Accepting that your marriage is over is never easy. The divorce process that follows can also be intimidating, especially if you are unfamiliar with the legal system. To give you some idea what to expect, Dallas divorce attorney Rita M. Boyd discusses six questions to consider in a Texas divorce.
Questions to Consider in a Texas Divorce
- Who Will Initiate the Divorce? One spouse must take the lead and get the divorce process started. This person is known as the “Petitioner” and he/she will prepare a Petition for Divorce. The Petition includes basic information about the marriage and asks for the court to dissolve the marriage and grant the Petitioner the relief he/she seeks. Along with the Petition, a Summons must be prepared that is served on the Respondent (the non-filing spouse) along with other initial documents that might be required. The law requires the Petitioner to serve a copy of the Petition and accompanying documents to the Respondent using a method authorized by law, such as service by Sheriff or personal service. The Summons will let the Respondent know the divorce has been filed and explain that the Respondent has a limited amount of time within which to file an official Answer with the court. The Respondent is not required to file a written response to the Petition; however, if he/she wishes to answer the allegations contained in the Petition, an official Answer must be filed with the court within the statutory period.
- Is the Divorce Contested? If the Respondent fails to file an Answer with the court, the Petitioner can request a default judgment. In essence, this grants the Petitioner’s request for a divorce without any additional litigation. If the Respondent does file an Answer, it does not necessarily mean the divorce will be acrimonious. It is beneficial, however, to determine if there are contested issues in the divorce as early on as possible. Ideally, you will be able to resolve those issues through out of court negotiations.
- How Will the Assets and Debts Be Divided? One of the most common reasons for a divorce to turn adversarial is because the parties cannot agree on the division of debts and assets. Texas is a community property state, meaning that property acquired during the marriage is marital property – with a few exceptions. That does not necessarily mean the marital property will be divided 50-50 though. Deciding what assets are most important for you to keep can help you stay focused if the division of assets becomes a contested issue.
- How Will the Children Be Handled? In Texas, “custody” of a minor child is referred to as “conservatorship.” If there are minor children involved in your divorce, someone will be awarded sole managing conservatorship, or you and your spouse can be joint managing conservators. Conservatorship refers to the right to make important decisions relating to the child, such as what school he/she attends or what medical treatment is authorized. A “possession and access” scheduled will also need to be created which determines when the children spend time with each parent. Finally, child support will need to be calculated and ordered.
- Is Spousal Support an Issue? Spousal support, also referred to as “alimony,” is a legal obligation one spouse has to continue financially supporting the other spouse after the marriage ends. Texas recognizes two types of spousal support, court-ordered spousal maintenance and contractual alimony. If you entered into a prenuptial agreement that awards you spousal support, the terms of that agreement will govern. If not, there are certain conditions that must be met before a court will consider awarding spousal maintenance. Knowing if you qualify for spousal support is important because divorce often leaves the parties in very disparate financial positions post-divorce.
- Can You Reach an Agreement? Ideally, you and your spouse will be able to reach an out of court agreement on all issues in your divorce, thereby eliminating the need for costly and time-consuming litigation. Unfortunately, however, not all divorces are amicable. The adage “prepare for the worst, hope for the best” applies when it comes to divorce. A divorce that starts out amicably can turn contentious overnight, so it is always best to be prepared for that possibility.
Contact Dallas Divorce Attorney Rita Boyd
If you have additional questions or concerns about divorce in Texas, contact experienced Dallas divorce attorney Rita M. Boyd, P.C. to discuss your legal rights and options. Call 972-380-8000 and make an appointment to come in and discuss your challenges. You can also email me.