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Divorce in the State of Texas

Eventhough one can get a lot of information from various websites, professional consultation with an attorney may help in understanding the real hassles and outcome of divorce in a real life situation. Hence consultation with an attorney is most essential in the event the person wants to opt for a divorce.

How does a Divorce Procedure Work?

Original Petition

First the property issues of both the partners are first settled. At the same time custody and support of children are determined. The court should have jurisdiction to grant a divorce and this is possible only when one or both parties are resident in State of Texas or in the county where the divorce is filed.

The process starts with the filing of original documents. The documents contains all details of the petition circumstances and request for relief. The petition need not be signed. One may request the lawyer for a review before it is sent to one’s spouse. The petition is required to contain some information as per statues like in case of a pre-martial agreement which should be brought to the court and spouses attention in the first pleading itself.

How the petition should be delivered?

Original petition for divorce must be delivered by formal means of delivery either by a Sheriff, constable or a private process server. It should contain both petition and citation. Citation is a cover letter indicating one’s spouse that a lawsuit has been filed. After the delivery of petition one’s spouse should file an answer in the court. Therefore it is most essential that one does not serve the original petition and citation personally because one cannot prove that a notice has been legally served at the hearing.

Orders

The period between the dates of a divorce is filed to the date when it is granted is called temporary orders.

Temporary Restoring Orders (TRO)

This order is one which is served to the opposite party by the court and which prevents transfer or disposition of and/or to prevent harassment. TRO is valid only for a period of 14 days.

Protective Order

In extreme circumstances the court may grant a protective order, which has all the powers of a TRO and also has law enforcement capacity.

Temporary orders determine many factors like

where the other spouse shall remain

payment of bills

custody and support of children during the period

spousal support

Attorney’s fees

Filing of inventories

Schedule of parental possession of children

An associate judge will hear the evidence of a temporary hearing and give appropriate orders in case an agreement is not reached between the two parties regarding TRO. The hearing will be within days or weeks of date of request for hearing.

Child related issues

The court first decides in whose custody the child should be and then decides the amount of money to be paid as child support per month. In case the payers net resources are less than $ 6000.00 then the following pattern is follows:

No. of children

Resources

1 20%

2 25%

3 30%

4 35%

5 40%

6 Not less than 40%

The payer is also required to maintain health insurance policy from the proceeds of his employment. If the payer does not have an insurance through his employment, the same is available through the payers employment, the same is available through payees employment, the payer has to pay the premium cost to the payee.

Child support orders continue upto the age of 18. If the child is in high school at the age of 18 then support continues upto graduation. There is not provision for payment of college expenses in child support. If the child is disabled support continues for an indefinite period.

All child support are modifiable at a future date. Either parent can approach the court regarding change of conservatorship, the periods of possession or child support upto the age of 18.

Informal agreements between two spouses are a contempt of court. Like is a spouse agrees to pay less of child support than orders by the court or one’s spouse gives primary possession of children and then demands return of children, then he has not right to retain possession.

Failure to comply with the orders regarding child support like non-payment of child support, periods of possession would lead to imprisonment.

Attorney’s Fees

Responsibility of payment of Attorney’s fees lies with each party. The court can order one party to pay part or all of the attorney’s fees depending on the other party’s financial resources and facts of the case.

Spousal support

Though the Texas courts have limited authority to order alimony after divorce, the court has authority to award temporary spousal support. For deciding the alimony the court will take into consideration the health and age of parties, ability to work, responsibility of children, availability of funds, length of marriage. The general rule is that spousal support will be provided for a limited period and the amount ordered will only cover the basic necessities of life. To be eligible for alimony, one must have been married for more than 10 years and alimony may be upto $2500 per month for a maximum of 3 years.

Name Change

Request for name change can be done as a part of divorce. If name change is done as a separate lawsuit, laws are stricter and harder to modify. Hence name change as part of divorce is the best option.

It is not possible to change the names of children.

Marital Liabilities

Settlement of liabilities is part of the decree of divorce. However, if the court assigns responsibility of debt to one party it does not mean the other party is released from the responsibility

Income Taxes

The same provisions for marital liabilities apply for income taxes also. There may be only rare cases where the taxes are filed jointly. In such cases IRS can pursue collection action against either or both partners. If the court has ordered one’s spouse to pay all the taxes it does not prevent IRS from imposing penalties or interest on the other’s account. It may also go to the extent of sale of one’s property to recover the tax. The IRS is not restricted by state laws.

Discovery

This is a process where one spouse learns from the other all relevant information for the lawsuit. Some formal methods include

Request for Disclosure

Depositions

Productions of Documents

Interrogations

One major issue in discovery is valuation of property and how to divide it.

The Trial or Settlement

After the discovery the actual process of trial begins, the relevant information including appraisement (list of all property and debts, opinions of values and claims) and sworn inventory is available. The settlement sometimes happens through mediation.

The parties may also settle the divorce through collaborative law. This is an out of court process where the parties and their lawyers may agree to resolve the case on a voluntary basis.

Ultimately if these issues cannot be settled then the parties may go for a trial. After the trial, the judge announces a ruling; this is afterwards converted into a written order called Decree of Divorce. If both the parties agree on the decree of divorce, both or one of the parties must appear before the Judge and give sworn. This process is called prove up. The judge then decides after determining that the testimony meets all legal requirements of a divorce and says the magic words ” Divorce granted” The judge then signs the Decree of Divorce and this is the end of the Divorce case.

Courts in Texas State

Each county in the state of Texas has one or more courts handling family cases. In Dallas, there are seven family law district courts. In Ft. Worth there are seven courts. Collin County has eight district courts, Denton County has six. Tarrant County has seven family courts. The time taken for a contested case to trial is more than one year. The period between the request for trial to the actual date of trial if a function of time taken to tray the case in a court. The longer the trial the farther the date scheduled. In most cases are agreed to even before the trial and hence no trial is required.

Each county has special rules regarding the trial in addition to Texas rule of Civil Procedure. Dallas Family Courts Issue standing orders which are intended to preserve the finance and property and also protect the children. In this case the temporary restraining order becomes unnecessary. Collin county also has implemented such orders.

Given all the rules, information about divorce, it is to be borne in mind that it is a very personal issue. It is even very traumatizing for the person undergoing the process. Hence support from all quarters is required to get over the disappointment and stress involved.

I am a graduate in science from University of Madras. I did my schooling in Chennai, St. Dominic’s AIGHS School. Started my career as Stenographer in Ruchi Pickles then moved to SRM Instituitions and then…  View profile