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When to Seek a Divorce Lawyer

Nobody wants to need a divorce lawyer in Houston. But, if you and your partner have decided to divorce, you are going through a stressful and challenging time. You might be unsure about the next steps, and maybe you have discussed not hiring lawyers to go through the process. Even in the most amicable situations, it is not in your best interest to avoid hiring legal counsel for your divorce. The divorce process is complicated with many moving parts, especially if children are involved, if you own a business or if you and your spouse have significant assets.

You are entitled to a portion of assets in your divorce, and you risk an unfair division when you do not hire a divorce lawyer to help you through the process. Divorce lawyers know the law and know how to apply the law to your situation to protect your interests during your divorce from your partner. If you are  ready to begin working with a divorce lawyer in Houston, Texas, the skilled legal team at Skillern Firm has extensive experience representing clients in all areas of family law. We also provide a critical advantage concerning complex property division, retirement accounts, and child support and child custody issues.

If you live in the greater Houston, Texas area and suspect or know that divorce is in your future, consulting with an experienced divorce lawyer as soon as possible is in your best interest.

You are not alone, Skillern Firm is standing by and ready to help. Contact us today online or at 281-990-4655 to schedule an initial consultation, so we can learn about your situation and strategize the best path forward for your circumstances. We have helped numerous people throughout Fort Bend and Harris Counties.

At Fault vs. No-Fault Divorces in Texas

Texas is one of many states that allow spouses to choose whether they want to dissolve their marriage based on fault or no-fault. No-fault divorces can be straight-forward and can result in an equal division of assets. An at-fault divorce can be more complicated. The person who files for an at-fault divorce must prove their spouse is at-fault for the dissolution of their marriage., If your spouse has filed for divorce because you are at-fault for the end of the relationship or if you want to file an at-fault divorce, you absolutely need a skilled divorce attorney in Houston, Texas to build your case, protect your assets, and help you get your fair share.

Grounds for Divorce in Texas

Texas law provides different grounds for filing for divorce whether you or your partner files a fault or no-fault divorce. They are:

Grounds for At-Fault Divorce in Texas

A fault-based Texas divorce requires the person filing to prove their spouse has done something wrong. Several situations exist that someone can use to justify the dissolution of a marriage. Proof comes in various forms, such as documents and witness testimony. Fault divorces are not as popular as they used to be because no-fault divorces are simpler, but they are still an option for couples who live in Texas. The most common grounds for a fault divorce include:

Cruelty

Texas law defines cruelty as treatment towards a spouse that it further made living together insupportable. The notion of cruelty is a highly subjective term, so courts evaluate each case on its own facts. Texas judges can grant divorces on the grounds of cruelty when they find such behavior “renders further living together insupportable” according to the state’s Family Code.

Adultery

According to Texas case law, adultery is “the voluntary sexual intercourse of a married person with one not the husband or wife of the offender.” If you have clear and positive proof that your spouse was cheating with another person, you have grounds to dissolve your marriage on an at-fault basis. The same is true if your spouse has evidence of you committing adultery. Proof of adultery does not have to be photos or videos. You could provide bank statements or receipts as proof of purchase for gifts, jewelry, travel, or money for another. Lease agreements, mortgages, and car loans also serve as proof of adultery when your spouse provides housing and vehicles for their lover.

PRO TIP: Your spouse can seek a divorce on grounds for adultery after filing for divorce, even if you are no longer living together. It’s in your best interest to avoid all relationships until your divorce is final. 

Felony Conviction

If your spouse committed a felony crime during the marriage, and he or she was convicted, not pardoned, and has been imprisoned for at least a year then you could have grounds for an at-fault divorce based on a felony conviction. It does not matter if your partner was convicted federally or by the State of Texas. Time in federal or state prison both provide grounds for divorce. One exception does exist. If your testimony against your spouse led to the felony conviction, it does not serve as grounds for divorce.

Abandonment

If you or your spouse abandons the other, you have grounds to dissolve your marriage under Texas law. However, the person who left must have intended abandonment and stayed away for at least one year.

Grounds for No-Fault Divorce in Texas

No-fault divorces are typically more common in Texas and other states that allow couples to choose their path to dissolution. No-fault divorces are usually less expensive and quicker, making them an ideal choice for many couples. Parties do not need to prove malfeasance by the other, and they can avoid the heavy drama often associated with at-fault divorces.

You or your spouse does not need a reason to file for a no-fault divorce in Texas. Yet, the court still needs at least one ground for granting the divorce. Grounds for Texas no-fault divorces include:

Insupportability

Often referred to as irreconcilable differences in other states, insupportability is the idea that one or both spouses can no longer endure being married because of intolerable and insufferable conditions. Insupportability is the most common ground for a no-fault divorce when spouses live under the same roof. The court will grant a divorce based on insupportability if there is no reasonable expectation that the couple will work out their issues. This is the most common grounds for divorce.

Separate Living Arrangements

Sometimes married couples choose to separate and live apart. When couples live apart for three or more years, either party can file for a no-fault divorce, and a judge can grant the dissolution of the marriage on this basis. If at any time during three years the couple cohabitated, the court might not grant a no-fault divorce because they were not living apart continuously.

Confinement to a Mental Health Facility

If one partner suffers a mental condition that requires confinement to a mental health facility, the other spouse could have grounds for a no-fault divorce. For a judge in Texas to grant a dissolution of marriage based on confinement to a mental health hospital, the person must be spent at least three years under confinement and  are unlikely to to adjust due to the degree and nature of the mental disorder, or  are likely to relapse.

Texas Residency Requirements for Getting a Divorce in Houston

Texas, like other states, has resident requirements for couples who want to file for divorce. Some states require that only one of you is a resident to file for divorce, while others require that you both live there for some specific amount of time before you can divorce a spouse. If you are filing for a divorce in Texas, you must have resided in a Texas county for at least 90 days and have lived in Texas for the six months before you plan to file for divorce.. The law does allow for a couple of exceptions. They include:

  • Public service. For the purposes of filing for divorce in Houston, your Houston residence serves as your permanent residence if you and/or your spouse had to leave the area or the state because of public service obligations. Although other scenarios might occur, this most often impacts members of the military and their spouses.
  • Out-of-state divorce filings. Both of you do not need to be living in Houston to file for divorce. You may have parted ways already, and one of you has moved out of state. As long as one of you has been living in Texas for six months, the other spouse can file for a divorce in the county where that person resides.

Division of Marital Assets in Houston Divorces

Like divorces across the nation, Houston divorces are often plagued by issues related to property division. Texas judges have the legal basis and discretion to order an unequal division of property, but in most cases, Texas courts divide marital property in a just and right manner between each spouse. Texas is one of several community property states. Property and assets, as well as debts, acquired by either person during their marriage, belong to both equally.

Presumption of Community Property in Houston Divorces

Texas family law courts automatically presume that all property is community property. If there is an asset that you want to claim as your own or your spouse wants to claim, you must provide clear and convincing evidence to the court that the asset is separate property. For the purposes of divorce, separate property includes anything you or your spouse acquired before marriage, a gift just to you, or something inherited.

During divorce proceedings, couples have to divide a wide range of personal property, including:

  • Real estate, including the marital residence and any vacation properties
  • Personal property such as clothing, books, jewelry, etc.
  • Income, dividends, benefits
  • Marital debt

Spousal Maintenance in Divorces

Spousal maintenance, often referred to as alimony in other states, is not automatic in Texas divorce cases. Spousal maintenance is one payment or multiple payments from one spouse to another to help them meet “minimum reasonable needs” after a divorce. If you are seeking spousal maintenance or your spouse is seeking maintenance from you, the court looks for the following evidence before they consider awarding maintenance:

  • The spouse receiving maintenance is unable to support their reasonable needs due to an physical or mental disability.
  • The spouse receiving maintenance is the custodian of a child of the marriage that is physically or mentally disabled, preventing the spouse  from working.
  • The couple was married for 10 or more years and a spouse does not have the ability to earn an adequate income.

If one of these factors applies to your divorce situation, whoever is requesting maintenance must attempt to support themselves, or the court will presume the other spouse owes no maintenance. Once the person requesting maintenance overcomes this presumption, the court will consider some of the following when awarding a specific amount for spousal maintenance:

  • the ability of each spouse to pay support
  • the skills and education of each spouse
  • whether one spouse contributed to the education of the other
  • whether a spouse provided domestic services or property to the marriage
  • the length the couple has been married
  • the age, health, and ability of the receiving spouse to earn income
  • bad acts committed by either party

Our skilled divorce attorneys here at Skillern Firm in Houston, Texas can evaluate your case and advise you on how to fight for the spousal maintenance you deserve or, protect yourself from unreasonable spousal maintenance requests.

Child Custody and Child Support Issues in Divorces

If you have minor children and divorce is on your horizon, the issues of child custody and child support can be overwhelming. Like other states, Texas law puts the best interests of the children at the forefront during divorce proceedings. Yet, sometimes child support guidelines and custody decisions are difficult to understand.

If you and your soon-to-be-ex cannot agree on a custody arrangement, including conservatorship and possession and access, , or if you already know that you will need to fight for custody during your divorce, our team is here to help. You should know that Texas courts prefer a joint custody arrangement and often require divorcing parents to complete a parenting class before they grant a divorce. In considering the best interests of a child, Texas courts evaluate the following:

  • the home environment of each parent
  • each parent’s ability to care for the child
  • the extent to which parents can successfully co-parent
  • each person’s financial situation
  • each person’s employment circumstances
  • the child’s preference if he or she is over 12 years old

Custody battles are often emotional and contentious. The court’s preference is to award a joint conservatorship, giving a child the benefit of having both parents in their life. Joint conservatorship means both parents share much of the decision making for the child. There are certain rights that are standard for both parents and there are other rights that can be exclusive to one parent over the other, or joint where both parents must agree.

Child support is a separate issue from conservatorship and possession and access. Texas law has minimum and maximum amounts based on income. Sometimes these amounts leave one parent without the funds necessary to provide for their children or put an unreasonable burden on the person paying the support. Whether you are fighting for custody during your divorce or dealing with child support issues, our divorce attorneys at Skillern Firm have the knowledge and experience to help you fight for the best outcome for your case.

How a Divorce Attorney in Houston Can Help

It is always in your best interest to consult a divorce attorney when your spouse has filed for divorce or when you want to file, even if you intend to file a no-fault divorce. Reasons for hiring an attorney to represent you include:

  • The Texas family court system can be complicated and frustrating to understand. An attorney understands the requirements set forth by the law and used in courts . An attorney will ensure you meet all deadlines, comply with all requirements, and get treated fairly.
  • Divorce is an emotionally charged process that sometimes causes people to act in irrational ways. Your attorney is an objective party who can help you make rational decisions that are not rooted in anger or other emotions.
  • Divorce attorneys have deep level knowledge that comes with exceptional problem-solving skills. A lawyer attorney looks at a divorce case from all angles and can recommend settlement options clients may not have considered.
  • Your divorce attorney will take care of all necessary documents and paperwork, ensuring your information is correct, so you are not faced with delays in the process due to the court rejecting paperwork that does not meet their guidelines.

Divorce is a difficult time for everyone involved. You want move on with your life while ensuring you receive fair and just treatment during the process. Let an experienced attorney handle the details of your case and help you reach your goals while you grieve your loss. Contact Skillern Firm today online or at 281-990-4655 to discuss your case.

“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