Frequently Asked Questions
Trust Our Dallas Divorce Lawyers with Your Case
Divorce can be an incredibly confusing time for many people, especially since divorce law changes depending on the state you live in. We’ve assembled a few frequently asked questions people ask us about their cases.
To tell us about your situation, call us at (972) 852-8000.
Will my divorce go to trial?
Not all divorces wind up in court. Around 95% of all divorces in the United States are uncontested, meaning the couples agreed on most issues regarding such things as alimony, child support, visitation, and property division. When couples can agree on how they can go about separating their lives, they don’t need to spend countless months fighting each other in a court of law.
With uncontested divorces, spouses work together to negotiate settlements. They can collaborate with a mediator to come to agreements on essential divorce issues. After the entire process, they then can bring the agreement before a judge for finalization. If an out-of-court settlement is impossible, then the case will go to trial as a contested divorce.
Who gets the house in a divorce?
In Texas, the presumption the court makes is all property belonging to both spouses is community property. This means both spouses acquired and shared the assets during the marriage. Unless the house was bought exclusively for the use of one spouse by one spouse, the house would be considered community property. Since all divorces require an equitable division of all community property, one of the spouses will get the house, and the other will receive an equitable amount for half of what the house is worth. For example, if you decide to give up the house to your ex, you may be awarded alimony.
Will I need to receive or pay alimony?
Modern law allows either spouse to get alimony; however, this is based on the judge’s determination that one spouse is negatively affected financially by the divorce. For example, if one spouse took time off of work to care for a child, the spouse would likely receive alimony until he or she was able to transition back into the workforce.
Likewise, a spouse caring for a child with physical or mental disabilities might need to stay home at all hours to look after that child. In cases like these, the court may award alimony for as long as such care was required. A spouse with a disability that prevents them from working might also be awarded spousal support.
What happens to child custody when same-sex parents divorce?
Because same-sex marriage is relatively recent, couples might be confused about how custody works in LGBT relationships ending in divorce. An experienced Dallas LGBT divorce attorney can help you create a parenting plan that works for both parents if they are both legal parents of the child through adoption.
However, separation becomes more complicated if the child is a natural-born son or daughter of one partner and no legal adoption by the other spouse was attempted before the divorce.
For these cases, it’s essential to go to court with evidence the non-biological parent had care, control, and possession of the child. Courts will determine custody as well as child support based on the well-being of the children. If a child is negatively affected by a separation from their non-biological parent, a judge may still award visitation rights.
Where do I file for divorce?
Divorces are typically held at the petitioner’s county courthouse. Texas, like all other states, has residency requirements that parties must meet before they can file for divorce. Texas requires that the petitioner live in the state for six months and in the county for 90 days before filing.
If the parties have separated and lived in different counties for more than 90 days, then the divorce can be filed in either spouse’s county of residence. If neither party meets the residency requirements, then the parties may have to wait to file until they establish residency in a Texas county.
What happens if I don't show up to court?
Failure to appear for a hearing or trial can result in a default being taken against you. In other words, whatever the other party asks for at the hearing, they will win in your absence. If this happens, talk to an attorney immediately. Sometimes, if you have a valid reason for not being in court, a judge will give you a second chance.
How much will my case cost?
It is difficult to determine in advance how much the case will cost. The total fees will depend on the difficulty of the issues and the time involved. It is impossible to know in advance what issues the other side will raise, what motions they may file that will require hearings, or what other difficulties may come up. Your lawyer may be able to give you estimates for particular aspects of the case as you go along. An exhaustive “leave no stone unturned” approach can be very costly and mostly unwarranted.
Who will pay my legal fees?
In Texas, usually the community property assets can be utilized to pay both sides’ legal fees. If one spouse doesn’t have access to community assets to pay legal fees, then he or she can file a motion to get access to property to pay fees. If there are insufficient cash assets to pay fees, then a party can file a motion to sell assets to pay for fees.
Do I have to pay for a lawyer even if I don't want the divorce?
Texas has a no-fault divorce statute, which means a divorce can be granted even if only one party wants it. So, even if you don’t want the divorce, the divorce can happen anyway. If you want your interests to be protected, you will need to consult an attorney. The attorney will require payment in some fashion.
What can I do to keep legal costs down?
The better your organizational skills, the more you can help your attorney and keep your costs down. Check with your lawyer to make sure your efforts will be an efficient way to help. Gathering and organizing documents, such as bank statements or other financial records, can be very helpful.
One of the least efficient uses of your lawyer’s time is to call frequently. Make a list of topics and questions to ask all at once, to cut down on the number of calls made. A single organized call to address three questions will be more efficient and less costly than three separate calls. Also, when you need to vent your feelings and frustrations about the other spouse, talk to a therapist and not your lawyer.
Can I change lawyers?
You have an absolute right to have the lawyer of your choice. If you become dissatisfied with your lawyer, you can fire that lawyer and hire another one. Keep in mind that the new lawyer may spend time, and therefore charge you money, for getting up to speed on your case. And, your contractual obligations to pay your prior lawyer for time spent on your case are not relieved just because you change lawyers.
Can I change the judge?
The court and judge assigned to the case are set in stone. Judges are reelected every 4 years and may be replaced by a newly elected judge. In extremely rare situations, a judge may be found to have such a severe conflict of interest or bias that the case can be moved to another court. The better approach to avoid the uncertainty of a judge’s decision is to make the best agreement for settlement possible.
Will I lose my health insurance if I get a divorce?
Many Texans get health insurance through their spouse’s employer, and loss of that insurance is often a major concern in divorce. Once a divorce is finalized, your spouse will no longer be able to carry you on his or her employer’s health insurance; however, divorcing spouses still have options.
Every county in North Texas has adopted standing orders, which automatically go into effect when a divorce is filed. These standing orders prevent divorcing spouses from altering health insurance benefits while the divorce is pending. Even when the divorce is finalized, a spouse may still be able to maintain his or her coverage through a federal law called COBRA.
COBRA allows a divorcing spouse to buy health insurance coverage through their ex-spouse’s employer for up to 36 months. The cost of COBRA coverage must be within 102% of the combined total of a similar employer’s and employee’s contribution to the plan. There may be less expensive options available for relatively healthy spouses, but COBRA can be a good option to maintain coverage.
Can my spouse continue to use our credit cards?
At the beginning of a divorce, most courts enter orders that regulate each party’s use of credit during the divorce. Although a judge won’t prohibit use of credit altogether, the order will require only reasonable spending. This isn’t the time for extravagant purchases. Sometimes, a spouse will cancel credit cards prior to the divorce being filed. If there is a question about this, call the credit card company in advance.
Will my spouse be required to return to work?
As in many divorce situations, whether one spouse may be required to get a job depends greatly on the facts of that particular situation. Because post-divorce alimony is very limited in Texas, the reality is that most circumstances will require both spouses to work after the divorce.
Where one spouse has not worked outside the home for a while during the marriage, there may be a period of time while the divorce works through the process that the money-earning spouse will be required to support the stay-at-home spouse to facilitate the adjustment to the new status quo.
Can I take my children on vacation during my divorce?
Many counties in Texas have Standing Orders that contain specific injunctions regarding the removal of children beyond the state of Texas during the pendency of a divorce or custody case. Many of these Standing Orders specifically prohibit anyone from removing the children beyond the state of Texas unless you have a written agreement of the parties or a specific court order that allows you to do so.
Therefore, you can take your children on vacation, but you have to stay within the state of Texas, unless the other party agrees in writing and/or you obtain a court order that allows you to do so.
If you need more information about questions not listed here, contact us today for an initial consultation.