If you have come to a crossroads in your marriage and are considering divorce, think through your options carefully. The decisions you make now will guide your path forward, and the better informed you are, the better prepared you will be to protect your financial and parental rights.
While your divorce will be specific to you and your circumstances, a universally beneficial step that anyone considering divorce should take early in the process is consulting with an experienced Killeen divorce attorney.
Consider Your Options
Your spouse may have served you with divorce papers, or you may have come to the inevitable conclusion that you need a divorce, but if you are on the fence on the matter, it is time to consider your options.
Many married couples who encounter relationship difficulties are able to save their marriages with counseling and effort. If you are not sure that divorce is the right answer for you, you owe it to yourself and your marriage to try working things out.
However, remember that a desire to save your marriage does not mean that you should be the only one trying or that you should simply accept whatever your spouse chooses to dole out.
If you ultimately decide that you need a divorce, facing it down and moving forward with purpose is generally the best option. The divorce process tends to be lengthy and unpredictable, which makes having a plan and proceeding accordingly an excellent place to start.
Keep the Timeline in Mind
Texas has a sixty-day waiting period that begins after filing for divorce. This requirement means that finalizing a divorce takes at least sixty days, but most divorces in the state take considerably longer to resolve.
Your divorce cannot be finalized until the applicable terms are resolved – either between yourselves or in court. The more terms that require attention and the further apart you are on these terms, the longer you can expect your divorce to take.
In addition to negotiations between yourselves – as guided by your respective divorce attorneys – there is also the option of mediation, which allows divorcing couples to explore potential compromises in a focused setting.
If one or more terms remain unresolved after mediation, you will likely need to take the matter to court, and the court’s busy docket can slow the process considerably.
Understand the Divorce Terms that Apply
Four basic terms guide every divorce. In order to finalize your divorce, you will need to hammer out all of the applicable terms.
Child Custody Arrangements
If you and your divorcing spouse share children, child custody arrangements will likely play a major role in your divorce negotiations. Texas addresses child custody in terms of both legal custody and physical custody, and both will need to be resolved.
In addition to caring and providing for their children, parents are called upon to make primary decisions on their behalf. Legal custody determines how you and your children’s other parent handle this important matter.
There are several options for arranging legal custody, including making the decisions together (often with one spouse holding authority to break a tie in the event of a stalemate), dividing them between you according to category, or assigning the responsibility to one of you alone.
These are the kinds of parenting decisions involved in legal custody:
Decisions about your children’s healthcare
Decisions about your children’s extracurriculars
Decisions about your children’s religious upbringing
Physical custody sets the schedule by which you and your ex will split your time with your shared children.
If one of you becomes the primary custodial parent, that parent has the children for the majority of overnights while the other has a visitation schedule. The other option is splitting overnights with the kids between you more evenly.
You have the option of negotiating whatever schedule works for your unique family, but if you need the court’s intervention on the matter, you will very likely receive one of its standard parenting time schedules.
Child support is implemented to balance the financial support of children between both parents. The child support calculation process is complicated and involves many factors; however, most divorced parents can expect the higher earner to have the child support obligation. This is generally true even when overnights are divided evenly.
The Division of Marital Assets
The assets that you own prior to marriage are your separate property, and any assets that you, your spouse, or both of you together come to own during your marriage are marital assets that will need to be divided between you fairly – in relation to a wide range of variables – in the event of divorce.
When considering what is separate property and what is marital property, keep all of the following points in mind:
In order for separate property to remain separate, it must be kept separate throughout the marriage. Any intermingling of funds can nullify the separate nature of an asset.
Any increase in the value of a separate asset is considered marital.
The higher your marital assets, the more likely it is that complications will arise.
Business ownership can seriously complicate the matter of dividing marital assets, and one of the primary complications is settling the matter of the business’s value.
The more complicated your financials, the more wiggle room there is for hiding assets, and the more likely it is that forensic accounting will be required.
Dividing marital assets can get complicated quickly, so make sure to contact a divorce lawyer quickly so you can put your best foot forward from the beginning.
Many divorces do not address the matter of alimony, but if your divorce will leave one of you with a financial need – in relation to maintaining a lifestyle similar to the one you enjoyed while married – and the other has the financial capacity to help, the court may order alimony.
Typically, alimony is set for an amount and a duration that allows the recipient to obtain the education, job training, experience, or job skills necessary to support him or herself moving forward.
Know Your Own Priorities
In order to finalize your divorce, you will need to make compromises, and the better you understand your own priorities when it comes to your divorce terms, the better prepared you will be to compromise effectively.
Taking an “I want it all” approach is not realistic, and it is very likely to drag out the process and wear you down. In fact, it can even reach a point where you start to give in to unreasonable demands out of sheer exhaustion.
Knowing when to cede ground can provide you with powerful leverage when it comes to fortifying your own priorities – whatever they may be – and a dedicated divorce attorney can help you identify your divorce priorities.
A Note about Mediation
Even divorces that begin amicably enough can quickly turn contentious. However, because retaining the ability to make important decisions that directly affect your future is so important, exhausting your options in terms of negotiations is key.
Mediation offers the opportunity for you and your dedicated divorce attorney to come together with your divorcing spouse and his or her legal representation and focus on those terms that you have been unable to resolve.
Typically, the professional mediator – in their role as a neutral third party – will go back and forth between you and take the following actions:
Put forth any offers the other side makes
Help you better understand how the judge is likely to rule if your case goes to court
Explore compromises that you may not have seriously considered yet
Focus on equitable resolutions in relation to the terms in question
Preparation Is Key
It is important to be well-prepared for mediation. Make sure you have a solid understanding of the details involved and a clear understanding of your divorce priorities. These steps can help you make the most of mediation while continuing to protect your own rights.
Mediation Can Be Highly Motivating
Mediation can motivate even the most stubborn spouses to become more serious about fair negotiations.
If you are convinced that your divorcing spouse is not going to budge, you may be surprised by the effects mediation can have. Mediation is generally seen as the last stop before court, and the idea of allowing a judge to usurp their decision-making authority can have a profound effect on your spouse’s inclination to compromise.
When Mediation Is Unlikely to Help
Mediation is an excellent tool that helps many divorcing couples keep their cases out of court, which allows them to keep primary decisions that affect them directly in their own hands. There are some instances, however, when mediation is nothing more than another costly and time-consuming step on the path toward divorce court.
If your spouse is giving every indication that they are more interested in causing trouble than in resolving the terms of your divorce, mediation may be an exercise in futility. Consult with a knowledgeable divorce attorney to help you make the best decision for you in the situation in which you find yourself.
If you are facing a divorce, you may feel like you have too many questions to ask. Concentrating on some of the divorce-related questions that are asked more frequently may provide you with greater focus regarding your own divorce proceedings.
Do I need a divorce attorney?
Without the focused legal guidance of a Killeen divorce attorney, your parental and financial rights are far more likely to be trampled. Divorce is a complex legal matter, and the rollercoaster of emotions that goes along with it makes proceeding on your own a less than ideal option.
How can I protect my children throughout the process?
One of the most difficult aspects of divorce for many parents is how hard it is on their children, which is completely understandable. There are, however, some basic steps you can take to help protect your children from the outset:
Do not communicate with your divorcing spouse through your children.
Do not badmouth your children’s other parent in your children’s presence.
Share your worries and concerns regarding the divorce with your divorce attorney, a trusted friend or family member, a clergy member, a counselor, or any other appropriate adult – but not with your children.
If you cannot maintain the status quo for your children by keeping them in their family home and current school system, which is optimal, be sure you discuss all impending changes with them early on – in order to ease them through the transition.
Let your children know you are there for them, and take the time to lovingly and patiently answer all their questions in an age-appropriate manner.
How can I keep the lines of communication open between my divorcing spouse and me?
The truth is that there is nothing like divorce to break down the lines of communication between even the best-intended spouses. It is also true that, in order to finalize your divorce, you are going to need to communicate with your divorcing spouse on a range of important matters, including the logistics of continuing to raise your shared children.
The good news is that, even if you are not able to simply pick up the phone and talk things through, there are other viable options:
Communicating electronically, which many divorcing couples find far less stressful
Using a parenting app that allows you to address parenting concerns within the app, bypassing the need to chitchat
Communicating through your attorneys regarding the negotiation of divorce terms that have stalled
Scheduling a weekly call with your divorcing spouse to discuss any upcoming parenting matters, which may be focused enough to help keep communication concerns at bay
Reach Out to an Experienced Killeen Divorce Attorney for Legal Guidance Today
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is an accomplished divorce attorney with an imposing practice that focuses on helping valued clients like you resolve their divorces favorably – with terms that work for them.