“Trust Me It Gets Better”
No good marriage has ever ended with divorce. This period in your life can feel overwhelming and confusing. I understand. The process of selecting an attorney to dealing with custody issues and property division are difficult decisions to make. The questions you will have will be specific as well, for example:
- What happens to my retirement?
- Who will run the business?
- Will I be able to take the children on our summer vacation?
This guide is your starting place, a source to answer some of your pressing questions. Please remember that this is only an overview and is not meant to serve as legal advice. For more information on how we can help in your specific situation, please call Keith Becker.
Can Anyone Get Divorced?
Yes. Texas is a “no fault” state, which means that, while a spouse can file for a divorce based on fault grounds, it is not required. No fault grounds include irreconcilable differences or living apart without cohabitation for at least three years. Divorces based on fault grounds are grouped into four main categories.
Adultery: Adultery is one of the most common reasons for divorce, and can greatly impact the course of the proceedings.
Cruelty: This means that one spouse is treating the other in such a way that living together has become insupportable. Cruelty can include physical and mental abuse, as well as inhumane circumstances.
Felony conviction: If your spouse was convicted of a felony and imprisoned for at least one year, you may ask for a fault-based divorce.
Abandonment: In order to prove abandonment you must show that your spouse voluntarily left with no intention of returning, and remained away for at least one year.
Fault issues can have an impact on the division of the estate, custody issues, maintenance to a spouse, attorney’s fees and other areas.
A Basic Overview
A Parenting Plan. For parents, this is often the most important stressful and difficult aspect of a divorce. While several factors are taken into account when determining the custody, the primary concern for the court is what is in the best interest of the child. Texas courts assume that both parents will have input in decisions affecting their child’s wellbeing. However, that presumption can be overcome with certain facts about the parent’s behavior, the child’s desires and many other reasons too numerous to list here.
One of the most important determinations to be made is deciding which parent will have the right to designate the child’s primary residence. This decision can be agreed on by the parties or court-ordered after the court hearing evidence and testimony. If this issue become contested, the court may need to hear from teachers, friends of the family, and others. In the situation where neither parent can place the child’s needs first, in rare exceptions, if circumstances warrant, children can be placed with aunts, uncles, or grandparents.
Property Division: Property can come in the form of businesses, trust funds, stocks, 401Ks, real estate or even retirement packages. Texas courts differentiate between community property, which is owned by both spouses, and separate property, which is owned by one or the other. Community property is divided in a “just and right” manner, but “just and right” doesn’t always mean equal. Many factors are considered when making this determination. These include fault (if one party is at fault), how the property was acquired, the age and earning power of the spouses, the nature of the property, and many others.
Similar factors are taken into account when determining what is the separate property of a party, and what both of these categories are worth. Obviously, this process can be time-consuming and its complicated nature demands a special expertise and financial acumen.
Visitation & Access: Once conservatorship and primary custody over a child have been decided, the next step is to determine visitation and access rights for each parent. The Texas Family Code lays out a standard possession order detailing when both parents will have possession of a child. However, this schedule is presumed and can be amended depending on specific circumstances, as well as the needs and best interests of the child. Keep in mind that, before children reach the age of three, a standard possession order is not presumed. Rather, the court will tailor a visitation schedule unique to the child’s needs based on specific criteria laid out in the Texas Family Code.
Pick the Right Attorney for the Job.
Unfortunately, many marriages end in divorce and given the complexity of litigation involving children and property, it is common to seek sound legal advice. The goal is to find the attorney best equipped to help. A criminal defense attorney may not be the best choice to handle a divorce. A divorce attorney may not be best to handle your criminal law issues. Just as you seek a medical specialist for serious healthcare issues, you should turn to an attorney who specializes in Family Law. One way to determine if the attorney has the experience necessary to handle your case is to determine if the attorney is Board Certified. Board certification is a years-long process that requires an attorney to participate in continuing education courses, be involved in a whole host of family law specific issues, such as marriage, divorce, child custody, and adoption, and pass a comprehensive, daylong, specialty area examination. It’s something that only the most experienced and seasoned attorneys are able to achieve.
Additionally, it is always a good idea to take the time to get to know the attorneys who will be representing you. A good relationship outside the courtroom will make it easier for them to fight for you inside the courtroom.
About Keith Becker.
For 25 years, Keith has focused his practice on family law. He was board certified in family law in 1998. He has vast experience both litigating and mediating custody matters, marital agreements, visitation rights, property division and a host of other complex issues.
Keith practices in the following counties: Dallas, Collin, Denton, Tarrant, Grayson, Rockwall, Kaufman and Ellis.