When Divorce Goes Bad

Divorcing man and woman arm wrestling and glaring at each other

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While it may seem silly to label a divorce a good divorce, we all know a bad divorce when we see one. No rational person goes into a marriage with the goal of ending it with a bang, but when things begin to go south in a divorce, it can definitely have a snowball effect. There are certain signs that your divorce may be in danger of going bad, and there are things you can do in your efforts to turn it around. Whatever your situation, however, if you’re facing a divorce, having an experienced Killeen divorce attorney on your side is well advised.

Your Amicable Divorce

Perhaps you and your spouse are both committed to pursuing an amicable divorce and are willing to put in the effort necessary to make that happen. Divorce is a complicated legal and emotional endeavor, and adopting this opening position is a great place to start. While your divorce may proceed entirely according to plan – with you obtaining a drama-free divorce – it may not. Divorce is unpredictable that way, and a seemingly minor dustup can evolve into an insurmountable problem in the blink of an eye.

When Things Are Contentious, to Begin With

If your divorce begins with a loud bang, it is unlikely that you will be able to put that genie back in the bottle. Rarely does a heated divorce become placid, but this does not mean that your divorce is destined for court. If you are unable to negotiate terms with your divorcing spouse that you are both willing to sign off on, there are alternative dispute resolution (ADR) options, such as mediation, that can help. Just because there is a good deal of hostility involved in your divorce – which can happen and which you should not beat yourself up over – does not mean that you and your divorcing spouse will be willing to abdicate your decision-making power to the court.

Settling Your Case

If your divorce is heading toward a dark place, it is more likely to end up in court, but it is not a foregone conclusion. As mentioned, when you need the court to intervene on your behalf, you give up your decision-making authority. Regardless of how angry your soon-to-be-ex is, he or she may not want the court to make parental or financial decisions for him or her. An important point to make here, however, is that – if your spouse is in the mood to fight at all costs – you may be better off cutting your losses and simply heading to court. Your dedicated divorce attorney will help you make the right decisions for you moving forward, but if mediation is very likely to be an exercise in futility, going to court may be – ironically – the least expensive and least time-consuming option.

Have a Divorce Strategy

If your divorce is heating up, your instinct may be simply to give up (which is not going to help protect your rights as a parent or your financial rights) or to fight back (which is unlikely to turn down the flame on your ugly divorce). One of the most important steps you can take in a contentious divorce – or any divorce – is to have a divorce strategy that helps you better understand your divorce goals and, therefore, helps you better prepare to strategically achieve those goals.

Once you pinpoint what is most important to you in your divorce, you allow yourself the space necessary to enter into productive negotiations – instead of taking a scattershot approach in which you are afraid to give up anything (out of fear of losing everything). If, for example, your goal is to remain in your family home as the primary custodial parent of your children, having a plan for achieving this goal is imperative – and this includes knowing what you are willing to sacrifice in order to make your goal a reality.

Divorce Is a Balancing Act

If you are entering your divorce with a long list of wants and must-haves, you should prepare to be disappointed. The best way to protect your parental and financial rights is to be prepared to negotiate for terms that you can live with and that strike a balance between you and your divorcing spouse’s rights. Once you have a reasonable understanding of what to expect in your specific situation, you will be better prepared to face the difficult job in front of you head-on and to find a path forward that works for you.

Turning Down the Heat on Your Divorce

If you sense that your divorce is going in a less than positive direction, take a moment to consider your options, including:

  • If speaking with your spouse directly stirs things up for either one of you, limit your communications to texts and emails. This not only allows you to check your emotions before hitting send but provides you with a record of what’s been said and of any decisions you are able to make together.

  • If your divorce is spiraling out of control, turning to your respective divorce attorneys to communicate on behalf of each of you may be the best option.

  • Make it your policy not to communicate with your ex through your children. They are going through enough as it is and should not be put in the middle or be burdened with additional tasks that are their parents’ responsibility. If your spouse has a tendency to communicate through your kids, find another way to respond (through a phone call, text, or email) in an effort to break the cycle.

  • Choose an outlet that is not divorce-related and find solace in it. This can be something as simple as taking a daily walk or as complicated as becoming a gourmet cook. Whatever brings you a bit of peace will suffice.

  • Make it your policy to communicate as civilly as possible with your soon-to-be-ex, and if he or she chooses to take things in a different direction, bow out of the conversation. Once fireworks begin, they are very unlikely to de-escalate.

The Terms of Your Divorce

In legal terms, your divorce amounts to the dissolution of your marriage contract. While it is also the dissolution of a primary relationship – and thus involves a good deal of emotion – focusing on the legal building blocks of your divorce can help you keep things on a more even keel (and can help you protect your rights in the process). There are four primary divorce terms that you will need to consider (as applicable to your situation).

Your Child Custody Arrangements

Your child custody arrangements certainly have the potential to be the most hotly contested term of your divorce, but better understanding the basics can help you keep your emotions in check on this one. Experts agree that children’s best interests are best served when they have the opportunity to continue spending a significant amount of time with both parents and to foster strong bonds with both. This means that, unless there is a compelling reason for deciding otherwise, you and your ex will be dividing your parenting time in one way or the other. The basic options include:

  • The children spend the majority of their overnights with the primary custodial parent, while the other parent has a parenting time schedule.

  • You and your children’s other parent divide your parenting time equally or nearly equally.

If you and your divorcing spouse are able to hammer this divorce term out between yourselves, your scheduling options are nearly limitless. If you need the court to do so on your behalf, however, you can expect one of its standard parenting time schedules.

In Texas, child custody is divided into both physical custody (as described above) and legal custody. Legal custody determines who will be making important decisions regarding your children’s upbringing, including those related to all the following:

  • Your children’s schooling

  • Your children’s healthcare needs

  • Your children’s religious education

  • Your children’s extracurriculars and travel

You and your divorcing spouse can address these big-picture parenting decisions in any of the following ways:

  • You can make all the decisions together.

  • You can make all the decisions together, but one of you will have tie-breaking authority for those instances in which you are unable to reach a mutually acceptable decision (after considerable effort).

  • One of you can have sole legal custody and make these decisions on your own.

  • You can split the decision-making authority according to the kind of decision that needs to be made.

It’s important to understand that, in emergency situations, the parent who is available to make any necessary decisions must do so. Further, those small decisions that every parent makes from sunup to sundown each day remain the responsibility of the parent who is with the kids at the time.

The Division of Your Marital Property

Another divorce term that has the potential to create divorce drama is the division of marital property. Those assets – as offset by debts – that you and your spouse acquire during the course of your marriage are considered marital property, which must be divided in a manner deemed fair under the given circumstances in the event of a divorce. It does not matter if one of you wrote the check and was solely responsible for whatever the asset is – if you bought it while you were married, it is almost certainly marital property. The only exceptions include:

  • Gifts that are given to one of you in that spouse’s name alone

  • Inheritances bequeathed in one of your names alone

Those assets that you own when you marry – and that you keep separate throughout your marriage – will remain your separate property, but the line that divides separate property from marital can become very fine over the course of a marriage. Further, any increase in the value of a separate property – such as a retirement account, a business, or a real estate property – will be considered marital.

Those factors that tend to further complicate the division of marital property include:

  • High overall assets

  • Complicated assets, which make hiding assets far easier

  • Business ownership

  • Tightly intertwined marital and separate assets

  • A stark difference in each spouse’s financial standing

Another factor that can complicate the division of marital property considerably is if your spouse was in charge of the family’s financials while you were in the dark. This can leave you at a real disadvantage and can require far more effort to ensure that your financial rights are upheld.

Child Support

Child support is calculated according to the state’s child support methodology, but there is more to the matter than plugging in a few numbers. The court has considerable discretion when it comes to child support, and if there is a compelling reason for ordering child support that varies from the state guidelines, it can do so. A child who has special needs is a prime example of such a situation. Generally, however, the factors that feature most prominently in the determination of child support include each parent’s income and the amount of time each parent spends with the children. Even if you and your spouse split your parenting time down to the minute, however, the one who is the higher earner will very likely have the responsibility of paying child support.


Alimony is generally intended to help an ex who is financially disadvantaged by divorce obtain the education or job training that he or she needs to become more financially independent. If the other spouse has the financial ability to help, alimony will likely be ordered.

Speak to an Experienced Killeen Divorce Attorney Today

Divorce is never easy, but a contentious divorce can be brutal. If you are moving toward divorce, Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – proudly serving Killeen, Texas – is a formidable divorce attorney who dedicates his impressive practice to successfully guiding hotly contested divorce toward their best possible resolutions. We’re here for you, too, so please do not wait to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 for more information today.
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