What is an agreed divorce?
An agreed divorce is one where the parties are able to agree on the matters pertaining to the finalization of their divorce. The parties must be able to agree as to each and every aspect of the divorce, including the division of their property, the conservatorship of the children, child support and visitation with the children. The parties often make these agreements prior to consulting with a lawyer, but there are times that a lawyer can help the parties come to a proper agreement and what may have been a contested divorce can become an agreed one. Once the agreement has been made the lawyer will draft an agreed decree and the parties will sign it. After that, the lawyer and the client will go before a district judge and get the Court to sign the decree, thereby finalizing the divorce.
How long does it take to get divorced?
Simply, it is up to the client and his/her spouse, but in no event less than 60 days. There is a 60 day waiting period, beginning upon the filing of the divorce petition with the court clerk, before a Court can grant a divorce. If the parties are in agreement as to the terms of the divorce, then it is likely that the divorce may be finalized shortly after the end of the waiting period. If the parties are not in agreement regarding the terms of the divorce, it will likely take more time.
Does Texas have legal separation?
No. Unlike some states, Texas does not allow a person to file for legal separation, only for a divorce. Once the divorce has been filed the parties may request, and the Judge will usually grant some temporary orders which outline the relationship of the parties while the divorce is pending. The temporary orders can include the terms of the temporary conservatorship of the children, visitation with the children, temporary child support, temporary division of property as well as temporary spousal support and interim attorney fees. Temporary orders remain in effect until an order modifying them is entered or a decree replaces them with a final order. Temporary orders can serve as a type of legal separation during the pendency of the divorce, and may last as long as the divorce remains pending.
Can I begin dating after filing for divorce?
No. It is important to remember that until the Judge signs a decree granting the divorce, you are still married. While you may not feel like you are, the law still recognizes you as being so. If you have a sexual relationship during the pendency of your divorce, with anyone other than your spouse, it is technically adultery and your spouse may use it against you in the final hearing. Additionally, your spouse may become infuriated by your dating so soon after separating from him/her and become harder to deal with when attempting to settle your divorce. Your children also deserve sometime to adjust to the fact that their parents aren’t living in the same home anymore, and your dating may worsen the effect of the divorce upon them.
Can I get my legal fees paid by my spouse?
Not usually. In agreed divorces, the parties usually agree to pay their own attorney fees. In cases tried before a judge, the judge almost always requires each party to pay their own attorney fees. That is not to say it can’t be done. In some limited cases interim attorney fees can be granted during the pendency of the divorce, but it usually comes out of the marital estate and cuts into your portion of the marital property upon finalization of the divorce. But your spouse may ask for the same thing and a judge may grant it.
How much child support will I or my spouse have to pay?
Child support is determined based on many factors, including the special needs of the child and the circumstances of their usual lifestyle. However, most often child support is determined based upon a formula promulgated by the Texas legislature. It calculates your net resources for each month (after deducting taxes, union dues and health insurance premiums for the children) and then multiplies that number by 20% for the first child and an additional 5% for each child thereafter. (For example, if you have three children you will pay 30% of your net monthly resources.)
Can I have my child support withheld from my spouse’s paycheck?
Yes. In fact, Texas law requires that an order doing so be signed and filed with the final divorce papers in your case. That does not mean that you have to have such order sent to his/her employer though. If the parties agree, the withholding order may be kept in the Court’s file and not be sent to the employer. If you later decide you want it to, the court clerk will send it out to the employer at the request of any party.
What is the standard for visitation with the children?
Similar to child support, the Texas legislature has set a “Standard Possession Order” wherein it dictates the schedule by which the parties will visit with the children. It allows for visitation on the 1st, 3rd and 5th weekend of each month, every Thursday evening during the school year, and one month in the summer. This can be extended to including picking the child up from school on Thursday evening and returning the child to school on Monday morning. Keep in mind, however, that the parties can agree to any visitation schedule they like, and the Court can order any visitation schedule it sees fit and is in the best interest of the children.
I want alimony, can I get it?
Bottom line…No. Texas, unlike many other states does not have alimony. We do, however, have spousal maintenance. In the context of a divorce, maintenance is defined as the court-ordered periodic payments from the future income of one spouse for the support of the other spouse. While it sounds like alimony, there are many requirements prior to a spouse being granted maintenance in a divorce.
First, is the length of the marriage. A couple has to have been married at least ten years prior to the court being able to award maintenance to one spouse, unless the requesting spouse is disabled.
Further, there must exist factors which lend themselves to the requesting spouse needing the maintenance payments or deserving them. These factors are listed in the Texas Family Code and are generally: financial resources of the spouse seeking maintenance, education and employment skills, duration of the marriage, age, earning ability of the spouse seeking maintenance, physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance, ability of the spouse ordered to pay maintenance to meet his/her own needs, excessive or abnormal expenditures by either spouse of community property, comparative financial resources of the spouses, property brought into the marriage, contribution of the spouse as a homemaker, marital misconduct of either spouse, efforts of the spouse seeking maintenance to find work.
Texas judges cannot extend the spousal maintenance payments beyond three years except for good cause, such as the receiving spouse being disabled and unable to work. However, like almost all other areas of divorce, the parties can agree differently if they so choose and can avoid the time restraints altogether.
Can I get my child’s father’s/mother’s rights terminated if he/she doesn’t pay his/her child support?
Legally yes, practically not always. The Texas Family Code provides that when a parent has not provided for the support of the child for at least one year their parental rights may be terminated. However, a litany of factors go into a court deciding to terminate a parent’s rights to their child. First and foremost is the best interest of the child. The Court will look at the entire situation surrounding the child and determine if it is a good thing for the child to have the rights of one of his/her parents to him/her taken away. The Court will often consider if there is a surrogate parent or potential adoptive stepparent who wants to assume the role of the terminated parent. The Court will also consider the child support history, the ability of the parent who is to be terminated to pay the support arrearage and future support and any other factors it deems in the best interest of the child.
How long do I have to try and get back child support that I am owed paid?
For the entire life of the child. The Texas Legislature recently amended it’s child support collection statues and made it harder for deadbeat parents to get away with abandoning their children and paying no support. It did so by removing the statute of limitations for the collection of child support arrearages. Now a parent, a child or guardian of an adult ward may sue for the collection of child support arrearage from the obligor parent at any time during the life of the child. It now makes no difference that the child has reached adulthood, the cause of action is still there.
What are grandparent’s rights?
Texas recognizes that the bond between children and their grandparents is very important to the development of the child. However, the law also recognizes that the discretion of the parents in the raising of their children is of tantamount importance. Therefore, there exists a dichotomy between grandparent’s rights to their grandchildren and parent’s rights to keep their children from their grandparents. However, grandparent’s rights generally refers to the right of a grandparent to force a parent to allow visitation between a grandparent and a grandchild.