Our Experienced Divorce Lawyers Understand Your Case
The divorce process is emotionally challenging and stressful. During this time, it’s important to partner with a compassionate team of experts that can guide you successfully through the often-times complex process of obtaining a divorce in Texas.
The team at The Wright Firm, L.L.P., understand every situation is unique and will work closely with you to determine the best strategy for a beneficial outcome for you and your family.
Recently in Texas, there have been efforts made to increase awareness of the desire of equal custody for fathers, and the experts at The Wright Firm, L.L.P. remain knowledgeable of this movement and can counsel clients as to what this might mean in their specific case.
Below you can find information regarding divorce in Texas, including information about the timeline, the process, how to begin, what to expect, and general advice. Remember though, these are just some of the fundamentals and are NOT substitutes for detailed discussions with your attorney and his or her staff. Contact us today to learn more. If you have any questions about your particular case, please speak with your attorney.
Texas Divorce Process
Each case is different, but the majority of Texas divorces follow these steps. Note there is a mandatory 60 day period, known as the “cooling off” period, following filing the petition for divorce before a final order for divorce can be entered with the court.
- Petition for Divorce
- Temporary Orders (If Necessary)
- Discovery of Evidence
- Settlement Negotiations/Mediation
- Trial (If no settlement could be reached)
- After Trial
Frequently Asked Questions about Divorce in Texas
1. What is a “no fault” divorce? What are the grounds for divorce in Texas?
A divorce may be granted on one or more “fault” grounds or the “no fault” ground expressly set out in the Texas Family Code. Most divorces are granted on the no-fault ground of “insupportability.” This is the ground to use if either spouse feels that the marriage has become insupportable because of a conflict in personalities which makes any reasonable expectation of reconciliation impossible. In plain English, it essentially means you cannot stand to live together as husband and wife anymore.
“Fault” grounds for divorce include: adultery, cruel treatment, conviction of a felony, abandonment, living separate and apart for three years, or confinement in a mental hospital. A court may (but does not have to) consider “fault” in the breakup of a marriage as a factor in deciding how to divide the property. For this reason, a spouse may choose to plead a “fault” ground for divorce.
Texas lawmakers are currently looking into no fault vs. fault divorces and how they are defined. The team at Wright Firm L.L.P. are well-versed on these developments and can advise how they may impact your case.
2. What does it mean that Texas is a “community property state”?
Practically speaking, it means that most of the property, both real estate and personal property, that you acquire during your marriage will belong to both spouses equally. No matter who paid for it. The basic concept is “Yours, Mine and Ours.” The “yours” and “mine” are what is called Separate Property under the law. The “ours” is what is called Community Property.
“Separate property” includes (1) property owned or acquired by a spouse before the marriage, (2) property acquired by a spouse during the marriage by either gift or inheritance, and (3) recovery for personal injuries to a spouse during the marriage, unless that recovery is for loss of earning capacity. The date you got the property and the source of the property controls, not how it is eventually paid for. For example, if one spouse owned a house or car before marriage, at the time of divorce it will be that spouse’s separate property, even if it was paid off in whole or in part during marriage. A court has no authority to take a spouse’s separate property from him or her at the time of divorce.
“Community property” is any property acquired by either or both spouses during marriage by other than gift, inheritance, or recovery for personal injuries. This includes virtually everything purchased during marriage. It is important to remember that a marriage legally still exists even after separation (whether before or after the divorce petition has been filed), so any property obtained after separation will be still be considered community property. This is true even if the property is not physically received until after the final decree of divorce. For example, if the day before the divorce is granted a wife contracts to purchase a new home (with closing set off for one month later), or husband enters into a partnership agreement, this will be characterized as community property.
3. Does Texas have alimony?
“Alimony” does not exist in Texas. However, Texas does sometimes allow for “spousal maintenance,” which are funds paid by one spouse for the support of the other spouse.
Texas was the only State in the nation in which a court had no authority to order alimony to be paid after the final divorce. However, in 1997, the Texas legislation made provisions for very limited “alimony” which requires extensive proof of an inability to support oneself.
It is best to talk with your attorney about the availability of spousal maintenance in your Texas divorce case, as each case differs greatly. Also, the parties may, by agreement (i.e., contract), provide for alimony to be paid after the final decree of divorce is entered. The party paying alimony may deduct these payments from that party’s income to gain a tax benefit, while the alimony recipient must declare these payments as income. (Note: The tax bill passed at the end of 2017 may take away the deduction for alimony payments. This likely will not affect divorces finalized before December 31, 2018, though.)
4. How does the judge divide up our property in a Texas divorce case?
Judges have a fairly wide range of discretion in deciding how property is divided. The Texas Family Code instructs the court to decide using “Just and Right Equitable Division” or JARED.
The most important and often-times misunderstood word in a JARED is “equitable.” Equitable does NOT mean equal. Neither you nor your spouse is automatically entitled to a numerically perfect half of everything. Instead, the judge will consider a list of factors, and make a decision on who gets what based on what the judge believes to be “fair.” The factors that the court will take into consideration include:
- You and your spouse’s levels of education
- How much money each of you is capable of making
- Any business or employment opportunities available to you
- How big a gap there is between how much money you and your soon-to-be-ex makes
- Your health
- Your age
- Whether either of you has a need for future support
- Who was awarded custody of the children
- How your amount of separate property compares to your soon-to-be-ex’s
- The condition of your personal finances in comparison to your soon-to-be-ex’s
- How long you were married to each other
- Any fault in the breakup of the marriage
- Whether either of you has been draining assets out of the estate, especially by wasting assets or by giving away community property assets as gifts
- The nature of the property to be divided
- Tax consequences
- Attorney’s fees
- Whether either spouse has committed fraud against the other
Remember, each one of these is only a factor for consideration. At least, in theory, no one factor should completely decide the case; however, every judge is different. Some judges will put heavier importance on some factors due to their own personal opinions and experience. Your lawyer will either know or find out what your particular judge tends to put importance on, and how he or she tends to rule. This will help you and your lawyer strategize your case.
5. What are the roles of my attorney and the legal staff?
The attorney and staff work as a team, each doing the tasks which they can do most efficiently. You will interact with both the legal assistant and attorney throughout the process. Legal assistants handle many more of the time-consuming tasks, such as gathering information and day-to-day contact with the client. You are charged less per hour for the legal assistant’s work than for the attorney’s, therefore it is an effective use of time and cost.
6. What is my role as the client?
As a client, you should remain as informed and involved in your case as possible. It is important to educate yourself about the process of divorce. Read any and all letters or paperwork your attorney sends your way. If you don’t understand something, don’t hesitate to ask a question.
It is helpful to save any documents your attorney sends to you. Make a file in which to keep them, and bring the file with you each time that you visit your attorney’s office, or at least the parts of your file the attorney asks you to bring or you want to talk to him/her about.
You should be totally honest with your attorney. Give all information about anything that even MAY be important in your case. This includes not only information that helps you, but also all facts which might hurt your case. Chances are your spouse or his/her attorney is going to find out about them anyway, so don’t let your attorney be the last to know. The “bad stuff” is usually not as harmful as you think.
Just as there is a division of labor between your lawyer and his/her staff, there should also be a division of labor between you and your lawyer in making decisions about your case. Your lawyer cannot settle your case without your approval and consent. You also must give your approval for other major decisions such as whether to demand a jury or what kind of child custody to seek.
On the other hand, you need to allow your attorney the authority to make other decisions which involve professional judgment or courtesy. For example, your attorney should decide how to phrase your pleadings and when to file the pleading. Also, on occasion, your spouse’s attorney may ask to reschedule a hearing, deposition, etc., and your attorney will handle those requests.
7. Can my attorney represent both me and my spouse?
NO. You, your attorney, and attorney’s staff are in an attorney-client relationship. This relationship is recognized by the law, and is very special. Your attorney CANNOT have this relationship with both you and your spouse. Your attorney and staff owe one hundred percent of their loyalty to you and your case, and owe none whatsoever to your spouse. We call this “zealous advocacy” of our client. Representing both spouses would be an impermissible conflict of interest.
8. What is “confidentiality”?
The privilege of confidentiality (also called “attorney-client privilege”) prohibits disclosure of any information, whether spoken or written, between the attorney and the client, so long as the information was meant to be confidential. For example, if you tell your divorce lawyer that you are having an affair, your lawyer cannot tell your spouse or spouse’s lawyer.
Privileged communications also include all correspondence or documents from your attorney/staff to you, and vice versa (e.g., information sheets you prepare for us), as well as all telephone conversations and in-person conferences between you and your attorney and staff.
About The Wright Firm LLP
The Wright Firm, L.L.P., serves clients in Dallas County, Collin County, Denton County, Tarrant County, and surrounding areas. The firm specializes in Divorce, Family Law, Estate Planning, Probate, Business, and Criminal defense. The Wright Firm, L.L.P., is positioned to provide a personalized, local, and experienced approach to each client’s needs. Contact us today.