If you are considering filing for divorce in Texas, you should be aware of several unique aspects of a Texas divorce to make the best decision for yourself and your family. The rules for marital dissolution differ in every state, which means that the advice you receive from your divorced friend, or your well-intentioned coworker, may not really benefit you if they pursued divorce in another state. Circumstances very greatly in a divorce. Five questions below are among the most common for those thinking about the end of their marriage.
1. Where can I file for divorce in Texas?
There are residency rules for both the state of Texas and the county in which you are filing for divorce. Generally, either you or your spouse must have lived in Texas for at least 6 months prior to filing. Additionally, either you or your spouse (but not necessary both of you) must have lived in the county where you want to file at least 90 days prior to filing. This means that if the two of you have been living apart for more than 90 days in two different counties, you can file in the county where you live or the county where your spouse lives. Your attorney may have an opinion as to the preferred county, and there could be additional filing options for military members or some public servants who may live out of state or out of the United States.
2. Do I need grounds for a divorce in Texas?
Texas law permits no-fault divorce. You can seek to end your marriage by simply claiming that you and your spouse have grown apart and that your marital relationship is not salvageable.
However, you can pursue a fault-based divorce for a handful of specific circumstances. The grounds for divorce include cruelty, adultery, felony conviction, abandonment, living apart and involuntary confinement in a mental health facility. Deciding whether you would like to pursue a no-fault or fault-based divorce will depend on the particular facts of your circumstances, and what you hope to gain from the proceedings.
3. Will I have to split my property 50/50 with my spouse?
Texas is a community property state, meaning that almost all property, assets, and/or debts acquired during your marriage are subject to division in your divorce—regardless of which spouse acquired them. Some Texas divorces will result in an equal division of marital assets between spouses.
However, a judge has some degree of subjective power when dividing community property in Texas and can render the division in a way they deem fair and equitable given the family’s circumstances. Property acquired prior to your marriage, perhaps a home purchased prior to marriage with a change in the deed during the marriage, may be handled differently than property acquired during the marriage. A family law attorney with experience in real estate, stock options and other physical and financial assets can work with you to protect your ownership.
4. Does one parent typically get sole custody of the children in a Texas divorce?
Shared custody arrangements are typically best for children when a family divorces in Texas, unless a parent has compelling evidence of abuse, neglect, domestic violence or personal issues like drug or alcohol abuse, etc.
Parents typically share time with their children and financial responsibility for supporting them. Judges will commonly approve the possession schedule parents agree on, so long as the court finds that it’s in the best interest of the child. If the parents do not agree on a schedule, the court will decide what the terms of each parent’s possession of the child(ren) will be. A court order is the required schedule when you and the other parent don’t agree. Children’s schedules change from pre-school to elementary school and high school. You will need to embrace frequent communication for your parenting plan so that you can make good decisions for your children.
5. Is alimony awarded in a Texas divorce?
Whether you think you need help paying your bills after you and your spouse separate, or perhaps you are the only one earning an income in the household, you may wonder if alimony (the court ordered version of which is called “spousal maintenance”) is likely in your divorce proceedings. Divorcing parties may agree to alimony regardless of the circumstances, or the Court can order payments under certain circumstances, but there are specific eligibility requirements relating to demands for the Court ordered spousal maintenance.
The amount and length of time for spousal maintenance payments is dependent upon many factors including, but not limited to, the number of years of marriage and the paying spouse’s average monthly earnings. You should discuss with your attorney the many facts and circumstances that affect alimony and spousal maintenance payments in Texas.