according to careful state guidelines, but the court has the discretion to take other factors into consideration if it is deemed to be in the best interests of the children.
Generally, however, the factors that play the most significant roles in the determination of child support include the number of overnights each parent has with the children and each parent’s income (in relation to the other’s). Even if you and your ex split your time with your children down to the minute, the higher earner between you is likely to have the child support obligation.
Alimony – or spousal maintenance – is designed for those situations in which one spouse is financially disadvantaged by divorce, and the other spouse has the means to help. Alimony is less common than it ever was, but this does not alter the fact that it can be an important tool in divorce. The longer your marriage and the greater the financial discrepancy between you and your divorcing spouse, the more likely it is that alimony will be awarded. Two factors that often tip the balance toward alimony include:
If the recipient contributed to his or her spouse’s career by working while he or she obtained an advanced degree
If the recipient took care of both the house and the children while his or her spouse created a professional empire
Generally, alimony is intended to last just long enough to help the recipient gain the job training, the education, and/or the experience necessary to move forward with a career that allows him or her to become more financially independent.
Your Negotiation Options
As you move forward with the divorce process, you will dedicate considerable time and effort to negotiating your divorce terms between yourselves. While the prospect may seem daunting, it is important to understand that you do have options when it comes to these negotiations. You will begin with the least outside guidance and will proceed to more significant outside help as the need arises. These incremental steps generally include the following:
You and your spouse will begin by attempting to find a middle ground between yourselves (with the guidance of your respective divorce attorneys).
Any unresolved terms can proceed to your respective divorce attorneys, who will skillfully negotiate between themselves on behalf of the best interests of each of you.
If terms remain unresolved, you can move forward toward a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), such as mediation – where a professional mediator will help you and your divorcing spouse better understand your legal options, help you better understand how the court is most likely to rule, and help you explore compromises that might work for you.
After determining that your powers of compromise are exhausted, any terms that remain will need to be resolved by the court. It is important to recognize, however, that this is not an all-or-nothing matter – the more terms you are able to resolve between yourselves, the better off you are. If you have a term remaining, it does not make you a failure at negotiations but is, instead, a symbol of how far you have come and how much work you have poured into the process.
Reach out to an Experienced Killeen Divorce Attorney for the Help You Need
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – proudly serving Killeen, Texas – is a resourceful divorce attorney who has the experience, compassion, and drive to help you, so please do not hesitate to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 for more information today.