What is the Divorce Process in Texas? 

The party filing for a divorce must file a Petition. The filing party is referred to as the Petitioner. The Petition is a document that states the names of the people that are getting divorced, jurisdictional claims, the grounds for divorce, whether there are children involved, property division issues, and the relief sought. This is the document that gets the divorce started. The document is filed in the county where either party has lived for at least ninety days. Also, one of the parties has to have lived in Texas for the past six months.

There are three no-fault grounds for divorce:

  • (1) insupportability
  • (2) the spouses’ living apart for three years and
  • (3) the respondent’s confinement in a mental hospital for three years.

Additionally, there are four fault grounds for divorce:

  • (1) cruelty
  • (2) adultery
  • (3) the respondent’s conviction of a felony
  • (4) the respondent’s abandonment of the petitioner for one year.

After the divorce is filed the clerk will issue a citation which must be served upon the other party, referred to as the Respondent. This gives that party notice of the pendency of the divorce. The Respondent may then file an Answer to the Petition. In this document the Respondent will claim any defenses to the action, any denials of claims in the Petition, and any claims the Respondent has against the Petitioner.

After these initial pleadings are filed there may be a hearing for temporary orders. This is when a court enters orders to stabilize everything during the pendency of the divorce action. The temporary orders generally focus on preserving property and, if children are involved, the temporary orders state with whom the children will reside, when visitation will occur and how much child support will be, if any.

During the next phase of the divorce the parties will conduct discovery. During discovery the parties are required to produce documents to each other and may even give depositions. Property is valued and home studies may be conducted if custody of children is an unresolved issue. How much discovery is needed depends on how involved the case is.

During this phase of the case, many divorces will settle. Settlement occurs through a number of methods. Collaborative procedures provide the parties with a team of professionals which may include legal counsel for each party, a family counselor, a financial advisor, and any other professionals needed to resolve the issues involved. Many cases also settle through mediation. This is a process whereby the issues are discussed and a mediator works with both parties to try to reach a settlement of the issues. The vast majority of cases settle during the discovery stage through informal settlement discussions as the parties focus on what is really important for them. The remainder of the cases go to trial.

A divorce must be on file for at least sixty days before a divorce can be granted. How long it takes to get a divorce after the sixty day waiting period is up to the parties. Whether the case is settled or goes to trial the end of the divorce comes with the filing of a Decree of Divorce. This is the document that resolves all of the issues. This document is very important and should be drafted very carefully by a skilled divorce lawyer. It takes a certain amount of future thinking to anticipate what all situations might arise and how they should be resolved. The more precise the Decree of Divorce the less likely future litigation is.

How Does the Judge calculate Child Support?

The Texas Family Code provides that all parents shall support their children.  When parents no longer reside together, the Texas Family Code provides for one parent to pay the other parent his or her share of the child support.  Child support also includes paying for health insurance and 50% of unreimbursed medical expenses.

Most families will have a traditional arrangement with the child primarily residing with one parent and visiting with the other parent with a Standard Possession Order or Expanded Standard Possession Order on weekends, holidays and extended time in the summer.  However, we are seeing more and more families that are splitting possession time more equally.

If your child is on a Standard Possession Order or an Expanded Standard Possession Order then the Texas Family Code provides for State Guideline Support.  The legislature has enacted guidelines which establish child support based upon the income of the obligor.  The guidelines provide that child support will be 20% of the obligor’s net income for one child; 25% for two children; etc.  The guidelines allow you to take standard deductions in order to calculate your “net” income.

Although most cases will follow the guideline support provided by the legislature, the Courts can deviate from the guidelines for “good cause”.   One of the more common reasons for deviating from the guideline support is when parents spend an equal amount of time with the child.

If you split possession time more equally the court might:

  • Calculate what each parent would owe the other parent under the child support calculator and order that the parent with the higher amount owed pay the difference;
  • Order that the child support calculator still be used for the parent that has the higher earning capacity;
  • Order that no child support be paid by either parent (other than the health insurance and 50% of the unreimbursed medical); or
  • Deviate from the guideline support in a way that the court feels is in the “best interest” of the child.

There are various reasons why a court might deviate from child support guidelines, even in a traditional possession arrangement.  The court can consider the following factors when deciding whether to deviate from guideline support:

  • The age and needs of the child;
  • The child’s educational expenses beyond secondary school;
  • Provisions for health insurance and payment of uninsured medical expenses;
  • Extraordinary educational, health-care, or other expenses of the parties or of the child;
  • Whether either party has managing conservatorship or possession of another child;
  • Each party’s period of possession of access to the child;
  • Travel costs for exercising possession of and access to the child;
  • Child-care expenses that allow either party to maintain gainful employment;
  • Each parent’s respective ability to contribute to the child’s support;
  • The paying parent’s net resources, including the paying parent’s earning potential if intentionally unemployed or underemployed;
  • Spousal maintenance paid or received by a party;
  • Whether either party has a car, housing, or other benefits provided by an employer, another person, or a business entity;
  • Paycheck deductions, other than those already factored into calculating monthly net resources;
  • Cash flow from any real and personal property, including businesses or investments;
  • Debts assumed by either party; and
  • Any other reason consistent with the child’s best interest, taking into consideration the parents’ circumstances.

Many parents are agreeing to split costs of children in a manner that makes more sense for their child.   Most courts will permit this as long as it is in the “best interest” of the child.  Some of those arrangements range from sharing a checking account where each parent deposits a predetermined amount and from which the expenses of the child are paid by either parent to designating which parent will pay for which expenses of the child.

Most child support is paid through the Special Disbursement Unit through the state.  The state then sends the payment to the receiving parent.  Only when parents are sharing a joint account for the child or when parents are Ordered to pay specific items instead of child support will the state not be involved in the payment.

What is a Standard Custody Arrangement?

Conservatorship is often thought of as the person or persons who have custody of children. There is a rebuttable presumption that parents should serve as the Joint Managing Conservators of their children.  The presumption for joint managing conservatorship is rebutted if there is a finding of family violence or other significant evidence showing that joint managing conservatorship would not be in the child’s best interest.

Joint Managing Conservatorship does not mean that each parent has the children half the time, or that child support will not be awarded. It also does not mean that both parents jointly make all the decisions for the children. The time with the children can be allocated any number of ways. Further, the parental rights and duties can be allocated between the parents in any manner the court feels appropriate. Child support may be awarded to one of the parents. The custody arrangement may even “look” like sole custody with visitation to the other parent.

If Joint Managing Conservatorship (often referred to as Joint Custody) is ordered the Court will make a finding of who has the right to determine the primary residence of the child and what the geographical area must be for that residence.  The other parent typically receives a Standard Possession Order which allows him/her to have custody of the children on the 1st, 3rd and 5th weekends of the month beginning on Friday afternoon/Saturday morning and ending on Sunday night/Monday morning.  The non-custodial parent also receives a 2 hour dinner visit during the week and holidays usually alternate every other year.

How much do you charge for a divorce/child custody case? 

We have handled many divorces and child custody cases.  Thus, there is no need to “reinvest the wheel” on every case.  Since we prosecute your divorce/custody case in the most efficient manner possible, we are usually able to complete your divorce/custody case for between $2,500.00 and $5,000.00 dollars.  Uncontested matters cost even less.

Call Now to Schedule an Appointment

How can I help? There’s plenty to do.
Let’s get started.