Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce In Texas

How Long Will My Divorce Take?

The truth is that the minimum time it takes to complete, even an agreed divorce, is set by law.  With few exceptions, you cannot obtain a divorce until 60 days have passed from the time of filing.  In contested cases, the time that it takes to finalize a divorce depends upon several factors. The most important one is how cooperative your spouse becomes.  Is your spouse is willing to sign a waiver of citation? If so, then you can be divorced in a little over two months, depending on the court’s schedule.  However, if your spouse is not cooperative, then a divorce can sometimes take more than a year.  As a part of a contested divorce, there may be the need to determine issues of how much child support should be paid, the manner in which assets are to be divided among the parties, and an allocation of responsibilities for the payment of outstanding debts.  In any event, we try to work to keep your case moving forward. We understand that this is a difficult period in your life, and want to assist you in putting it behind you. “

How Much Does A Divorce Cost?

At times this question may be difficult to answer. While flat fees for “uncontested” divorces are fairly consistent, it is more difficult to accurately estimate the ultimate cost of a contested case.  In a “flat fee” divorce, the lawyer makes several assumptions: (a) your spouse will not hire a lawyer; (b) your spouse will sign a waiver of citation; (c) your spouse will not file an answer with the Court; and (d) there is no pension or retirement plan which has to be divided.  In a contested case the issues become much more complex.  If custody is at issue, then they lawyer will consider whether there be a need to provide witnesses to discuss who is the better parent, or perhaps whether a child has been neglected by a parent.  With respect to child support: although there are guidelines for the amount of child support set by the Texas Family Code, the Courts may deviate higher or lower, depending upon different circumstances—a lawyer needs to prepare to prove or disprove a request to deviate from the guidelines.  Concerning the division of property: The division of assets may also require lawyers to investigate whether there are hidden accounts or more tangible assets, or whether a 50-50 division is unfair to a party.  In all potentially adversarial cases, we are happy to sit down and discuss the matter with you at either our Woodlands or Huntsville locations. In this way, we can give you a quote based not on “guesstimates,” but on the facts of your case.

How Much Will I Get In Child Support?

Texas has guidelines to assist the Court in setting child support. As a general rule, 20% of the first $7,500 per month of after-tax income is assigned for the first child, and 5% for each additional child, up to five children. However, there are exceptions, and other considerations, (E.g. additional children who are to be supported by the obligor). If your child has special needs, the Court may deviate from the guidelines. To find out the most likely child support award in your case, please contact our office at 936-337-4036 or 281-994-6290 to schedule an appointment to meet with Andrew J. Bolton, Esq., at The Woodlands or Huntsville locations. If you desire, you may obtain a rough estimate of child support by using this link: https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cs/calculator/

Can I Get Half Of My Spouse’s Retirement Benefits In Texas?

Retirement benefits accrued during the marriage are community property and can be split by the Court at the time of divorce. However, there is no requirement that community property is split 50-50. That is why it is important to have an attorney, to make sure that the Judge is aware of all the factors in your case that should affect the division of the property. Remember, a spouse who has a retirement plan prior to marrying only has to share that portion which was earned during the marriage (called the “marital portion”).  Andrew J. Bolton, Attorney at Law, will explore all the aspects of your divorce with you to make sure that your rights are protected.  The tool usually employed to divide retirement benefits is called a “Qualified Domestic Relations Order” or “QDRO.”  It is an order, apart from the divorce decree, which allocates who is awarded what portion of the retirement.”

Can A Man Get Custody Of Young Children In Texas?

Texas law mandates that the judge not consider the sex of the parents when determining who should get custody of the children (at least after the age of three).  Instead, the Court is supposed to consider only the best interest of the child. Andrew J. Bolton, Attorney at Law has assisted parents of either sex in securing custody of their children.  Generally speaking, for children under the age of twelve, courts seem to have a strong bias in favor of the parent who has been the child’s “primary caregiver” in the past. Therefore, in order to determine how likely you are to prevail in a custody dispute, please contact our office and schedule an appointment to meet with an attorney in person at either The Woodlands or our Huntsville locations.”

Contested Divorce Advice Out There

It’s only natural to say that divorcing parties don’t trust each other. But far too often divorcing spouses become different people, and they can do things which no one would have imagined possible. In a recent case, I represented a husband who worked in law enforcement. At the beginning, he was awarded possession of his home while the divorce proceeding was pending—but his wife refused to leave the house. So one day he tells her, “You really need to leave now.” The wife then begins a tirade. Next she follows him as he retreats to his bedroom. Finally, he tries to close the bedroom door, but while doing so she smacks him in the face! That’s bad, huh? Oh, it gets much worse! After hitting her husband, a few seconds later, he hears her shouting out, “You just put your hands on me! You struck me!” and yes, she then called the police!

Now in this day and age, where we are all woke to domestic violence, a claim of spousal abuse by a wife, will invariably result in an instant suspension for an accused law enforcement officer, and perhaps lifelong consequences thereafter! Domestic violence is serious. Fortunately, this man took my advice. He had kept his tape recorder and iPhone with him the whole time. When the police arrived, they were very willing to just take my client to jail and throw away the key. His job made no difference since domestic violence was the accusation. However, once the police saw the video, it was the wife who was then arrested for assault!

Advice: In a contested divorce, always, always, always keep a recorder going when interacting with your spouse. This is good advice for two reasons: First, if your spouse does something wrong, it’s being recorded for later use by your attorney. Second, while you are recording your spouse, you know to be on your own best behavior! So, keep the tape rolling!

Divorce? Don’t Do This!

Upon finding ourselves within a divorce, either by choice or by chance, it’s sometimes difficult to sift through the many pieces of confusing and contradictory advice that friends and family often give.  At a minimum, any divorce requires that a spouse understand a few fundamental errors which can greatly harm his or her future happiness and peace.

Your Online Presence Can Be Deadly To Your Case

If you like to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter, all of that is fine—but it’s also evidence.  It’s amazing how little we may recall posting a year, or even a month ago.  In one of my divorce cases, my client went on Facebook to find out that the other spouse was engaged to be married, all the while my client sat at home “fat, dumb, and happy,” oblivious to all of it.  The lovebirds had even vacationed together, yet few knew that one member of the engaged couple was still married!  In short, what you post on social media, can come back to haunt you in divorce court.  Note: Cleaning up social media when a divorce is contemplated, or pending, might cause the other party to accuse you of destroying evidence and subject you to sanctions, so be wise at all times when using social media.

Lesson #1:  Think a divorce is possible?  Get off the internet and shut down the account!

Allowing Emotions To Rule Your Relationships

When a relationship is ending through divorce, it is typically necessary to create a new relationship.  A relationship with your divorce lawyer.  Concededly, divorce is an emotional time, but while much will depend upon the facts of your particular case, your relationship with your divorce lawyer is an essential component of a successful outcome.  In short, this means being able to hear the truth from your lawyer, even when it’s not what you want to hear.  For example, if custody is a heated issue, then you won’t like to hear your own lawyer say, “I think that we ought to take what we can get here.”  Granted, this may be because your lawyer has doubts about his or her own skill, but it may also be because the lawyer knows the judge well enough to understand that your fact situation will not likely achieve a favorable outcome.  Responding with anger to your lawyer’s statements or inquiries may not be productive.  The right way to handle what you don’t agree with, or perhaps, don’t understand, is to ask questions.

Lesson #2:  Don’t get angry, but do ask questions.

Relationships with your children are obviously critical, but it’s also surprising how many parents there are in a divorce or custody battle, who are willing to sacrifice such relationships in a quest “to win,” rather than focus on being the best parent. This is most often demonstrated in the old “parental alienation syndrome.” Whether or not PAS syndrome is real, or an invention, it consists of conduct such as pulling your child aside and bad-mouthing the other parent. This is psychologically harmful in the extreme, and it rarely results in the child providing meaningful assistance in your case. It’s imperative that your child grow up to be a well-adjusted adult, attempting to destroy their love for the other parent is both selfish and destructive.

Lesson #3:  Don’t use your child as a litigation tool.

Hiding Information From Your Lawyer

A corollary to having poor communications with your lawyer, is the fact that you must realize that it’s not your job to sell your lawyer on why you should win!  That’s right, it’s the lawyer’s job to take the facts and put on the best case before the judge.  So give your lawyer the good, the bad, and especially, the ugly.  What I am referring to is clients who hide damaging information from their lawyer.  Most lawyers are fairly good at putting your case in the best light when they have time to prepare and explain your situation, despite your problems.  But when your lawyer finds out, for the first time, and during cross-examination of a witness, that you’ve been convicted of contributing to the delinquency of a minor—don’t blame him for not being as slick and smooth as the suits you see on TV.  If it’s bad news, then put it all up front with your lawyer.  Give the lawyer as much time as possible to mitigate the damage and prepare for the blowback.

Lesson #4:  Aire your dirty laundry to your lawyer on day one.

Moving Out Of The House (Except To Avoid Family Violence Against You)

You are arguing with your spouse.  You fight daily, especially in front of the kids.  This is a bad situation, but moving out is not the solution when you want to obtain custody over the children.  Moving out and leaving your spouse behind with the kids is the clearest message known to courts which says “I trust my spouse enough with the kids to leave them at home with her/him.”  If you want to seek custody and life is becoming intolerable at home, then perhaps consider filing for divorce sooner, rather than later, and it’s always a good idea to use the Android or Iphone to record what goes on at home.  I’m not necessarily saying to record your spouse secretly (although Texas may allow that), I’m saying that recording interactions serves two purposes: First, it makes the person doing the recording behave because they are recording themselves.  Second, it makes the person being recorded behave because they know that they are being recorded, and if not, then it makes for some slam-dunk character evidence about who is the better parent, or who is really at fault in the marriage.  For these reasons, I love recordings.

Lesson #5:  Don’t move out unless you want to give up the argument that you are the better parent.

Dividing Property Without A Full Understanding

Whenever property is divided in a Texas divorce there are several elements which must be considered.  First, is the property community property?  If property is separate, non-community property, then it cannot be divided by the Court, period.  Second, if the property is community, then what is a fair allocation of that property?  The courts will typically look at percentages in dividing up marital estates, trying mostly to stay near a 50-50 division.  Nevertheless, the courts may be severely hampered in this effort without a proper consideration of the third element:  Third, always know what property is at stake by insisting upon an inventory and appraisement of all assets.  By having a proper inventory of the marital estate, then it’s easier to negotiate what should be allocated to whom.  It’s also important in order to confirm that “everything is on the table” during negotiations.  It’s painful to find undisclosed accounts, or properties, several years after your divorce when little can be done.

Lesson #6:  Use an inventory and appraisement to get a grip on what’s at stake.

 

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