PREPARING FOR YOUR TEXAS DIVORCE
Updated: Apr 3, 2019
Today I wanted to talk a little bit about how to prepare for your divorce. The goal at the end of your divorce is for you to be able to stand independent and powerful, to be able to go forward and live your own life.
Hopefully, this video will give you some tips for getting things in a row so that you can make sure that you can prove in court what you need to make that happen.
What are the aspects of a Texas divorce that I should be aware of?
So, first, something to note about divorce: in Texas, it is more than a divorce, actually. There are three parts to any divorce, specifically with kids, in Texas.
You have to end the marriage between the parties, divide the property, and set rules regarding the kids. Each of those areas has their own complexities. I wanted to talk about each of them kind of broadly, in a group, and then individually.
First, here are three rules to keep in mind, one for each of these areas: As far as splitting the marriage is concerned, try to avoid being the party at fault. That can hurt to you later. For property, maintain good paperwork. And for custody, be the status quo - be able to show the judge that you are who the kids are used to and that it is a healthy environment for the kids.
Those three tips, avoiding fault in the divorce, maintaining good paperwork, and being the status quo, those are hugely important. And if you get nothing else out of this video, do those three things and you will be in pretty good stead.
But I wanted to dig in a little deeper and give you some more thoughts about each of these areas of a divorce case.
What are common fault grounds in Texas and how do I avoid them?
So, first, in terms of ending the marriage, let's talk about avoiding the fault. Most divorces in Texas are no fault. The courts called this "insupportability," which basically means "We don't get along and we don't want to make a big issue of it."
But there are some things you can do in divorce that will cost you later. Most of the grounds for divorce lead you to lose some money (so maybe you get 45% of your estate rather than 50%). But here are a few tips to help you avoid those fault grounds in your divorce.
Number one, don't pursue other relationships before your divorce is final. I know this sounds crazy, but in Texas the divorce is not done, meaning that you can have an affair - you are still married - until there is a final order entered in the case. And those affairs can cost you in court. So try to stay single, at least until the paperwork is all signed.
The second thing, don't assume that separation means anything in Texas. What I mean by that is, in some states you can have legal separation and the rules are a little different if you have that. In Texas, that is not a thing. You guys still have duties to each other and to the children. Don't assume that just because you guys don't get along anymore that you aren't still married, because you are.
And then, number three, always assume that somebody is recording you. I know how crazy that sounds. I don't want you to get super paranoid out in the world, but there are grounds for divorce that involve cruelty and abuse. Make sure that you don't get on the wrong side of that. Be as civil as you can be. I know that you guys don't get along perfectly or you wouldn't be getting divorced, but assume that you are being recorded at all times because you actually may be.
What can I do to protect my property in a Texas divorce?
The second thing to talk about, the second aspect of your divorce case, is the property bit. Again, we said to maintain the paperwork. This area of property is dominated by sometimes complicated accounting. Here are a few tips to make sure that you can win that accounting battle.
Number one, print all statements for your accounts at the time that you decide that you're going to get divorced. During your divorce, both the parties will create what is called an inventory and appraisement. That is a document that tells the judge what property to consider. You need to be able to show what the couple had before marriage and what it built up during the marriage. So go ahead and print out those accounts to keep for later.
Number two, keep track during your divorce of your expenses and your income. Like I said before, you both still have a duty to support each other and the kids. Make sure you can show that you have done your part by tracking that income and your expenses. Use a program like Mint.com, or at least a simple spreadsheet.
All of those numbers will also come in handy, by the way, when you ask for things like spousal maintenance or alimony, which we will discuss in another video.
And finally, number three, maintain your separate property and take good notes. Texas law assumes that every piece of property in divorce belongs to the husband and wife equally, as community property. If you want to claim otherwise then you need to show the trail of breadcrumbs. Make sure you keep any assets that you have from before the marriage, or that you inherited, or won in a personal injury lawsuit, separate from those shared accounts. And print any statements that can show where that money has gone throughout the marriage.
So again, in property, maintain the paperwork. That is the biggie.
What can I do to show that I am the best primary parent for my child?
And the final big part of your divorce case is the custody bit. On this, be the status quo.
What I mean by that is, custody issues in Texas, which would include visitation and decision-making for the children, involve a lot of background rules. Courts call these the "presumptions." These are the rules that will apply unless someone can tell the court why they are special, why those rules should not apply.
The biggest presumption regarding kids is that they should not have their lives stirred up unless it is totally necessary. Courts called this the "best interest of the child." This is the biggie.
Courts read this term to mean "What the child is used to, as long as it's not unhealthy."
The big tip here is to be that status quo as much as possible and to document how you have been primarily involved with the children - you are what they are used to.
Have you been the parent who takes the kids to extracurricular activities, or to church, or brushes their teeth, or buys their clothes? All of these little things add up to give the court a picture of who the child is used to.
Make sure you document trips to the doctor or parent teacher conferences. The more you can show that you are the status quo, the better result you will get in the custody piece of your divorce.
Can I get some rules in my Texas divorce before it is final?
So, one last thing to consider in during this divorce process.
Most people imagine that they file a petition, do a little paperwork, and then they get an order from the court. It doesn't actually work that way.
There is a time in between those two steps that puts you in a bit of a holding pattern. Texas requires at least a 60 day waiting period between the petition and the order to give the court time to sort things out.
It can be as little as 60 days, but for us it usually takes about five months if we negotiate a settlement. And I have seen trial cases take more than a year. On average in Texas I might say divorce cases last some eight months.
Your case will have its own timeline based on how complicated things are, but the thing to note is that you won't be making things up as you go during that time. As soon as you file the petition, you can ask the court for temporary orders that will set the rules during the waiting period. That generally means that at the beginning you will have a little mini-trial to bring evidence and ask for financial support and rules with regards to the children.
That means that you will need to follow our simple tips right on day one. So make sure that you keep those tips front of mind because they will matter super early in your case.
To review those tips, like we talked about, make sure that you follow the three big rules when dealing with the divorce. In terms of the marriage, avoid the fault; in terms of the property, keep really good paperwork; and in terms of the custody, be the status quo - show the court that you are what the kids are used to.
These are broad principles to keep in mind during your divorce. We will be creating more videos as we go to help you deal with particular issues.
In the meantime, visit our website, whelanbrown.com. You will be able to see you lots of posts about these different issues, maybe get individual questions answered, or hit our search bar and see if we can find answers for you.
Again, thank you so much for watching these videos. Take a look around our YouTube site and our website and see if you have any other questions that we can answer, or contact us through the contact us page. Thank you again.