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Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need a lawyer for a divorceHow to find a good divorce lawyer

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Do You Need an Attorney for a Divorce?

Concerns about the cost of a divorce often prompt people to question whether they need to hire a divorce attorney to go through the legal process of dissolving their marriage. It is true that sometimes people can file a divorce in Texas without legal help. If you and your spouse have little or no marital assets, and you do not have children, you might be able to muddle through the divorce process on your own.

However, the vast majority of couples have at least one issue that warrants hiring a divorce attorney. Although you might not need a family dispute attorney for your divorce, it’s always in your best interest to consult with a divorce attorney if you want to file papers or if your spouse has filed. Our family law attorneys are the best in Houston and can evaluate your situation and specifically explain how they can help you.

In many divorce situations, individuals who do not hire an attorney risk one or more of the following:

  • Losing assets
  • Paying unreasonable spousal maintenance
  • Not receiving spousal maintenance they deserve
  • Losing custody of a child/children

Even if you and your spouse seem to agree on the big things, it is likely you have still overlooked potentially contentious issues involved with the smaller details of your divorce. You need a family law attorney, , to ensure you receive fair treatment and protect your rights. In case you are not yet convinced about the benefits of hiring a good divorce attorney, keep reading to learn about times when you absolutely need a divorce and specific ways a family law attorney can help you with your divorce in Houston.

Divorce Attorneys Serve as an Objective Third Party

Even the most amicable situations can quickly turn hostile during the divorce process. When a spouse does not desire to compromise, it can be frustrating.. In some situations, a spouse takes action to purposefully  sadden or anger the other, leading to a strong desire to get revenge. Sometimes, the act of filing for divorce is hurtful if it seemingly came out of nowhere. Regardless of the exact situation, divorce stirs up feelings and emotions that often create new wounds or brings past wounds to light.

It is often difficult for the most relaxed and logical people to maintain objectivity during the divorce process. When you hire a divorce attorney, you have someone in your corner that is fighting for you. Divorce attorneys are not emotionally connected to your spouse, so they serve as a voice of reason and a layer of protection for costly and harmful choices you might otherwise make on your own as you go through a divorce. Your divorce attorney has a legal obligation to act in your best interests, which includes protecting you from yourself to ultimately ensure you get the best outcome for such a difficult situation.

For example, some spouses think an impending divorce justifies spying on their spouse, checking their email, searching their file cabinet, etc. Yet, this type of evidence is typically inadmissible in court because it is likely your spouse did not permit you to go through their private things. A divorce attorney knows how to get the information they need to build your case and make sure they can use the evidence in court.

Do Divorce Lawyers Help Victims of Domestic Violence?

If you have suffered abuse during your marriage and fear for your personal safety or the safety of your children, a divorce attorney in Houston can help you file for a Texas divorce on the grounds of cruelty. If you choose to file for divorce, the biggest challenge is often moving out of your home. It is not unheard of for spouses to stalk or chase after a partner who attempts to leave. Sometimes domestic abuse victims worry about escalating violence by leaving. You will likely need to move someplace where your spouse cannot locate you. Your attorney will be your point of contact, and he or she can file for a restraining order or protective order against your spouse, making it illegal for your spouse to contact you or come near you. If you have children, your attorney can file a restraining order or protective order ahead of time to include provisions related to your children, so your spouse cannot accuse you of kidnapping if you take your kids with you.

Can Divorce Lawyers Help Protect Your Assets?

The division of marital assets can be a highly contentious part of any divorce. Texas is a community property state, and courts presume all marital assets are community property to be equally divided unless you or your spouse claim otherwise. Regardless of which side you are on, your divorce attorney can help protect your assets or ensure you get your fair share. If you choose not to hire legal counsel for your divorce, you risk losing assets to which you are entitled.

You or your spouse must provide evidence that an asset is a separate property for a judge to stray from the Texas community property presumption. If your spouse tries to claim a particular asset as their separate property when it really is not, your attorney can help provide evidence to ensure you get your share of the asset. In some cases, the court might order the sale of an asset, so you and your spouse can split the proceeds. Your divorce attorney can also help you prove an asset is your separate property and that your soon-to-be-ex is not entitled to any part of it.

Unfortunately, some spouses do not play fair, and they hide assets, especially high-value assets. Sometimes this deception begins early on in a marriage, and other times a partner takes the time to tuck away assets in preparation for a divorce. A skilled family law attorney in Houston can help you track down hidden assets so that the Texas court can award you your share.

Do Divorce Attorneys Help Protect Business Interests During Divorce?

If you had a business before you got married or started a business during your marriage, you most definitely need an experienced divorce attorney to protect your business interests during divorce and thereafter. This is even more true if you have a family business that you and your spouse run together. The simple fact is that if you do not have a prenuptial agreement in place that protects your business, your spouse has a stake, even if they did not help build the business.

Disagreements about business assets are often times contentious, but in the worst cases, they can put you out of business. Rumors about divorce and fighting create uncertainty for customers and shareholders, if applicable. An attorney can help you take steps to protect your business success and come up with an agreeable division that is just and right for both parties. This might include shared profits but often includes one spouse buying out the other’s interest in the business. A lump-sum buyout could lead to a financial catastrophe, so your attorney can help arrange the plan that works best for your situation.

Do Divorce Lawyers Help Negotiate Spousal Maintenance?

There is the possibility you or your spouse will pay or receive spousal maintenance as a part of your final divorce agreement. Unlike child support, which requires the payment of a clear percentage based on income, spousal maintenance varies greatly among divorces. Judges review certain aspects of a case to decide if they will order spousal maintenance to be paid by a spouse and further review other factors to set an exact amount.

If you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement about spousal maintenance, and you let the court decide, one or both of you might be greatly disappointed with the outcome. It is far better to negotiate spousal maintenance as you discuss the division of your assets and come to an agreement. In either case, a divorce attorney is an important part of the process.

If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement on spousal maintenance, a Judge will determine whether you should receive or pay spousal maintenance. The Judge will review several factors, including but not limited to:

  • Fault. If you or your spouse is filing for a divorce based on grounds of fault, the exact justification for your divorce can play a role in spousal maintenance. If you are at-fault, you cannot typically collect spousal maintenance. If your spouse is at fault, the court might award spousal maintenance as punishment.
  • Finances. The court will evaluate you and your spouse’s income, debt, and earning capacity. They will also take into account the way child custody impacts a person’s ability to earn money.
  • Health, Age, and Length of Marriage. The court evaluates a spouse’s health and age related to their capabilities can award spousal maintenance when couples have been married for more than 10 years.

Hiring an attorney can impact whether you pay or receive spousal maintenance if you meet factors laid out by law. If you want to avoid a high payout, you need a divorce attorney to fight for you by building a case that shows the amount of support requested is unreasonable. If you are requesting maintenance, you need an attorney who can help you build a case for why you need support after divorce. Failure to get the legal help you need could result in you paying far more maintenance or receiving much less maintenance than you should.

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How To Find A Good Divorce Lawyer In Houston, Texas?

Going through a divorce is a trying time, and the last thing you need is a mediocre attorney in your corner. A good divorce law firm protects you from your spouse, protects your assets and rights, and ensures you receive fair treatment in court. You need a competent attorney on your side, so it is best to contact an attorney as soon as you know a divorce is in your future.

Maybe you have already considered hiring a divorce attorney to help, but you are uncertain about how to choose an attorney, let alone choosing a good one. Finding a good attorney is crucial to minimize the difficulty of going through the divorce process. Below we provide in-depth information about how you seek a good divorce law firm in Houston, Texas, and questions you should ask during an initial meeting to ensure you make the best choice.

Spend Time Doing Research to Find the Best Houston Divorce Attorneys

You need to do your research to find a good divorce law firm in Houston. The divorce attorney you choose will have an impact on the outcome of your case. Ultimately, you need to choose the firm and attorney you find to be the best fit for your needs. You should be confident that whoever you choose will fight to get the most desired outcome for your divorce.

You can narrow your search and come up with a shortlist of good divorce law firms in Houston with the following research:

Reach Out To Those You Trust For Referrals

Likely, you do not want to broadcast your impending divorce to your entire social and professional network, but you should reach out to those you trust for a referral. Friends, family, and colleagues who have gone through a divorce will give you candid information about the attorney they hired for their divorce. You can also ask other attorneys you may know. For example, if you have a tax attorney or a real estate attorney, he or she might have a recommendation to a family law attorney for you. These referrals are typically reliable because an attorney does not want to risk their reputation by recommending a mediocre attorney to someone else.

Read Online Reviews About Houston Divorce Lawyers

If you know what to look for and where to look, online reviews can provide valuable insight into the quality of an attorney. You can read client testimonials on a firm’s website, but many testimonials do not provide the name of the attorney who worked on a case as many firms have associate attorneys who work on cases as well.

Additionally, there are other objective sources to get a complete picture of a specific attorney. Many choose to visit Avvo.com and search for divorce attorneys in their area. Avvo.com gives a score to each lawyer that ranges between 1 and 10 to indicate their level of professional excellence. Individuals also provide up to five-star ratings for their attorney. Some provide comments about their experience too. Avvo.com also provides other information about divorce law firms in Houston, such as experience, status with Texas’s licensing authority, and whether an attorney has been sanctioned or disciplined by the Texas Bar Association.

Read Peer Reviews

If you have limited time to find a good divorce attorney in Houston, depend on peer reviews to help guide your decision. Peer reviews sometimes get a bad rap because they can be a form of self-indulgence. Yet, the legal community’s peer reviews are reliable because of the importance of reputation for a law firm and an attorney. Attorneys will not publicly say good things about another attorney unless they know they are competent. In other situations, peer reviews are anonymous, so you get candid information.

You can find peer endorsements on an attorney’s avvo.com profile, but you should look at other trusted resources too. These three are well-respected in the legal community and will give you a picture of an attorney’s reputation within Houston’s legal community.

  • Super Lawyers. This is another national directory of lawyers, including divorce lawyers. However, Super Lawyers has a rigid peer review process that results in only five percent of total practicing lawyers in each state. Their multiphase selection process begins with peer nominations. The company reviews nominations based on 12 different indicators surrounding professional achievement and peer recognition in their legal practice area.
  • Martindale-Hubbell. The company that owns Avvo.com, Martindale-Hubbell, maintains an online registry of hundreds of thousands of practicing lawyers in the United States, including divorce lawyers in Houston. When peers recognize a lawyer as excellent, Martindale-Hubbell provides a special AV designation on their profiles.
  • Best Lawyers. Each year Best Lawyers publishes their picks for the “Best Lawyer” in almost 60 practice areas, including divorce. For more than 30 years, Best Lawyers has used the same peer-review process to put together their yearly list. Peers nominate a lawyer for the list, and those on the list from the previous year hold an anonymous vote. Once a lawyer is included in a Best Lawyers list, they are automatically nominated for the next award cycle.

Look For Honors And Awards

If a Houston divorce attorney has not received any accolades, it does not automatically mean he or she is a bad divorce attorney. However, those who have received awards and honors for their work are likely good attorneys, especially when you see them alongside positive reviews. In addition to their yearly list, Best Lawyers give awards to “Law Firm of the Year” and “Lawyer of the Year.” Other recognition comes from national organizations such as the National Law Journal or the American Bar Association (ABA), but good Houston divorce attorneys might also receive awards from the State Bar of Texas.

Schedule An Initial Consultation

Once you have done some research and come up with a handful of potential good divorce attorneys in Houston, you need to contact one at a time for an initial consultation. Your first meeting allows you to discuss your situation and share any challenges you may face with your divorces, such as high-value assets or child custody. Your potential divorce attorney can provide some guidance and set expectations for your case, so you have a better idea of what is to come.

These initial meetings are also a chance for you to ask questions about divorce proceedings, the firm, and the attorney’s track record with previous divorce settlements. Typically, you should try to ask questions about client service, experience, and your divorce case. Here are some sample questions in each area to give you an idea of what to ask to find a good divorce lawyer in Houston:

Client Service Questions

  • Who will work on my divorce case after today? You want to know if the attorney you met with will be personally handling your divorce case. You should expect that paralegals, associates, and assistants help build your case. However, you want to know who your attorney will be and if they have a hands-on approach.
  • How long does it take for you to return calls/emails to clients? Knowing the responsiveness of your attorney is important. If a divorce attorney cannot commit to returning a call or email to you within 48 hours, he or she might be too busy for your case. A good divorce attorney will guide you through your divorce and answer your questions promptly. Divorce is already stressful enough without having to deal with a divorce attorney who does not communicate efficiently.
  • How often can I expect updates on my case? Your attorney should give you a broad timeline for your divorce, but they do not have complete control over the situation. Each divorce case has different challenges, and some take longer than others. However, you should expect that your attorney contacts you to let you know about any relevant communication with the other side. Each time you speak with your attorney, he or she should be able to give you a rundown of the next steps in your divorce case.

Experience And Workload Questions

  • Can you provide some examples of divorce cases that you have worked on that are similar to mine? Each divorce is different, but many share some commonalities. For example, if you have multiple residences and a successful business, you want to know your attorney has experience dealing with high-value assets. Similarly, if your divorce comes with a custody battle, you want to know your Houston divorce attorney has fought for conservatorship and possession and access for previous clients.
  • Can you give some examples of divorce case outcomes you have secured for past clients? Your potential divorce attorney cannot guarantee a specific outcome for your divorce case. Yet, he or she should be able to provide some broad numbers about past cases similar to yours in terms of assets, the income of both spouses, child-related issues, and the reason for divorce. This can give you a possible idea of what to expect in terms of your own divorce and a look into how a Harris County court has handled cases similar to yours. Remember that there are many family courts in Harris County and each judge is different. The same facts in two different courts will likely result in two different outcomes.
  • What are some failures you’ve experienced in previous divorce cases? Even good attorneys have the occasional failure. If an attorney says he or she has never failed or made a mistake, it is fair to assume they are not being completely honest or lack self-awareness. This could adversely impact your divorce case. A good attorney will tell you about some failures and, more importantly, explain what they learned from their mistakes that make them most qualified to represent you.

Case-specific Questions

  • Is mediation a requirement in my divorce case? You need to know that your Houston divorce attorney will take every possible measure to help you settle your divorce as quickly and painlessly as possible. A good attorney does not drag out your divorce to bill more hours. It is important to know that courts have their own policies and procedures that vary however, most courts do require mediation during the divorce process. Courts want couples to attempt to work together to reach a common ground and mediation is a great place to do such..
  • What is a ballpark range I might have to pay/could receive for child support and/or spousal maintenance? A good Houston divorce attorney should be able to give you a range of what you can expect in terms of payments. In regards to child support, an attorney can explain the numerical values based on the guidelines of child support set forth by Texas law. Additionally, if you meet the requirements for spousal maintenance, a good Houston divorce attorney can explain the numerical values you may be awarded.
  • Should I file a no-fault or an at-fault divorce? No-fault divorces are most popular and often less expensive, but sometimes a person needs to file for an at-fault divorce in Texas. After evaluating your situation, your attorney should tell you which strategy is best if you are the one filing.
  • What challenges do I face with this divorce? Experienced divorce attorneys have been through hundreds of divorces with their clients, so they should be able to identify any potential issues you might face, whether related to asset division, custody, or support. You want an attorney who has a realistic view of the situation and has developed high-level problem-solving skills for the most difficult divorces.

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Common Divorce Questions Women Have

At Skillern Firm, we understand that not all clients have the same needs or are on the same schedule. We can help you process your divorce no matter what the process looks like, mediation, negotiation or litigation.

We know that you have questions. We are here to answer them. Here are some commonly asked questions by the women we have represented.

How Do I Know If I’m Ready To Get Divorced?

Only you can determine the why and when of making this change. If you are reading this, then you have come far along in the process. The first step is to speak with an attorney. You are much more empowered to make good decisions if you understand your rights, the Texas divorce process and your options.

Does The Mother Always Get Primary Custody?

Years ago, until the 1980s, most family law judges did give primary custody to the mother. This was based on the idea that derived from the 19th century “tender years doctrine.” This doctrine held that children under about four years of age needed to be with their mothers. Before this, children usually stayed with the father as he was more able to financially provide. We now know that children benefit from having both parents equally active in their lives and joint conservatorship is the norm.

I Stayed Home To Raise The Kids While My Husband Worked. How Will The Assets Be Divided?

Determining whether or not an asset is considered separate or community property is how “who gets what” is decided. Generally, assets in Texas are divided “equitably.” This means if your husband worked 50 hours a week to build a business, but in order for him to do that he needed you to be home and take care of the home and children, then you also contributed to his success and to the success of the business.. If you also handled a facet of the business, such as billing, then you contributed to the business and the business will likely be divided as a marital asset. Debts are also divided during a divorce. Other factors like adultery and family violence may also affect asset division.

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Common Divorce Questions Men Have

At Skillern Firm, we understand that the divorce process can be a little different for men than it is for women. We also know that you have sincere concerns about how the divorce will affect your ability to parent and to provide for your children and yourself, and what your new role will look like.

We are here to answer those questions. Here are questions and answers to the most common concerns that men have when facing divorce

How Is Custody In Texas Determined?

The court always looks at the best interest of the child when making custody determinations. The facets considered are what the child needs to be physically and emotionally healthy, and what type of arrangement offers the best stability and continuity for the child. Parenting skills, desire to parent and the relationship between the divorcing parents are also factors. Other factors like a history of family violence or neglect (or false reports of these), may also affect how custody is granted. If a child is over 12 and has a preference as to where they want to live, the court will take this into consideration.

How Will My Being A Father Be Affected By My Divorce?

You are still the father who is raising your child, divorce does not change that. If you make it your goal and mission to be the best parent you can, you are one step ahead of the game. Putting your child’s needs first allows you to let go of anger and other emotions that can thwart your intentions to best provide for your child. Work hard to maintain the old routines, traditions and celebrations as much as possible. Create structure for your child, show up when promised and keep in contact with them. Parenting, even after divorce, is a full-time, committed role.

When is a paternity test a good idea?

If you are not married to the child’s mother or have any reason to believe you are not the biological father, it is always best to obtain a paternity test. The outcome of the test will impact all aspects of the parent-child relationship including conservatorship, possession and access, and support. It is in everyone’s best interest to have this data.

Why Are Fathers Important After A Divorce?

Fathers are a vital and very valuable part of their children’s rights. It is more often than not crucial for your child to have both parents present in their lives. Fathers who are present and active in the lives of their children positively impact their child’s growth, stability after a divorce, and mental well-being. Research unequivocally proves this. Today, we understand there has been a long-standing bias against fathers and that joint conservatorship is always, except for rare cases, in the best interest of the child.

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Answers And Guidance From A Trusted Divorce Attorney

At Skillern Firm,  we know Texas divorce. Call today: 281-990-4655. You can also reach us by using our website contact email. You do not have to face divorce alone. Know your rights and obligations; we can help and fight for you. Act today, and begin preparing for tomorrow.

“There are no words to describe how great of a person Matt is. He truly cares about his clients and their families. If you are in the unfortunate position where you need counsel, hire Matt.”

—Kyle from Avvo