If your marriage is struggling, you and your spouse have options to try to save it. But if marriage counseling or couples therapy doesn’t work, you may be headed for a divorce. If your marriage is over, it’s time to start thinking of it as a business transaction. For that, you will need a good Houston divorce attorney.
You do have the option to handle your own divorce. You can download forms and get advice from friends and the Internet. However, we wouldn’t recommend it. Divorce law is complicated. If you miss one deadline or fail to file the right paperwork, you could jeopardize your entire case.
Also, bear in mind that your spouse will likely have an attorney. His or her attorney is going to do whatever it takes to get the best divorce settlement or judgment. You need an experienced Houston family law attorney on your side to fight back.
There are several factors that can make your divorce much more complicated than you might expect:
- If you have children, you’ll need to come up with a custody plan.
- If you and your spouse have assets, you’ll need to divide them. This is done through something called a marital settlement agreement. This agreement outlines how you’ll divide everything, from your house to your retirement accounts.
- You will have to determine child support. This is decided once the custody plan is determined.
- You may have to pay alimony. If so, the amount will depend on several factors.
These are not matters you will want to handle on your own. Call and meet with an experienced divorce attorney in Houston, Texas.
Questions Commonly Asked of a Houston Divorce Attorney
When your marriage is coming to an unfortunate end, you likely have many questions about the divorce process and how you should proceed. Our divorce lawyers have handled cases for over 20 years, meaning they have basically seen it all in divorce cases. Below you will find a list of questions commonly asked of divorce attorneys.
Can I File for Divorce in Texas?
You can file for a divorce in Texas under certain circumstances. To discourage married couples from splitting because of a fight that they can move past, Texas requires two conditions.
First, you or the spouse must have resided in Texas for the last six months. Second, you or your spouse must have lived within the county in which you are filing for divorce for the last 90 days.
What if My Spouse Does Not Live in Texas?
You do not both need to live within Texas to file for divorce. If you and your spouse separated and you moved, you can still file. Keep in mind that you need to have lived in the county you’re filing in for the last three months.
How Much Does It Cost to File for Divorce?
When filing to dissolve your marriage, many fees come up during the process. The first of these fees is the “filing fee.” Also, you may have to cover an issuance fee, as well as service fees. Every county has a different system for their fees. A quick call to the County Clerk’s office can explain what fees may apply to your situation.
In some cases, you may obtain a divorce even if you can’t cover the necessary fees. A judge may choose to waive the fees. To initiate that process, you will need to complete a Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs.
How Long Will My Divorce Take?
The State of Texas has a standard waiting period of 60 days. That means you must wait about two months before you can officially complete your divorce. The 60 day period begins on the date that you filed your petition. This period also counts holidays and weekends except for the first and final days. The first day must be a business day as you will need to go to the court to file your petition. The final day must be a business day because you will need to go again to finalize the decision.
There are two exceptions to this standard waiting time. If your spouse received deferred adjudication or conviction for a crime of family violence in the waiting period, a judge would waive the waiting time. Additionally, if you have a protective order against the spouse due to family violence, the court will waive the waiting period.
What if My Spouse Doesn’t Want a Divorce?
A divorce in Texas doesn’t have to involve any sort of fault. For example, in some states, you must show adultery, gambling, or obsessive behaviors that ruin the ability to repair the marriage. Texas does not set those expectations. If either party wants a divorce and states that the relationship is irreparable, the court will grant the divorce petition.
What is the Difference Between an Uncontested and Contested Divorce?
Uncontested divorces are what most people dream of when they initiate a divorce. You and your spouse can amicably divide all assets, agree upon a custody arrangement, and go your separate ways. An uncontested divorce only happens when both parties are willing to sign the divorce papers without court intervention.
Alternatively, if you serve your spouse and he or she fails to answer, a judge will grant an uncontested divorce. This situation is the equivalent of winning a game by default.
A contested divorce means that someone is not happy with any of the proposed arrangements. This situation is common, and often what people refer to as a “messy divorce.” However, the messiness is not always a factor. Contested divorces happen when your spouse answers your complaint with an alternative proposition and refuses to sign the divorce papers.
To complete a divorce this way, you will need to set a final hearing. You must notify your spouse at least 45 days before the hearing date. During that time, you will want to consult with a divorce lawyer for guidance on what may seem like a reasonable compromise.
Do I Have to Be Separated Before Getting Divorced?
In Texas, you do not need to have an extended period of separation before filing for a divorce.
How Can I Get an Annulment?
Judges award annulments only in very particular situations. If any of the following apply, you may have the opportunity to request an annulment.
- Either party was either 16 or 17 years old at the time of the marriage, and the parents of that party did not consent. The annulment request in this situation must be made through the parents of the underage party.
- Either party was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In this, the annulment is possible because you did not have the mental capacity to make that decision. However, a condition of this is that you must not have lived with your spouse since the marriage.
- You learn that either you or your spouse is unable to reproduce, or impotent. You must not have known about this before marriage and must not have lived together after learning of the condition.
- The marriage was made out of fraud, duress, or physical force. These situations are always unique, but you must have not voluntarily lived with the person since discovering the fraud.
- Either party was unable to consent to the marriage because of mental capacity. That means that either is unable to understand the nature of marriage due to mental disability or disease.
- You were unaware that within the 30 days preceding the wedding that your spouse finalized a divorce. In this situation, you must not have known about the divorce prior to the marriage ceremony. Additionally, you must file for annulment within the first year of marriage.
- Finally, if you were within 72 hours of the issuance of the marriage license. In that, the judge must not have signed an order waiving that wait period. These cases require careful consideration of the Texas Family Code. Additionally, you must apply within the first 30 days of your marriage.
Do I Have to Prove Fault to Get a Divorce in Texas?
Neither party has to show fault in a divorce request. In Texas, if either spouse believes that there is no chance to repair the relationship, a judge will grant a divorce. If you have a “fault” basis for the divorce, it may be in your best interest to merely cite the issue once rather than bring it up repeatedly.
What Gets Decided in a Divorce Case?
As part of any divorce case, you will dissolve your marriage and divide any shared property. Additionally, if either party changed their family name, or last name, as part of the marriage, they can revert to a former name.
Other aspects impact specific cases. For example, if you share children, then you will need to decide on a child support agreement as well as custody. Some divorces require the division of future financial assets such as retirement plans or life insurance policies.
Can My Spouse and I Work Out Terms of Our Divorce?
Yes, you can. In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse will determine what arrangements are best for both of you. If this is the situation, a judge will likely approve your Final Decree of Divorce. However, the proposal must be fair to both parties, and any decisions on children must be in their best interest.
How is Property Divided in a Divorce Case?
Division of property is not always as straightforward as we would like. Texas law does not mandate a 50/50 division. The law on dividing property only states that the division must be “just and right.” That is difficult to pin down as it’s rather generalized. It’s also worth noting that separate property is not divisible.
How Does Divorce Affect Household Debt?
Creditors still retain their right to collect a debt. Your finalized divorce paperwork will outline what you and your spouse must pay. If any debts are in both of your names, the judge will likely name one person as the responsible party for that debt. Creditors can still attempt to collect, and you may need an attorney to intervene in these situations.
The most common types of debt that couples face together in years following the divorce include car notes and mortgages. The timing of the divorce may not coincide with a reasonable time to put the house up for sale. Additionally, selling a car before paying it off may mean that both owe for it, but are now without a car.
What is Temporary Spousal Support?
Temporary spousal support has different requirements than alimony or spousal maintenance. Essentially this is a temporary arrangement where you provide payments to support their living conditions during the process of the divorce. As divorce is stressful for everyone involved, these payments are only put into effect if a judge decides that they are fair and necessary.
What is Contractual Alimony?
Alimony is money that one spouse must pay another. Usually, the expectations of contractual alimony are in the divorce decree. Alimony usually comes into consideration when the couple was married for an extensive time. Or if one spouse was financially dependent on the other for a greater portion of the marriage. The spouse receiving contractual alimony must report the taxable income. The payee can use alimony as a deduction.
Can I Change My Last Name As Part of My Divorce?
Yes, filing for divorce is an opportunity to revert to a last name that you previously used. In the event that you want to use a new name, you must file a separate case. However, many people are happy to return to their maiden name or a name from a previous marriage. Consider the extensive changes to formal documentation such as government-issued identification cards that come with any name change.
What is Mediation?
Divorce is always easier when two people agree on the terms amicably. However, that’s not always possible. In these situations, you should both consider mediation. Mediation allows a third party to try and help you come to a reasonable compromise. During the divorce process, you will likely have to give some things up to get others. As part of mediation, you may involve your divorce attorney. If your spouse has an attorney, you should too. Don’t let a lawyer railroad you because you can’t provide an adequate defense for what you want out of this dissolution.
How are Assets Divided in a Divorce Case?
One of the most important things your lawyer will do is negotiate your marital settlement agreement. This agreement will dictate how you and your spouse handle the following:
- Equitable distribution of assets
- Child custody and child support
- Division of retirement plans and pension
- Health insurance
- Education expenses for your children
The agreement is usually about 20-30 pages long. The more issues you have to resolve, the longer your agreement.
Usually, the party who files for divorce will draft the initial agreement. He will then propose it to the other side. The lawyers will go back and forth until they have agreed on all terms. If they can’t do this, they’ll have to present the proposed agreements at mediation.
Your lawyer’s job is to find a way to divide your assets that is fair to both you and your spouse. Of course, your lawyer will do everything possible to make sure the agreement protects you. Depending on your financial situation, this could be tricky.
The following assets will have to be divided at your divorce hearing:
- Real property
- Bank accounts
- Art and collectibles
- Furniture and household contents
- Retirement accounts
- Stocks, bonds and other investments
Your Houston divorce lawyer isn’t going to agree to something that isn’t fair. He’ll review any potential agreement with you before he talks to your spouse’s lawyer.
How Does Adultery Affect Alimony?
Most people have heard of alimony. This is money that a spouse (usually the husband) pays his wife after the divorce. It is usually paid monthly but most lawyers try to agree to a lump sum payout for alimony.
Alimony is calculated based on the two parties’ earning potential. If there aren’t small children at home, both parties will be expected to generate an income. If one spouse chooses not to work or simply hasn’t in a while, he or she will be required to seek work after the divorce.
With alimony, the spouse earning more is required to pay the other spouse a certain amount every month. The length of time for alimony is determined in the marital settlement agreement. If the parties won’t agree to an amount and duration, the court will decide it for them.
In Texas, the laws regarding alimony are strict. You are only entitled to alimony in the following circumstances:
- You were married more than ten (10) years
- There was an act of violence within the marital home at some point in the two (2) years leading up to the divorce
- You cannot work because you have to care for a disabled child
- You have a physical or mental disability that prevents you from working
As for how long alimony will last, it depends on the length of the marriage. Basically, the longer you were married, the longer you’ll pay alimony. However, there is no such thing as permanent alimony in Texas unless you’re disabled.
Alimony can also be impacted if either spouse committed adultery. Generally speaking, courts in Texas will not grant alimony to someone who cheated on their spouse while married. And, conversely, if you cheated on your spouse, you may have to pay more alimony than if you had been faithful.
Houston Divorce Attorneys Negotiate to Get You a Fair Marital Settlement Agreement
A lot of people think that you can lose all of your assets in a divorce. Although this is technically possible, it rarely happens. For the most part, divorces usually involve a pretty fair division of assets.
Everyone has heard horror stories about someone who got divorced and walked away penniless. These stories are usually exaggerations. Sure, one party is always going to feel as if they got the short end of the stick. However, there’s usually a good reason for this.
Your Houston divorce attorney is going to do his best to negotiate a fair marital settlement agreement. They will find out what assets are most important to you. What are you willing to give up? And, is it more important for you to pay a lump sum now rather than pay alimony for years?
Obviously, your lawyer will not get away with a one-sided agreement. Even if your spouse isn’t represented, a judge will usually not approve a lopsided agreement. The purpose of a marital settlement agreement is to divide the assets fairly. It’s also important that both parties understand and agree to the terms of the divorce agreement.
Your lawyer may have to go back and forth several times to get your agreement approved. Usually, both sides have certain things they won’t budge on. As long as you don’t both have the same deal-breakers, you should be able to settle your case.
If you can’t agree on terms, you’ll have to go to mediation. The court wants to do everything it can to avoid a trial. There’s really no good reason why any divorce should go to trial. Houston divorce lawyers know the law. They know how a judge will likely rule. For the most part, it’s just a matter of satisfying both clients’ demands.
Contact a Houston Divorce Attorney Today
If you’re thinking about filing for divorce, you need to contact a Houston divorce attorney today. Things can move pretty quickly in a divorce. If your spouse has already filed, she probably already has an attorney. And, her attorney is going to be hard at work crafting his own version of a marital settlement agreement.
The court only gives you a certain amount of time to respond to a divorce complaint. If you don’t respond, you won’t have a say in how your assets and debts are divided. Your spouse will be granted something called a default judgment. This means that they’ll pretty much get whatever they asked for in the divorce.
You don’t want this to happen. Although you can technically ask for a default judgment to be vacated, you need a good reason. Some reasons that may appease the judge include:
- You were never properly served
- You couldn’t afford an attorney
- If you were sick or in the hospital
- You were out of the country
- You did file a response but it was late
Your Houston divorce attorney can go to battle for you. He’ll try to get the default removed so he can file an answer to your spouse’s divorce complaint.
There is a lot at stake in a divorce. You could lose custody of your children. You could be ordered to pay your spouse half or more of your assets. After working for decades, you could end up paying your ex thousands of dollars a month in alimony. These are all things your divorce attorney can help you avoid.
Schedule Your Free Consultation
Call and schedule your initial consultation today. You can sit down with an experienced Houston divorce attorney and ask any questions you may have. He can give you an idea of what happens in the divorce process. He can also give you an idea of how you may fare in the divorce.
Unless you and your spouse have no assets and no children, things can get messy. Don’t leave it up to chance. Once your final divorce decree is signed, there’s no going back. Make sure you have a skilled Houston family law attorney by your side. He’ll make sure your rights are protected and you get a fair shake. Do not wait any longer to contact Eddington & Worley and protect your assets.