No one wants to get divorced, but it happens; people change, and the person you are married to five, ten, or fifteen years down the line is rarely the person you originally married. Consulting with a qualified Sugar Land, TX attorney is crucial if you and/or your spouse are considering splitting up. Together, you can consider the different types of divorce, and which one is right for your situation.
6 Different Types of Divorce in Texas
1. Fault Divorce
Fault divorces used to be a lot more common before 1970, but since no-fault divorces are now an option in most states, you don’t see spouses seeking fault-based judgments much these days. Fault divorces involve one spouse alleging in the divorce filing that their partner did something that is responsible for the breakup of the marriage.
Adultery, perhaps the most common grounds still used in fault divorces, is defined in Texas as “the voluntary sexual intercourse of a married person with one not the husband or wife of the offender.” You don’t need to video-record their infidelity; bank statements or receipts will suffice, if they can show gift purchases, such as jewelry for or trips with a paramour. A major consideration is that it’s still (legally) adultery if it happens after the divorce is filed and the partners have separated. So, you may want to wait until after the divorce is final to swipe right on Tinder.
Other Grounds for Fault Divorce
Other grounds for fault divorces include cruelty, abandonment, mental incapacitation, felony conviction, or abuse. These grounds are very specific as to when they apply. Abandonment requires that the non-filing spouse leave “with the intention of abandonment,” and stay gone for at least a year. For felony conviction to be a factor, the convicted spouse must have been imprisoned for at least one year. Cruelty involves willfully causing pain or suffering to your spouse so bad it renders living together insupportable.
2. Default Divorce
If one partner files for divorce, the divorce petition is served (legally delivered), and the other partner does not respond for whatever reason, the court can still issue a divorce decree by default. There are waiting periods and some procedures that must be followed, but a spouse who does not want to get divorced cannot avoid it by just ignoring the divorce filings and hoping the whole thing goes away.
3. No-Fault Divorce
“No-fault” means exactly what it sounds like, that the inability to continue the marriage is neither party’s fault. It is by far the most common kind of divorce in Texas, which is one of 33 states that provides for a no-fault divorce. No-fault divorces typically result in a 50/50 split of marital assets.
There are a couple of significant advantages to a no-fault divorce. First, they’re usually shorter and cheaper; the soon-to-be-ex-couple can get on with their lives faster (and with more of their own money, collectively, in their pockets.) Second, fault divorces usually involve a certain amount of mudslinging and can get ugly fast. Divorce documents become public records, so couples wishing to keep their marital dirty laundry private would be wise to opt for a no-fault divorce.
Grounds for No-Fault Divorce
It’s important to recognize that even though there is no legal blame assigned, the couple must still give a reason for the dissolution of the marriage. The two most common grounds are insupportability and separation. Insupportability is the same as “irreconcilable differences,”– the marriage has become untenable to both parties, to the point where remaining together is not an option. Separation, legally, means that the spouses have lived apart for at least three years with no cohabitation.
This type of no-fault divorce is sometimes called an “agreed divorce,” because it’s when both spouses agree on the details of the divorce without mediation or litigation. Though the attempt is admirable, failure to consult with an attorney often leads to failure to conduct due diligence in locating all assets (and liabilities), and those assets, by accident, malice, or design, getting left out. Because of this, uncontested divorce agreements often fall apart when actually applied in court. They work best with short marriages that have no children and little property (or debt.)
Not all no-fault divorces in Texas are uncontested. The couple can agree to jointly file for divorce and not to assign legal responsibility to either side but still disagree over how to divide assets, custody matters, spousal maintenance, or other usual divorce issues.
4. Mediated Resolution
Mediation is a transparent negotiated process in which a neutral attorney guides a couple to a mutual compromise. Mediation is nearly always cheaper and less arduous than trial for all individuals involved. Spouses can agree to mediate, or the court can order it, and many Texas courts require that the couple at least attempt it. It can take a half-day or sometimes a full day, depending on how many issues are being debated and how far apart the spouses are on those issues.
5. Collaborative Law Process
The collaborative law process is similar to mediation in that they are both transparent negotiated processes designed to arrive at a compromise both partners can live with. However, in a collaborative law process, a series of meetings are planned, each with its own agenda.
The spouses, represented by family law attorneys certified in the collaborative law process, meet with various neutral experts in finance and conflict resolution as well as mental health professionals. Each spouse keeps minutes and takes notes while all work together to find a compromise. All discussion during this process is confidential and cannot be used later in any court proceedings.
6. Litigation in Sugar Land, TX
If you’re picturing a big, dramatic, messy divorce, of all the types of divorce, chances are you’re imagining this one. These contentious fault divorces start when one partner files a petition for divorce and serves (the legal term for delivering) it to the other, followed by hearings, evidence gathering and presentation, and finally, a trial.
The good news is that by far most divorces are settled out of court before getting anywhere near trial. But sometimes the couple in question has become so acrimonious to each other that they are too far gone for compromise processes described above to work, even in a no-fault divorce. If that happens, issues such as property division and child custody need to be hashed out in court.
Avoid a Trial (if at All Possible)
Trials are exhausting and take forever, not to mention being expensive in attorneys fees. Judges can be unpredictable, and often view not taking advantage of alternate dispute resolution processes (such as mediation), or not succeeding with them, as wasting the state’s time.
Since trials go on for such a long time, either spouse who has good cause can request a temporary order that may be issued by the court, for temporary arrangements regarding property or custody, until the final decree is worked out.
Even the least acrimonious divorces are a strain; your life partner and best friend is now, often, your worst enemy. An experienced and knowledgeable Sugar Land, TX family law attorney can help alleviate a lot of the stress by giving you the peace of mind of knowing the legal issues are taken care of and your rights are being protected. Call Skillern Firm to schedule a consultation today.