Facing a Divorce? Communication Is Key
If you are facing a divorce, you have plenty on your mind. The breakdown of your marriage is an emotional journey that can feel relentless. Unfortunately, divorce heaps a complicated legal process on top of this, and as hard as divorce is on you, it can be that much more difficult for your children. In other words, it is a whole lot, and it would not be surprising if you are at a total loss regarding how best to proceed. While your divorce will be specific to you and the unique circumstances involved, one factor that is almost universally guaranteed to make your divorce proceed more smoothly is making open communication between you and your divorcing spouse your first priority. At the same time, this may seem like a minor detail in relation to all the major tasks ahead; keeping the lines of communication open can help you conquer the tasks ahead far more effectively and efficiently.
The Primary Divorce Task
When it comes to divorce, the primary task you face is resolving the terms of your divorce, and if you and your spouse are able to find a middle ground on each term that applies to your situation, you can consider it a victory. This does not mean that you and your soon-to-be-ex have to be in complete agreement on every divorce-related issue (if that were the case, you likely wouldn’t be getting a divorce in the first place), but it does mean that keeping the lines of communication open is an excellent place to start.
The Division of Your Marital Property
One of the primary issues that tend to hold divorces up is the division of marital property. You both poured yourselves into creating a home and a comfortable life for your family, and now you have to divide the fruits of your labor and somehow establish two homes. This not only directly affects your financial standing but is also likely to take on a personal quality. All of this is normal stuff, and to be expected. Figuring out your priorities regarding the division of your marital property is the best way to create a strategy for moving forward. For example, if your top concern is staying in the family home with your children, you will need to strategize how to make this happen in terms of the division of your marital property. The basics as they relate to the division of your marital property include:
Everything that you acquired as a married couple is marital property – regardless of who paid for it, whose name is attached, or anything else.
The exceptions to this rule are any gifts or inheritances that either of you received in your name alone.
Those assets or properties that you bring into the marriage with you and that you keep disentangled from marital property throughout remain your separate property. It should be noted, however, that keeping separate property separate throughout a marriage is a high bar.
In Texas, marital property is divided equitably – rather than necessarily being divided equally. Equitably means fairly when the circumstances involved are taken into careful consideration.
When it comes to the division of your marital property, protecting your financial rights is critical, but this does not mean you have to go into knock-down-drag-out mode. Focusing on your priorities and engaging in reasonable negotiations can be surprisingly effective. It’s important to remember, too, that you and your ex are not required to negotiate solely between yourselves – you can turn to your respective divorce attorneys to negotiate on behalf of each of you. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR), such as mediation, is also available.
Texas addresses child custody in terms of both legal and physical custody. Legal custody refers to who will be making those major parenting decisions that shape your children’s lives, including those related to the following:
Your children’s schooling
Your children’s health care
Your children’s extracurriculars
Your children’s religious education
If you and your children’s other parent are committed to making open communication your focus throughout your divorce and beyond, sharing legal custody is likely the best approach. You naturally both want what’s best for your children, and these are important decisions that you are both invested in. When it comes to legal custody, however, you have options, including:
You can divide this decision-making authority in a way that makes sense to both of you.
You can make these important decisions between yourselves, but one of you may have tie-breaking authority in the event that you are unable to find a mutually acceptable solution.
One of you can take on sole legal custody (if there is a compelling reason for doing so).
Physical custody determines how you and your children’s other parent will be splitting your time with your children. The most important point to make here is that your children love both of you and want to continue spending time with both of you. If you and your divorcing spouse are able to communicate openly at this juncture, you should be able to discuss a parenting schedule that takes your kids’ needs and your own scheduling concerns into careful account. You both want what is best for your children, and the vast majority of parents would prefer to make decisions about how they divide their time with their children themselves – and to keep these matters outside of court.
Ultimately, the court makes every decision that relates to children in accordance with the best interests of the children, but because nobody understands what is best for your children the way you and their other parent do, hammering out a parenting schedule between yourselves is the best option (whenever possible). Again, you can turn to your respective divorce attorneys to help you get the job done.
When it comes to how you are going to divide your parenting time, you have two basic options. Either one of you will become the primary custodial parent while the other has a visitation schedule, or you can have a more even division – virtually any parenting schedule that you can agree to and that works for both of you will suffice. In other words, you have a lot of leeway on this one, and coming to a meeting of the minds with your divorcing spouse on this issue is a prime example of just how important keeping communication open between the two of you is.
RELATED READINGS: Your Rights as a Custodial Parent in Texas
Child support is calculated according to exacting state guidelines, which means that there is not a lot of wiggle room involved. If, however, extenuating circumstances play a role, child support can be calculated outside the parameters of the state’s guidelines. The primary factors that affect child support include:
The number of overnights each parent has with the children
Each parent’s net income (after specific deductions have been made)
In the State of Texas, every parent is responsible for supporting his or her children financially throughout their childhoods, and child support is the state’s tool for ensuring this continues to happen post-divorce. An important note about child support is that it is predicated on each parent’s ability to pay, which means that, even if you and your ex divide your parenting time evenly down the middle, the parent with the higher income is likely to have a child support obligation.
While the court can work outside the state’s child support guidelines, it must have a good reason for doing so, and the factors that go into this consideration can include all of the following:
The age and the specific needs of each child
Each parent’s net income
The amount paid by each parent for health insurance and out-of-pocket medical expenses
Each parent’s financial ability to contribute to raising the children, including the extent of each parent’s available resources
The amount of time the children spend with each parent
The earning potential of the parent with the child support obligation (in the event that he or she is intentionally unemployed altogether or is intentionally underemployed)
The childcare expenses shouldered by each parent
Whether either parent is responsible for one or more children outside the current divorce
If spousal maintenance is involved, and if so, what the amount and duration are and who the payor and payee are
Work benefits, such as a car or housing, received by either parent
The cost of any extraordinary medical attention needed by any of the children
The cost of any special education required by any of the children
The cost of any travel required to continue spending time with the children
The extent of outstanding debt assumed by either parent during the divorce
Any other factor the court deems relevant
Child support is one term of divorce that is generally fairly well established from the outset and that typically does not require much in the way of negotiations.
In Texas, alimony is officially called spousal maintenance, and the basic concept behind it is providing the spouse who suffers a financial setback the assistance he or she needs to gain greater financial independence – provided the other spouse has the financial means to help. Alimony is generally a temporary fix, but after a very long marriage – or when certain circumstances are present – it can be ongoing.
The factors that contribute to the court’s determination of alimony include:
The length of the marriage
Each spouse’s independent ability within the context of the divorce to provide for his or her own reasonable needs financially
Each spouse’s level of education, the scope of his or her job skills, and his or her employability overall
The amount of time necessary for the spouse requesting alimony to acquire the education and/or job training necessary to gain financial independence
The age, job history, earning potential, and physical and emotional health of the spouse seeking alimony
How paying child support affects the finances of the spouse who is required to pay alimony
The extent to which either spouse supported the other in building his or her career and increasing his or her earning potential during the course of the marriage
The separate property each spouse brought into the marriage
The contributions either spouse made as a homemaker and/or as a childcare provider throughout the marriage
Whether either spouse spent down, got rid of, gave away, or otherwise wasted marital assets prior to the divorce
Any marital misconduct, including adultery or cruel treatment generally, that either spouse engaged in
RELATED READINGS: Alimony 101
Hammering out Terms
Getting back to you and your spouse communicating with one another – your divorce is based on the terms that you negotiate or that you turn to the court to determine on your behalf. Keeping these very personal decisions between yourselves is almost universally considered preferable. In order to do this, you are going to need to find balance, which requires communicating with one another. Again, no one expects you to be best friends, but getting down to business can save you time, money, and heartache – and the less bad blood between you and your divorcing spouse, the less stress you foist upon your children.
Your Divorce Attorneys
If you and your divorcing spouse have exhausted your ability to negotiate between yourselves, there is no shame in turning to your respective divorce attorneys to negotiate for you. Once your divorce attorney understands your divorce priorities, he or she will be better prepared to create a game plan and strategize a path forward. You, of course, have the final say on every matter, but allowing your respective attorneys to do the negotiating can help to turn down the heat considerably.
Turn to an Experienced Killeen Divorce Attorney for the Legal Help You Need
If you are facing a divorce, Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – proudly serving Killeen, Texas – is a seasoned divorce attorney who has the experience and drive to skillfully advocate for your financial and parental rights while helping to keep the divorce process as efficient and low drama as possible. To learn more, please do not hesitate to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 today.