Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce In Houston, TX
Navigating divorce comes with its share of challenges and questions. This FAQ guide aims to offer answers on legal requirements and more. Whether you’re considering divorce or are already in the process, this resource provides essential insights for understanding the complexities of divorce in Houston.
Questions About Money
The cost of a divorce lawyer varies from attorney to attorney.
Costs for a divorce lawyer also vary depending on the facts of each case. Uncontested / agreed divorces tend to be cheaper than contested disputes regarding property, children, or both.
A retainer fee is when you, as the client, deposit a lump sum into the client’s trust account held for your case. The funds you provided as your retainer fee are then used when we work on your legal matter. Once the firm works beyond the amount in the retainer deposit, the funds will need to be replenished for more work to be done.
The cost of a divorce depends entirely on the individual facts of your case. Factors such as contested versus uncontested, children or no children, and the complexity of your community property affect the cost of your divorce.
Further, working well with your attorneys, paralegals, and legal staff by communicating regularly and responding with needed documentation will keep costs down. Your involvement in your case streamlines the process and lowers the costs of obtaining a divorce.
No, a division of property is not always an equal 50/50 split. All that is required by the Texas Family Code is for the judge to grant a “just and right” division of the community estate, which varies on a case-by-case basis.
Trial courts may only divide community property when dividing the marital estate. Separate property is the real and personal property of one spouse, owned or claimed by them before marriage and acquired afterward by gift or inheritance. Separate property remains the separate property of that spouse and is a property that the court cannot consider when granting a just and right division of the community estate.
A court may not divest a spouse of respective separate property.
A certified divorce financial analyst (CDFA®) is a financial expert who specializes in providing in-depth financial analysis to attorneys and couples relating to divorce. Their expertise helps achieve equitable divorce settlements using knowledge of tax law, asset distribution, and short-term and long-term financial planning.
In addition, in a contested matter involving various high-dollar complex accounts or businesses, a certified divorce financial analyst may clear up confusion and provide unique insight on the proper path forward dividing your community estate.
For people who stay at home or earn significantly less than their spouse, the idea of divorcing your stream of income may be overwhelming. In Texas, income earned by your spouse is community property, meaning that half of that income is yours too. Weighing several factors, courts seek a just and right division of property earned during the marriage, including property associated with the highly paid spouse’s income.
A question to consider is whether you and your partner have a joint checking account. If you do, consider whether you and your partner are on good terms at this point. Typically, access to bank accounts is denied by the other spouse once divorce proceedings are initiated. Print out statements and account information before the divorce starts to ensure a final snapshot before being denied access. If you are not on good terms, figure out how to secure funds before filing so you are financially stable during the following tough time.
At The Law Office of Trey Yates, we understand the difficult decision to divorce from a breadwinning spouse. We work with you to achieve the financial security you need to start a new chapter independent from the frustrations of your former spouse.
How divorce will affect taxes depends entirely on the financial makeup of your community property estate. Be sure to communicate with your tax attorney or financial advisor throughout your divorce process on how certain actions will affect future taxation.
It is also important to connect your attorney with financial advisors and tax accountants whom you use and who will have intimate knowledge of you and your family’s financial inventory.
Texas provides for two types of spousal support following a divorce. A court may only grant spousal maintenance under Chapter 8 of the Texas Family Code, which limits the amount of support one spouse must pay and the other spouse will receive. A spouse must qualify for Chapter 8 spousal maintenance, which is a topic to discuss during the consultation with Trey Yates.
Texas does allow for spouses to agree to spousal support in the form of contractual alimony largely without limitations.
Questions About Process
The Texas Family Code requires at least one spouse to have been domiciled in Texas for the past six months and to be a resident of the county in which the suit is filed for at least the last 90 days. That person must have intended to establish a permanent home and acted to make Texas and Harris County their permanent home for six months and 90 days, respectively.
It is not required to hire an attorney for a divorce. However, legal experts like Trey Yates provide experience, expertise, and comfort to clients going through the emotionally challenging and difficult process of a divorce. Choosing an attorney to guide you and advocate for your best interest will provide peace of mind in this difficult time.
No, you and your spouse need different attorneys during your divorce proceedings, so no conflict of interest arises between you and your attorney.
The divorce process is the legal procedure to dissolve a marriage and create an orderly system to divide marital property and, in cases involving children, establish rules and schedules for the parents to possess and control their children between both parents.
Technically, the divorce process begins with the filing of an original petition for divorce, which lays out the reasons for divorce and the requests the petitioner (the party seeking a divorce), seeks from the court. Often, the respondent (the other spouse), will file their counter-petition asking for her or his own set of requests from the court.
The steps following the filing of the petition depend largely on the facts of each case, such as if the divorce is contested between the parties or uncontested.
• Uncontested divorces are usually quick, without the need for battling motions, exhaustive discovery and research, and multiple hearings.
• Contested divorces, however, involve lengthy discovery which digs into the personal finances and property ownership of both parties and can include hostile litigation tactics that lengthen the divorce process.
• All types of family law matters, whether they be divorces, modifications, or suits affecting the parent-child relationship (SAPCR), may be resolved through private negotiations, mediations, or agreed-to arbitrations.
• If none of these informal or out-of-court resolutions succeed in finalizing your legal matter, a trial before the court or by a jury will conclude your family law matter.
No, you and your spouse could hypothetically live in the same home throughout the divorce. However, living with your spouse during the divorce proceedings is incredibly unlikely depending on the relationship of the spouses involved.
Divorce is a major emotional, financial, and legal decision that involves the most personal aspects of your life coming to light and being possibly weaponized against you by a spouse you once loved and trusted more than anyone else. In many ways, the dissolution of marriage is the public break up of a relationship in a courtroom.
When children are involved, the stakes and emotions often rise. The entire process requires nerves of steel and great resolve in the face of adversity. Attorneys such as Trey Yates maintain the experience to guide you through this difficult process when you and your family are at your most vulnerable.
The length of the divorce process differs with every case because of many factors that may accelerate, such as settling at mediation or informal negotiations, or delay divorce proceedings, such as motions continuing the case or discovery challenges.
The Texas Family Code prohibits a court from granting a divorce prior to the 60 days after filing the original petition unless there is a finding of family violence on the part of the respondent or the respondent is convicted or placed on deferred adjudication for an offense involving family violence.
If you hire Trey Yates after your consultation, he will draft and file an original petition for divorce containing your grounds for divorce, requests for division of property, and, if there are children of the marriage, requests for supporting the children.
Before beginning divorce proceedings, you should gather documentation on your property and your children and hold onto these copies to provide to your attorneys once the petition is filed and the divorce process begins.
• Necessary documents for property division include tax returns, ownership and financial documentation for homes, real property, and vehicles, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, credit card statements, and insurance statements.
• Necessary documents for child issues include school records, expenses for extracurricular activities, documents relating to child healthcare, and photos, text messages, and emails relating to you and your spouse’s parenting of your children.
• If abuse or family violence exists, please save documentation on abuse, violence, and any available police reports.
• Finally, if your spouse sought legal counsel and has served documentation or other statements to you, provide that documentation and information on your spouse’s legal counsel.
Filing for divorce is a major decision that will most often irreparably harm any chance at reconciliation and maintaining a successful marriage. Before taking the step of filing for divorce, many couples will attempt couples counseling and other therapies to try to resolve their differences and keep their marriage alive.
If attempts to repair the marital relationship fail, then it is important to ensure your financial security when the divorce proceedings begin. Your spouse will likely try to restrict the community money and other community property from you during the divorce.
Make sure you have a home to go to if you can no longer remain in the marital home. Sometimes, clients will live temporarily with family or friends while they figure out more permanent independent housing for themselves both during the divorce and afterward. Be sure to discuss this with your attorney when leaving the marital home.
Yes. In Texas, you can file for divorce without any reason based on the ground of insupportability. Neither party needs to be “at fault” for the divorce, such as abuse to one party or to children or committing adultery. If you are unhappy or dissatisfied with your marriage, you may seek a divorce on the ground of insupportability due to “irreconcilable differences.”
The Texas Family Code requires a 60-day waiting period after the filing of the original petition before a court can grant a divorce unless family violence is found against the respondent or the respondent is convicted or deferred adjudication for an offense involving family violence.
The Texas Family Code allows for modifications of orders dealing with child issues, child support, and spousal maintenance. If a material and substantial change affecting your parent-child relationship or finances has occurred since the final decree of divorce was rendered, one party can file for a modification to change the amount of child support or spousal maintenance as well as modify possession and access to children.
However, once the property is divided, that division cannot be modified after the divorce decree is rendered. Private contracts could be made between former spouses but changes to property division cannot be done through the family courts.
The advantages to being the petitioner, the one to file the divorce petition that starts the divorce proceedings, are that you can prepare financially and legally for the remaining divorce process. Instead of reacting to the initial filing, you can have a plan in place for what happens after you file the original petition. Further, when documentation is drafted for you ahead of time, you have control over deciding when enough is enough and when independence is needed.
The disadvantages to being the petitioner are more subtle. Being the spark of the legal proceedings can make initiating reconciliation difficult if you, as the petitioner, have second thoughts. Starting divorce proceedings can be an ambush not only against your spouse but also your family who may not know about family trouble and will now be caught up in family strife.
Serving someone papers refers to the private service or formal delivery of documents initiating a lawsuit. For family law purposes, this typically means a private process server personally delivering documentation such as the original petition for divorce, motions for enforcement, or motions to modify.
Firms with multiple attorneys vary in how they handle cases. Some firms delegate each attorney to solely work on your case. Other firms work by committee with multiple attorneys working on different portions of your case.
At The Law Office of Trey Yates, Mr. Yates will be the only attorney advising you throughout your case and representing you both before the court and to opposing counsel.
The division of workload on any given case depends largely on the firm handling your legal matter.
At The Law Office of Trey Yates, paralegals work on everyday matters bringing your case from start to finish. The paralegals all bring years of experience with them as well as some who are board-certified in family law. Meanwhile, Trey Yates works with clients and his team on preparing and succeeding in court proceedings and mediations to secure your and your family’s goals throughout your divorce.
The difference between a contested and uncontested divorce is the level of agreement between the parties relating to the division of property and conservatorship of the parties’ children before beginning the divorce process.
• If a divorce is uncontested, that means the parties agree to a specific property division and, if children are involved, agree to specific possession, control, and access over the children. Uncontested divorces are generally quicker from beginning to end.
• Meanwhile, if a divorce is contested, that means the parties do not agree to a division of property or conservatorship of their children at the time the parties file their petitions for divorce. Instead of operating quickly and smoothly, a contested divorce requires the discovery of financial and personal information and could involve competing filings and arguments that lengthen the process.
• Sometimes, parties anticipate an uncontested divorce based on their internal beliefs that a party will agree to a variety of issues. However, once that agreement goes away, a case can easily turn into a contested and difficult divorce proceeding. It is best to prepare for the worst outcomes even with the optimism of an agreeable divorce.
In Texas, a legal separation does not equal divorce. Parties may be separated from one another for years without obtaining a divorce. Texas law does not create a separate marital estate upon separation. The parties will not be formally divorced upon separation, and thus no longer accruing community property nor possess the ability to marry another person, until a decree of divorce is granted and ordered by the court.
As Trey Yates loves to say, “You is until you ain’t.”
A party brings a suit for an annulment to dissolve a marriage based on causes before marriage that invalidate the marriage. An annulment differs from a divorce because it voids the marriage in the first place and concludes that the parties were never married.
Reasons for annulment include entering into a marriage with an underage spouse, entering marriage when one or both parties were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or if one or both spouses are mentally incapacitated upon marriage.
The presence of these and other factors makes a marriage voidable and still requires the parties to sue to annul their marriage.
There is no set time limit for being separated before obtaining a divorce. Separation alone does not generally carry legal significance for property division purposes.
There is also no need to split up before getting a divorce.
Questions About Family and Self
If you are afraid for your health and safety, you should consider distancing yourself from your spouse for your own protection. Staying with friends and family unrelated to your spouse may shield you from any ongoing or potential abuse. If you are being physically abused by your spouse, consider reaching out to law enforcement and private organizations designed to help spouses seeking an escape from family violence.
Legally, attorneys like Trey Yates can defend you by filing a restraining order against your spouse to keep you and your children safe from harm.
No one deserves fear from their lifelong partner. No one should be afraid of the most trusted person in one’s life. If you are living in fear of your spouse or being physically or emotionally abused by your spouse, call Trey Yates for assistance.
All types of documentation, written and visual, can be used against a spouse in a divorce.
Most documentation is exchanged during the discovery period before the trial. During discovery, parties exchange a variety of documentation, including but not limited to financial documentation, banking statements, photos, emails, text messages, social media posts, and police reports.
Much of this documentation, if admitted into evidence at hearings or trial, may be used against a spouse.
If you are the respondent in a divorce suit, meaning that your spouse initiated the divorce proceeding by filing the original petition for divorce, you are limited in the decision-making for whether a divorce will happen.
Unfortunately, in this situation, your spouse wants a divorce and can obtain one without your consent. You and your spouse would need to reconcile your differences through counseling or private discussion before your spouse files a nonsuit and drops the divorce case.
Also, your reasons for wanting to remain married despite divorce proceedings can be important to help attorneys advise you on how to secure financial resources and your now independent future after divorce.
No, the courts are not allowed to award custody based exclusively on sex. Courts look to the best interest of the child to determine which parent will provide the best environment for a stable child to be raised and mature into adulthood.
It used to be an unwritten norm that women or the mother were awarded custody of children while men or the father were awarded only limited possession and a requirement to pay child support to the mother for care of the children.
This norm is forbidden under the Texas Family Code. Also, courts have shied away from that traditional stereotype and award on a more even basis today. Courts and counsel through trial and mediation develop creative options to award 50% possession between parents. Also, courts can award joint rights and duties to both parents which allows equal decision-making on educational, medical, and psychological decisions.
Divorce affects children in multiple ways, both obvious and hidden.
Suits Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR) often occur as part of a divorce between parents. SAPCRs force children to adjust to a new life between two households and their time divided between two parents. The legal system, either by agreement or by court order, accounts for these adjustments by laying out geographic restrictions on where children can live and attend school, on time for parents to possess and visit children, and rights and duties as parents in caring for their children. Further, SAPCRs often involve payment of child support by the possessory conservator, or the visiting parent, to the managing conservator, the parent who takes primary care of the child.
Further, divorce affects children psychologically and emotionally because of the changes in their family life. These effects may lie under the surface and show themselves in unusual or sudden ways. It is important for children to express themselves through therapy or other outlets if they are struggling to handle the familial changes caused by divorce.
The court keeps the best interest of the children at the forefront but how that ends up ordered by the court differs from case to case. As your case develops, Trey Yates will explain adjustments to your changing parent-child relationship.
A “gray” divorce refers to divorce for older couples, typically over 60 years old.
Although legally there is no difference between couples divorcing at age 25 and age 65, there are different considerations for older couples divorcing after decades of marriage.
Gray divorces often involve further entrenched emotional, social, and financial relationships molding the two spouses as a single unit. When couples divorce, they often need to change or, at worst, sever those relationships and create truly separate lives for the first time in decades. It is important that couples thinking of divorcing later in life understand the challenges ahead and find ways to secure comfort in these important relationships before, during, and after divorce.
Child issues are usually not involved in gray divorces because children are typically graduated from high school and 18 years or older by this time. However, adult children are undoubtedly affected because a gray divorce is still the dissolution of a marriage between the parents they love and care for. Open communication between parents and adult children is crucial to maintaining successful familial relations following a divorce.
For many people in a variety of situations, freedom is one of the most positive effects of divorce. Untethering yourself from a toxic spouse or an unsatisfying and unfulfilling marriage opens up many paths in life previously closed off by the responsibilities of marriage and devotion to another person.
Perhaps your spouse required you to stay home and your career fell by the wayside. Perhaps you were chastised for seeing family or friends whom your spouse did not like. Perhaps your spouse criticized your looks, your spending, your hobbies, and other parts of your everyday life. For many who come to our office, divorce allows people the chance to do the things they want to do without the shackles of a controlling spouse.
Whether parties need to stay in Texas throughout a divorce depends on whether children are involved in the divorce suit.
If child issues exist, temporary orders are often put in place for the child to remain in a certain geographic location while the divorce is pending. If a geographic restriction is placed on children, that usually means that one parent cannot leave and will remain in Texas. However, circumstances may exist that allow for parties to leave Texas based on the child’s opportunities elsewhere or agreement between the parties.
If child issues are not present in the divorce, parties are free to move somewhere else so long as one of the parties domiciled in Texas for six months before filing the original petition and was a resident of the county in which the suit was filed for at least the last 90 days.