The majority of divorces that occur in Texas each year are what is known as “No Fault” Divorces. This means that the parties simply could no longer get along in the marriage and say no chance at reconciliation or getting back together. As a result, one of the spouses files the divorce paperwork and begins the process of legally ending the marriage relationship. It’s certainly not an ideal situation for anyone to go through, but many of these divorces are amicable and their facts mirror many other divorces.
Every once in a while there are divorces that are based on what is known as “fault grounds”. These are legally recognized reasons as to why the divorce has been filed. Infidelity/adultery is a common one among these fault grounds for when your spouse has been unfaithful to you and your intention is to make that an issue in your divorce. I think when most people consider a fault in the breakup of a marriage infidelity/adultery is at the top of the list.
A less common, but no less important, fault ground for divorce in Texas is abandonment. If you’re reading this blog post and have not seen or heard from your spouse in some time then the information you are about to read may be the most important thing you’ve read in years. Let’s discuss the topic of abandonment and how it can impact a divorce should you decide to file.
If you are reading this blog and have children, a home and responsibilities that you are tending to without your spouse then you should know that you do have places to turn in this situation. Here you are by yourself, attempting to raise a family and manage a household all by yourself with no assistance from your spouse. Your frustration levels are mounting by the day and at times it can seem like there is no way out. What can you do?
Let’s define the term abandonment so you can see what the legal definition of the word actually is. Abandonment is when a person deserts their spouse with the intention to end the marriage as a result of that desertion. As a result of this desertion, not only are you having to take on the household finances as an individual but you are having to raise children (if you have any) as a single adult. How does the abandonment affect a court’s decisions regarding conservatorship of your child?
Conservatorship of your child in an abandonment divorce case
If your spouse thought it was a good idea to abandon you and your family you can bet that a judge would not be too happy with your spouse’s decision. Not only does it put you in a bind financially, but it limits your spouse’s ability to parent your children and contribute to their well-being- both financially and emotionally.
To the emotional end, the responsibilities of parenting fall squarely on your shoulders. You are in a tough position through no fault of your own and due entirely to the immature decision made by your spouse.
As a result, your judge would likely not consider awarding your spouse anything close to a typical, standard possession order type possession schedule. The reason being is that he or she cannot be trusted by the judge to moderate his behavior and act as a parent should in terms of well-being and discipline of his children.
The default presumption of family law courts in Texas is that it is in the best interest of your children to have a meaningful relationship with both parents, but that presumption can be rebutted with sufficient evidence. Your spouse abandoning you and your family cedes ground to you in this area and makes it unlikely he or she would have anything but extremely limited (possibly supervised) visitation and possession with your children.
Conservatorship has more to do with rights and duties to your children than it does time and possession of them. If your spouse has abandoned his or her family it would be tough to argue that this same person would be willing and able to provide the sort of stability that is in their best interests. Consider the emotional and physical needs of your child. Who do you think a judge would believe could provide better in those areas- you or your spouse who skirted all responsibility in abandoning you?
It is likely that you would be able to argue for and be awarded the sole right to make decisions about educational, psychiatric and medical needs for your children in your divorce.
While this may not strike you as overly important at first compared to visitation and possession, the right to make these decisions will have as lasting an impact on your children than the time aspect of parenting, in my experience. Where your child attends school, the classes he or she takes, the counseling he or she receives and on and on are what this means to you and your family.
Abandonment and Divorce explained
One of the main reasons that you do not see many divorces granted in Texas based upon fault grounds is that the circumstances that lead to a court agreeing to one are very limited. As we stated earlier in this blog post most divorces in Texas are no fault.
To successfully argue that your spouse had abandoned you and thus caused you to have to file for divorce you must be able to show that your spouse has been absent for one year or more. Additionally, if you cannot show a judge that the abandonment was initiated in order to force you into caring for yourself then the abandonment allegations will not be accepted by the court.
Dividing up the marital estate in a divorce based on abandonment
As you probably know Texas is a community property state. This means that (with some exceptions) any income or property that you or your spouse come into during the marriage is considered to be jointly owned by both of you. If a divorce follows then that property will have to be divided in a just and right manner by the judge. Just and right typically means something close to 50/50 between you and your spouse.
The abandonment issue can be a factor that leads a judge to award a disproportionate (unequal) share of the community property estate to you. The reason being is that the bad behavior of your spouse in abandoning you and your family can help tip the scales in the judge’s mind toward you and away from your spouse. You have lost your spouse’s income as a means to provide for yourself and awarding “extra” property to you would help even up the score.
Spousal maintenance and abandonment in Texas
Judges in Texas, under most circumstances, are not quick to award spousal maintenance upon the conclusion of a divorce. If you ask for temporary spousal support this is more likely to be awarded though you need to show that you lack the ability to provide for yourself and any children in your care based on your own income in order to have it awarded to you.
At most twenty percent of your spouse’s monthly net income can be captured for spousal maintenance purposes. There are limits to how long spousal support can be awarded to you, typically lasting no longer than two years from the day your divorce.
Questions on abandonment in Texas divorces? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have questions about the subject of abandonment in Texas divorces please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. A free of charge consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys are available to you six days a week where your questions can be addressed and answered.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- When is, Cheating Considered Adultery in a Texas Divorce?
- Frequently Asked Questions About Uncontested and No-Fault Divorce
- Dividing Property in a Texas Divorce - The Just and Right Division
- Why is Separate Property Important and How to Keep it Separate in a Texas Divorce?
- What Wikipedia Can’t Tell you About Texas Divorce and Marital Property Division
- Texas Divorce Property Division Enforcement
- Separate Property in a Texas Divorce?
- Does it Matter Whose Name is on Title or Deed of Property in a Divorce in Texas?
- Is Social Security Considered Separate Property in a Texas Divorce
- Business Owners and Business Assets in a Texas Divorce
- What to do when your divorce decree does not include a marital asset?
- High Net Worth Divorce / High Asset Divorce
Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our divorce lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.