Texas law mandates a 60-day waiting period from the time the case is filed until a judge can grant the divorce. Depending on the complexity of the issues and the intensity of the conflict between the parties, it could take as little as 61 days, or as much as several years. It is typical for a case to last 6 months to a year, even when the parties think they will agree on most issues.
What is the first step in moving forward with a divorce?
If you’ve decided that you are ready to begin the process, your attorney will start by filing an “Original Petition,” which is a document that tells the Court who you are, who your spouse and children are, and generally what you are asking the Court to do. The Petition will need to be “served” on your spouse, at which point the case is considered “live.”
How much will it cost to get divorced? How can I keep costs down?
Divorce is a stressful process for many reasons, not the least of which is the financial burden. Even relatively uncomplicated cases can cost several thousand dollars to resolve. High-conflict cases can reach into the tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars (in the most extreme situations). The old saying is still true — you get what you pay for. Some of the most expensive divorces are cases in which cost-cutting practices result in a huge mess for another attorney to clean up. We believe that doing it right the first time leads to good results, happy clients, and lower overall cost.
How will our assets and debts be divided? Do I get half? How can I get more?
Texas law provides that all assets and debts are to be divided “in a manner that the court deems just and right.” In other words, at trial, the judge has discretion in dividing the assets and debts based on the testimony and evidence presented. However, most cases settle without going to trial. Instead, the parties sign a settlement agreement which will divide the assets and debts in whatever way the parties can agree on.
How do I know if the judge will be fair? Can’t I get a jury trial?
In Texas you have the right to a jury trial for your family law case. However, the reality is that jury trials are extremely rare, mostly due to the added cost associated with jury trial preparation. Most judges have heard dozens (if not hundreds) of family law cases, and are well versed in the law and the kinds of issues involved. Still, even the best judges can be unpredictable. The safest option is to keep the decision in your own hands by crafting an agreement with your spouse.
How do I make sure I get custody of my children?
Every case is different, and the custody situation is often the most challenging issue to negotiate. Texas law presumes that the children are best served by having as much contact as possible with both parents. In the vast majority of cases, some kind of shared custody will result. A common misconception is that a spouse who is at fault for breaking up the marriage should be punished by having less time with the kids. The breakdown of the parents’ relationship with each other does not, by itself, indicate problems between parents and children.
If I don’t get custody, will I have to pay child support?
In most situations, one parent will have to pay child support to the other. The amount of support is normally based on the statutory guidelines in the Texas Family Code. The Court has a mandate to see that the child support order serves the child’s best interests. Occasionally, parents reach a true 50-50 custody arrangement and agree that neither parent will pay monthly support or pay a reduced amount of support.
Does my spouse have to get an attorney too? Can’t we just hire one attorney to handle the whole case?
There is no requirement that both spouses hire an attorney. But an attorney can represent only one party, meaning that the attorney cannot give legal advice to the other side.