No matter how long you and your spouse have been in a relationship, deciding to separate or divorce can be challenging regardless of the causes. It’s a life-changing decision that can completely rock both parties’ worlds, cause the development of physical/mental health conditions and make it increasingly difficult to move forward with your perspective lives.
But before you can start to process your and your spouse’s separation, you must first deal with the legal proceedings accompanying filing for divorce. Unfortunately, legalities surrounding divorce and separation can differ in complexity between states, some of the most compound applying to the state of Texas.
If you and your ex-spouse are citizens of the Lone Star State and you’re considering divorce. Rest assured that you are not alone in your decision, with the current divorce rate at 2.3 per every thousand inhabitants. Fortunately, no matter how long you were married, where you were married, or your sexual orientation, the same rules apply to all who wish to divorce in the Lone Star State.
No matter you’re reasoning for ending your union, if you’re considering filing for divorce in Texas, there are several things that you need to know before you start the formal proceedings. From navigating Texas Divorce Laws, addressing common questions, and providing additional insight into the Texan divorce process – here are several tips for divorcing in the Lone Star State.
In This Article
- Is The Divorce Process Quick In Texas?
- Are Fault Grounds Required To Divorce In Texas?
- What Happens Regarding Dividing Estate?
- What Does Texas Define As Community Property?
- Will The Court Order Any Initial Guidelines Once Filing For Divorce?
- Once Divorce Is Filed For, What Happens Regarding Living Situations?
- Will The Case Head Straight To Court After Being Filed?
Is The Divorce Process Quick In Texas?
As we touched upon briefly in the introduction, each state has different rules and legislation regarding filing for divorce. Some are more complex to wrap your head around than others, and due to this, you might find that divorce proceedings can take longer in certain states than others, the state of Texas being one of them.
Divorce in the United States can take around twelve months to complete, from finalizing the divorce petition to when the judgment is ruled. But overall, the process can take an upward of eighteen months to be finished should the case require court action. However, there are statuary waiting periods for divorces in the Lone Star State, making it impossible for those wanting a ‘quick fix’ divorce.
The minimum time to file for divorce in Texas is sixty days due to its mandatory waiting period. Not to mention, one person of the separating couple must be a Texas resident within the six months leading up to filing for divorce and a resident of the county where the divorce will be filed for at least ninety days before filing for separation.
Suppose neither of the previously mentioned applies to either of the couples. In that case, both parties will have to wait until this period is fulfilled before filing for divorce – potentially dragging out the process even more. This can lead to further unpleasantness between the divorcing parties and other complications in worst-case scenarios.
Are Fault Grounds Required To Divorce In Texas?
There could be many causes for when a marriage breaks down and ultimately ends in divorce. In Texas Divorce Laws, lawyers often find that both parties try to play the ‘blame game’ and point fingers as to why their marriage fell apart. However, in the Lone Star State, separating couples can dissolve their union without pointing fingers at each other for the breakdown of their relationship.
Long gone are the days when separating couples would have to rely on one of the ‘five facts’: adultery, unreasonable behavior, desertion, two years’ consensual separation, or five years’ non-consensual separation, as grounds for a divorce. Under the new Texas Divorce Laws, couples don’t need to have fault grounds to separate since Texas is a ‘no-fault’ state. A ‘no-fault’ or ‘no-blame’ state offers a much more straightforward and amicable divorce process.
As per the ‘no-blame’ or ‘no-fault’ divorce process, separating couples will no longer have to blame each other for the breakdown of their relationship, allowing them to file for divorce or civil partnership dissolution much easier. However, just because you don’t require fault grounds to file for a divorce, it doesn’t mean that a spouse couldn’t allege it, which can affect the just and right division of the estate of the parties of the separating couple.
Fortunately, most of the cases dealt with in Texas Divorce Laws are no-fault, where one of the separating spouses claims’ unsupportability’ as the cause of their marriage breakdown. This refers to a situation in which neither party wants the divorce to continue due to a conflict of personalities, but other reasons do not apply. The legal grounds for dissolving a marriage vary from state to state, but some of the most common are as follows:
- Adultery or unfaithfulness.
- Mental incapability.
- Marriage between close relatives.
- Mental or physical abuse.
- Criminal conviction or imprisonment.
- Drug or alcohol dependency.
- Coerced or fraudulent unions.
What Happens Regarding Dividing Estate?
Depending on which state the separating couple lives in, both parties would receive an equal amount of the former couple’s shared community property in an ideal scenario. However, Texas Divorce Laws don’t operate like this. Since Texas is not a 50/50 community property state, what separating parties expect to receive might differ from what they receive.
Instead, the Texas Family Code requires a just and right division of the shared estate when it comes to the estate division. This means that the judge will divide community property in a manner that the court deems to be ‘just and right,’ which aims to regard the rights of each party and children the separating couple might have.
For instance, if one spouse is a stay-at-home mother who didn’t complete secondary education whereas the other has a high-paying job, the judge may deem that the mother has a larger share of their community estate. The couple’s grounds for divorce may also influence this, so using our hypothetical couple again, let’s say that the couple’s marriage broke down because the husband cheated on his wife.
In this case, the court may rule that the wife receives a larger share of their community estate due to wrongdoing on her behalf. On the other hand, if a couple makes a similar amount of money, the court may rule a 50/50 divide of their community property, but this may vary depending on different factors.
Due to this, it can be challenging to know what either party may receive. For further insight, you should look into using online sites like Texas Divorce Laws which is home to several articles discussing Texan divorces, prenuptial agreements, marriages, and much more marriage-related topics. This could further broaden your understanding of Texas divorce laws.
What Does Texas Define As Community Property?
After reading our previous point, you might be wondering how community property is defined? Under Texan law, the Lone Star State is one of the nine states of a community property jurisdiction. Community Property refers to any property owned by a couple throughout their marriage (minus a few exceptions) owned equally by both parties.
In situations where one spouse owns separate property, they will have to prove that they are the sole owner by providing clear, accurate, and convincing evidence that backs this claim up. Individual property may refer to an estate acquired through inheritance or gifted before marriage. However, collecting the evidence required to prove separate ownership can be arduous, and it can have a profound effect on the dissolution of property through the divorce process.
Will The Court Order Any Initial Guidelines Once Filing For Divorce?
Once either party files for divorce, be prepared for the court to issue a standing order that prohibits parties from taking specific actions. Depending on your situation, the court may not issue a standing order, but it is very likely. The charges that prohibit you can differ from state to state, but some of the most common are as follows:
- Closing joint financial accounts.
- Taking children out of state.
- Destroying joint credit cards.
- Relocating children to a different school/day-care center.
- Changing life insurance policies, and many more.
Once Divorce Is Filed For, What Happens Regarding Living Situations?
In the first few weeks after filing for a divorce, a temporary orders hearing will be held to settle a few things regarding the separating couple’s living situation, which will have to be adhered to until the separation is finalized. Some of the following may come up in conversation:
Which member of the party will be living where?
Who will be paying for outgoings such as mortgage repayments, credit card bills, utilities, and car payments?
Who will have possession of which vehicles?
Who will keep and care for any pets the family might have?
Will temporary child support be required?
Will temporary spousal support be required?
Will a childcare schedule have to be drawn up?
Will The Case Head Straight To Court After Being Filed?
The answer to this common divorce question is no, not right away. If the case must go to court to reach a resolution, an already lengthy process can become even more time-consuming (and expensive!) Generally, taking a marriage case to court is the last resort, and fortunately, there are ways of preventing this from happening.
One of the most successful ways of preventing divorce cases from going to court is through mediation. Instead of heading straight to court, the separating couple will be advised by lawyers to attend mediation sessions with a professional and knowledgeable mediator. With the mediator’s assistance, many marriage cases are resolved without stepping foot in front of a judge.
During these sessions, the chosen mediator will work alongside both parties to reach a mutually agreeable settlement and one that will avoid the ordeal of going through the court system. In a mediation setting, issues that a judge would usually settle are resolved through the separating couple and the mediator.
Some issues that might be discussed during mediation are as follows:
Retirement Account Division – One of the most significant assets a married couple has is their retirement accounts, aside from their property. How this will be divided between both parties will almost definitely be brought up during mediation sessions, so be prepared to hire a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) preparation company or a pension expert for further advice if necessary.
Property Division and Debt Allocation – Before starting mediation sessions, both spouses will be advised to detail any financial/property assets the couple may have. In the sessions, the mediator will work with them to separate community property and separate property (if there is any). After this is settled, the mediator will help them split the marital assets.
Alimony – If a spouse feels as though they will require alimony, also known as spousal support, it’s good to contact a reputable divorce lawyer to help outline the laws and calculations for support in Texas before attending mediation.
Child Support/Custody – If the marriage has produced any children, separating couples will also discuss the welfare and rights of their children in a mediation setting. They should be prepared to discuss their children’s legal and physical custody, which involves education, religious upbringing, non-urgent medical treatment, and which premise the child will reside. Extra-curricular activities and any additional medical fees will also be addressed to determine how much child support will be received.
Future Communication – Especially if children are involved, a mediator will work with separating couples to determine how best to contact each other in the future should there be a need. At this point, you may also have to discuss the possible outcomes if a spouse doesn’t uphold their portion of the agreement. You should also discuss how tax information will be exchanged, how disputes will be dealt with, who will pay for legal expenses and the best way for both parties to communicate.
Insurance Policies – During mediation, the separating couple will also outline what will happen regarding any insurance policies that the couple has. All avenues will be explored from health insurance, car insurance, property insurance, and medical insurance. Whether they decide on transferring the policies, or outright ownership, the mediator will help them resolve.
You will now understand how divorce works in Texas compared to other states in the country. Ensure you are doing your research and work with lawyers who can represent your interests. Be aware that you don’t have to go to court if you can both agree on terms, and ensure you have as much information for any mediation time.