Houston has more than two million people, including native Texans as well as residents who grew up in other states, or other countries. No matter how you came to be in Houston, if you are married and seeking a divorce in Houston, there is much that you will need to know.
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Texas is not known as a divorce-friendly state. There can be grounds for divorce, which can introduce or increase the acrimony. The financial arrangements are supposed to be “fair and just,” which can translate to unequal. And in a large state, a custodial parent can move hundreds of miles away, without leaving the state.
Whether you are considering divorce, or are responding to a request for a divorce, having a skilled and experienced divorce lawyer on your side can be critical.
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Texas is a communal property state, which means that any asset or debt acquired during the marriage is a joint asset or liability, with a few exceptions. Premarital assets, for example, would not be subject to division. Other assets, such as the family dog, cannot be divided and will be awarded to one spouse or the other. In Texas, marital property is divided in a way that is considered fair, but is not necessarily equal.
Division Of Property
The court has discretion when dividing the property. Factors which the court might consider are:
- Any fault or grounds for divorce such as adultery or domestic violence
- The age and health of each spouse
- The earning power of each spouse
- The past role of each spouse as primary breadwinner or primary caretaker of the children
The types of property which are divided include:
- All motor vehicles and boats
- Clothing and household furnishings
- Collectible items and jewelry
- Credit card debt
- Liquid assets such as bank accounts, stocks and bonds
- Real estate including the family home
- Retirement accounts
- Secured or unsecured loans
Your divorce attorney will work to make certain that you are awarded an amount that is fair and just in your eyes, not just in the eyes of the court.
Alimony Or Spousal Support
Alimony or spousal support can be awarded in Texas. In general, the spouse who is seeking the alimony should show that he or she is making an effort to become self-supporting. This will need to be proven.
Factors which can be considered when determining the amount of alimony or spousal support are:
- Any child support each spouse has to pay to children outside the marriage
- Any wasted or hidden money during the marriage
- Contributions as a homemaker
- Contributions by one spouse to the other’s education
- Each spouses’ abilities to earn a living wage
- Misconduct or grounds for divorce (adultery or domestic violence, for example)
- Premarital property
- The age and health of each spouse
- The education and job skills of each spouse
- The length of the marriage
A study at Harvard University places divorce as the fourth most common reason for which people declare bankruptcy. Your attorney will work with you to make certain that you are financially protected before, during and after your divorce.
The flip side of divorce and bankruptcy is high-asset divorce. We may like to think our spouse is trustworthy; however, there have been instances of spouses hiding assets overseas, or spouses closing out bank accounts prior to divorce. A skilled attorney can work to make certain that all assets and debts are disclosed.
Some couples who own a family business will need to include business valuation in their division of property. When situations such as a family business, professional practice, patent ownership or other similar situations exist, it may take time to get an accurate financial accounting of the couple’s net worth.
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When you got married, perhaps you had dreams of dancing at your children’s weddings and a long and happy retirement. You can both still dance at your children’s weddings, depending upon how you are able to work through the child custody issues.
Child Custody Parenting Plan
When you share a child, you will typically need to share child custody. There are two types of child custody.
- Legal custody: The power to make decisions about the well-being of the child such as religious upbringing, medical decisions and schooling decisions.
- Physical custody: The power to care for the child’s physical well-being including food and shelter.
In most instances the custody is shared. Parents will need to share the parenting plan, or custody schedule, with the court and have the court agree to it.
Two typical parenting plans are:
- Shared legal custody and primary physical custody. The children live with one parent and the other parent has visitation every other weekend and one weekday night per week.
- Shared legal and shared physical custody. The children spend every other week living with each parent.
Parents are required to support their children until they reach the age of 18 or graduate high school, whichever comes first. When a couple divorces, if one parent has sole physical custody, the noncustodial parent may need to pay child support.
Although there are many details, the formula basically states that child support is 20 percent of the noncustodial parent’s net (after taxes) resources for one child. The amount increases at five percent per child and is capped at 40 percent of net resources for five or more children.
Child Custody Modifications
Occasionally, an ex-spouse’s financial situation can change significantly, and this could alter the amount of child custody owed. Because both parents’ net income is considered, if either parent experienced a significant change, the child custody could be modified. Examples that would require a child custody modification include the loss of a job, a large promotion with a raise or a financial windfall such as winning the lottery.
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Why Hire A Divorce Attorney?
Working through a divorce can be an emotional time, even when a couple begins the process on a congenial note. When custody of the children becomes an issue, or one or both spouses are accused of fault, the mood can become bitter. A skilled and experienced divorce attorney will help keep you on track by working with you to focus on the end goal. If you are beginning the divorce process, contact us today and we’ll help you arrange for a consultation with an experienced local divorce attorney.
How To Choose A Divorce Lawyer
Many adults will already have an attorney with whom they’ve done business. Perhaps it was a real estate closing, or a small claims matter. It is important that you recognize that family law is a unique area of law, and your attorney handling your divorce matters should be one who focuses specifically on divorce in Houston.
Look for an attorney who has experience in Houston and Harris County divorce courts. It is also helpful to meet with an attorney briefly to see how your communication styles line up. You’ll be spending a lot of time with your divorce attorney. You should be on the same wave length during the journey.