A Quick Guide to Divorce

Divorce, Custody, and Visitation in Texas


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Divorce, Custody, and Visitation in Texas: What You Need To Know

Going through a divorce is hard business.  People from all around Texas and the rest of the country would agree with you on this.  It is easier though if you know what to expect.  Hopefully this can provide some information so that you can better know what to expect from a divorce, and what you need to know about custody and visitation in Texas.

Divorce in Texas

Divorce is the legal separation of a marriage.  In Texas divorce is also commonly referred to as the dissolution of marriage.  There are two different types of divorce: fault divorce and no-fault divorce.  Both of these types of divorce are fairly explanatory.  A fault divorce implies that one or both parties did something that would cause them to no longer want to be together.  A no-fault divorce is when both parties mutually decide that they no longer want to be together.

The process of a divorce is one that is done through the court system.  In Texas, one of the parties seeking divorce will file a petition for divorce.  Typically, both parties hire lawyers and negotiated either in a courtroom or through arbitration.  After 60 days from filing with the court, a judge can decide to accept a negotiated divorce.

When a petition for divorce is sought, the petitioning party can request a temporary restraining order for their protection.  The order requires that assets not be sold off before an agreement is reached.  It also requires that both parties act civilly toward each other.

Before any trials begin, the parties in a divorce are required to attempt to find a resolution via mediation.  Mediation is conducted by a neutral third party.  Many divorce cases get settled in mediation because it makes it easier for all parties involved.  It also almost always more affordable.

If the parties can’t agree, they, or their lawyers, will have to argue their cases in divorce court.  A judge will make the final determination about the various involved factors in these cases.  In almost all cases a Texas judge will divide all assets equally.  Both personal and real property will not be included in the division of assets.

Alimony in Texas

Under certain conditions, you may be required to pay alimony.  Alimony is support money to help one of the parties support themselves after the divorce.  The party must first prove to the court that there is an absolute need for alimony.

In a case when one spouse is not working, the court may grant that spouse temporary alimony or temporary spousal support.  This support is not permanent.  Unlike for alimony, there are no guidelines for the court when it comes to determining the temporary spousal support.

Child Support in Texas

Child support can also be ordered by the court in order to help the primary custodian of any children keep the child’s needs met.  Judges have a child support chart that they work off of to determine what percentage of the secondary custodian’s income (all sources of income) is to be paid for child support.

Medical needs are also covered with child support.  In most cases, the parent with the better health insurance will choose to provide coverage for the child willingly.  In cases when the parent is not willing to provide coverage to the child, the court will order the parent to provide coverage.  This also applies to parents using a Medicaid plans.

Paperwork for Divorce in Texas

You can gain access to most of the paperwork required for a divorce online.  You can also go to a courthouse and request it from a clerk.  While some of this paperwork may seem self-explanatory, there will probably be some legal terms that you will need to look up.

Custody in Texas

Speaking of custodians, one of the things that most parents fear about divorces is custody battles.  When it comes to who gets custody of children during a divorce, the court rules in what it sees to be the favor of the child or children.  The court’s primary concern during any divorce case is the welfare of any children involved.

One of the things that all judges in Texas try to do when it comes to custody is maintain an equal partnership in raising any children involved.  That means that in most cases joint custody will be approved.

Out of Court Custody Arrangements in Texas

In some cases, parents might come to custody arrangements outside of the court.  These are often in cases when parents can agree on what is in the best interest of the children.  Any custody agreement that is reached outside of court is subject to the approval of a judge.  If the judge rejects the plan submitted to the court the judge will either rule on the custody of the children or will ask the parents to submit a new plan for custody.

Modification of Custody Order in Texas

While in some cases a custody order is final, that isn’t always true.  A request for modification of custody can be filed for by either parent.  In order to file for a modification of the custody order, you would need to have a substantial change in circumstances.  These circumstances need to be judged to be in the best interest of the children by the court.

Child Visitation in Texas

The last thing you want as a parent is to not be able to see your children after a divorce.  That is why many courts will order visitation for those who are not the custodian of their children after a divorce.  This process can also be referred to as access to the child.  Visitation is awarded when parents aren’t awarded joint custody.

When a court rules that a parent gets visitation, an access schedule must be developed by the child.  This schedule shows when each parent will spend time with the child.  Like with a custody agreement, this schedule must be approved by the judge.  Once the schedule gets approved, the schedule becomes part of the court order.

A schedule should be designed to allow both parents to have regular time with the children.  It should also encourage both parents to be a regular part of the child’s life.  For those that can’t agree on a schedule, the judge will order what is referred to as a standard access or visitation order.

Standard Child Visitation Order in Texas

A standard order is an order that the court has pre-drafted for this kind of situations.  A standard order dictates that the child will live with the primary custodian the majority of the time.  Every first, third, and fifth weekend will belong to the non-custodial parent.  The non-custodial parent will also get the child every Thursday during the school year from 6pm to 8pm.

During summer vacation the non-custodial parent will get 30 days with the child.  There are several other options available for parents in a standard order.  These options take effect during situations like when the parents live more than 100 miles apart or when other people live with the parent.

The Texas Access And Visitation Hotline

In Texas, the Texas Attorney General has done something that no other state has done.  They have a free hotline known as The Texas Access and Visitation Hotline.  This phone line is used by parents who need free legal assistance with a child access related issue or a visitation issue.  The attorneys that can be reached using this hotline do not represent a parent.  However, they give advice to parents who may be having issues and can also explain any kind of visitation or access related court order.

The toll-free number for The Texas Access and Visitation Hotline can be reached by dialing 1-866-292-4636.

Divorce cases are some of the worst cases that a judge can see.  Judges want to help keep families together but that isn’t always possible.  However, it is possible to help families split on good terms, or relatively good terms.  It is important that you know you can get assistance with your divorce case from a specialized attorney.

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Mr. Hutton is a Divorce and Custody Lawyer based out of Round Rock, TX. His background is with child psychology at Arizona State University where he received a B.S. in 2006, and he continued this by working with the Children’s Right’s Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law where he received his J.D. in 2009. Throughout his practice, he has been a strong proponent of utilizing modern technology to improve his practice and the representation of his clients. He currently is the technology chair of CAFA of Travis County and is committed to improving and modernizing the practice of law in Texas.

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