- How much does it cost to meet with the attorney? Exact costs for a specific case are impossible to predict in advance and depend upon the facts of the case and how cooperative the opposite side is willing to be. For this reason, we do not charge for the initial consultation with the attorney. It is at this meeting that the client’s specific legal needs are discussed and estimated costs are addressed.
- What should I bring to my first meeting? You are not required to bring anything but yourself to the initial meeting. However, there are items that it would be helpful for you to bring. Our intake questionnaires can be found here, and it will provide us with the basic information we need to begin filing your case. In addition, if child or spousal support will be at issue in your case, copies of your recent paystubs and last income tax return would be beneficial.
- Are there any other steps I should take before hiring an attorney?
- My spouse and I agree on how to deal with the property and the kids. Can we hire the lawyer together?Ethically, we can only represent one party to a case. Your spouse may choose not to hire a separate lawyer, and can agree to sign the papers that reflect the agreement the pair of you have reached, but we can only represent and give legal advice to one of you.
- How long does it take to get a divorce in Texas? Texas law requires a minimun waiting period of 60 days from when the divorce case is first filed until it can be finalized. Therefore, an uncomplicated and agreed, uncontested divorce can be completed 61 days after filing. However, in most cases, the divorce process takes longer as parties try to come to an agreement on property division, child custody, child support, etc.
- I’m not sure if I’m ready to divorce. Can I get a legal separation instead? Texas does not recognize a legal separation. While spouses may choose to live in different places, they are legally married until they are officially divorced. However, a divorce could be filed and temporary support and custody orders can be put in place until the case is finalized.
- What is the difference between a “joint managing conservator” and a “sole managing conservator”? When discussing custody, Texas uses the term “conservator” to refer to a person having rights and duties relating to the child. In most cases, the court appoints parents to be “joint managing conservators” which means that they have equal or near-equal rights and duties to the child. The main difference is likely to be that one of them determines the child’s residence and can receive child support from the other parent. In some specific cases, the court may appoint one parent to be the “sole managing conservator” and the other the “possessory conservator”. What this means is that the sole managing conservator has great rights as relates to the child than does the possessory conservator.
- Will both parents get equal visitation with the children? Even with joint managing conservators, it is unlikely that the parents will have precisely equal visitation with the child. Texas has a set of guidelines called a Standard Possession Order that are usually applied to set visitation. These guidelines vary by whether or not the parents live within 100 miles of each other, but generally set visitation to the first, third, and fifth weekend of the month and one week night per week. There are additional options for holidays, summer vacations, and birthdays.
- If I move out of the house, does that mean the judge will give it to my spouse? If you and your spouse do not reach an agreement regarding the division of property, then that decision will go to a judge. In dividing property, the judge will consider all the factors, including who is living in the house, who has residency rights to the children, and the circumstances under which you moved out of the house.
- If I later want to move out of state, does that mean my spouse gets the children? Most courts or the parents by agreement, place a geographical restriction upon the parent with residency rights, such as “Harris and contiguous counties”. That restriction is lifted if the other parent moves out of that area. However, parties may also agree ahead of time in their Divorce Decree to have no geographical restrictions. If the Decree does impose a restriction and the party with residency rights later wishes to move outside of the area, that parent may go to the court to seek a Modification of their conservatorship rights.
- My child wants to live with me. Can he or she tell the judge that? Texas no longer has law that allows a child of specific age to express a parental preference to the judge in an affidavit. However, the judge may interview a child upon a parent requesting the interview.
- What are “community property” and “separate property”? In Texas, all property owned at the time of divorce is either community or separate, or a mixture of both. All property acquired during marriage is presumed to be community property, which means that both parties have an equal right to it, regardless of whose name is on the papers or who earns more money. Separate property is property that belongs solely to one party or the other. Separate property is property owned before the marriage or received as a gift or inheritance; everything else is community. Note that because Texas does not recognize or have provisions for “legal separation”, “only” property bought while the spouses are living apart but not yet divorced, is still presumed to be to be community property.
- How is marital property divided? Absent a pre or post marital property agreement, the standard for property division in Texas is that it must be divided in a “just and fair” manner, given the specific circumstances of each case. In most cases, a near-equal division of community property occurs, though there are numerous factors the courts may consider to decide otherwise.
- What is mediation and why is the judge forcing us to go? Mediation is a process to attempt to reach a settlement of the issues outside of court. The parties and their attorneys meet with a neutral person trained in dispute resolution who attempts to get the parties to discuss their situation. Most mediators are also attorneys, the _________ and other professionals. Mediation is usually less bitter than full litigation and can save both parties time and money over arguing their case in front of a judge or jury.
- Can I get alimony? The term for alimony in Texas is “spousal maintenance” and it is not very common. To qualify, the parties must have been married for at least ten years or there must have been family violence within the past two years. Even then, courts only grant maintenance when the party can show a great disparity in earning potential, a disability, or the like. Spousal maintenance can only be awarded for a maximum of three years. Spouses can however agree to payment of “alimony”/spousal maintenance as part of a settlement agreement.
- I got divorced and now the circumstances have changed. How do I try to change child support/custody? To attempt to change the terms of your divorce as relates to the children, you need to file a Petition to Modify. A modification can only address issues involving the children; all property divisions from the divorce are final.
- Is there a time limit in which I have to seek a modification? Is there a specific amount of time after the divorce that I need to wait? There are no legal time requirements for seeking a modification. However, if the divorce was very recent, the court may be skeptical of your claims that there has been a significant enough change in circumstances to justify modifying the previous order.