Understanding family law in Texas can often be clouded by misconceptions and misinformation. In this article, we aim to separate fact from fiction. We’ll shed light on the most common misunderstandings about family law cases in Texas, providing you with accurate and valuable information.
Yesterday we posted a blog that introduced the topic of some commonly held beliefs about Texas family law cases that may not be precisely true. Today we will continue with this subject and hopefully increase your base level of knowledge so you can move forward with greater confidence to achieve whatever goals you hold for yourself and your family.
If You Are Awarded Alimony, You Get It for the Rest of Your Life After Divorce
Only in limited cases can a spouse receive spousal maintenance (alimony in Texas). You must have been married for at least ten years. Additionally, you need to prove to a judge that you cannot meet your basic needs independently. Alternatively, you can demonstrate that you are the parent of a child requiring constant care due to physical or mental disability.
Understanding from the previous paragraph, winning spousal maintenance is challenging. Another key point is that you might receive spousal maintenance if your spouse has a criminal conviction for spousal violence. While not a desirable circumstance, this option exists for victims of domestic abuse.
Regarding the duration of spousal maintenance in Texas, it varies with the length of your marriage. The maintenance amount cannot exceed 20 percent of your spouse’s gross monthly income. Also, either party can seek adjustment in the maintenance amount if there’s a significant change in circumstances.
In summary, yes, you can receive spousal maintenance in a Texas divorce. However, the award is not indefinite unless you and your spouse agree to such terms in mediation.
If You and Your Spouse Mix Your Separate Property With Community Property, Your Separate Property Becomes Part of the Community Estate.
This is not true. Separate property is the property you owned before your marriage or acquired by gift or inheritance during the marriage. If you own separate property, it will remain separate property no matter what happens after that. An exception to this rule will be giving that property to your spouse. In all other circumstances, your separate property will remain separate.
An example of commingling of separate and community property occurs in situations where you and your spouse combine incomes. If you have $50,000 cash and deposit that cash into a community bank account owned by you and your spouse, that $50,000 will remain separate property no matter what happens after that. You may have to hire a forensic accountant to prove that the property is separate, but that’s an entirely different topic.
Remember, Texas law presumes all property owned by you and your spouse as community property unless you provide evidence otherwise. If you own separate property, you must prove its separate status and exclude it from the community estate. Prepare to present property titles or the source of funds to substantiate your claim.
There Is No Such Thing in Texas as Legal Separation
I address this because some people have previously asked me if moving out of the home with no intention of returning legally constitutes separation, allowing them to acquire property as individuals.
Without legal separation, you cannot acquire property separately from your marriage except through the methods we discussed earlier. Any income and most property you acquire after leaving your marital home remain community property until your legal divorce.
Believing that buying property solely in your name during marriage automatically makes it separate property is a mistake. When you acquire property during marriage, the law presumes it to be community property, regardless of the name or category you assign in your asset portfolio, unless you provide evidence to the contrary.
Merely opening a bank account in your name and depositing your paychecks does not render it separate property. Similarly, buying a home and titling it in your name while married does not make it separate property.
Debts and Assets Are Always Divided 50/50 in a Divorce
This statement is also not true despite what you may have heard about how community property works in Texas. Yes, you may experience an approximate 50/50 division of property and debts in your divorce, but the law doesn’t guarantee this, and your specific case may vary.
In your divorce, a judge will ensure a “just and right” division of community property, considering the specifics and facts of your case. The judge will divide the property and debts in your community estate based on these findings.
If your spouse incurred significant debt during the marriage that primarily benefited them, you likely won’t have to pay a part of that debt. Typically, in most divorces, you will assume debts in your name, and your spouse will assume debts in their name.
You Will Pay Child Support Until Your Child Graduates From College or Reaches Age 21
This statement is incorrect. Most child custody or divorce orders in Texas include a provision that stops child support payments after your child either graduates from high school or turns eighteen, whichever is later. However, you and your child’s other parent might have agreed on a different arrangement, so pay close attention to this during that stage of your case.
If your child has a disability that prevents self-support after this time, you or your spouse can request the court to extend child support payments beyond the child’s 18th birthday or high school graduation.
Should you need to request this type of assistance, ensure your attorney includes it in your trial and in your divorce petition or in the Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship, if yours is a child custody case. You must raise this issue early in your case, or you risk losing eligibility for additional child support.
Typically, if you are the primary conservator of a child needing support beyond their high school years, you and the other parent will likely agree on a set child support amount for this period. In the absence of an agreement, you may need to bring an expert witness, like a doctor, to testify about the need for ongoing support and its anticipated duration.
Read more about popular topics in family law and whether or not what you believe about them is true. In the meantime, if you have questions on these or any other topics in family law, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week to people in our community with questions for our attorneys. It would be our honor to address your concerns and answer your questions.
Bryan Fagan, a native of Atascocita, Texas, is a dedicated family law attorney inspired by John Grisham’s “The Pelican Brief.” He is the first lawyer in his family, which includes two adopted brothers. Bryan’s commitment to family is personal and professional; he cared for his grandmother with Alzheimer’s while completing his degree and attended the South Texas College of Law at night.
Married with three children, Bryan’s personal experiences enrich his understanding of family dynamics, which is central to his legal practice. He specializes in family law, offering innovative and efficient legal services. A certified member of the College of the State Bar of Texas, Bryan is part of an elite group of legal professionals committed to ongoing education and high-level expertise.
His legal practice covers divorce, custody disputes, property disputes, adoption, paternity, and mediation. Bryan is also experienced in drafting marital property agreements. He leads a team dedicated to complex family law cases and protecting families from false CPS allegations.
Based in Houston, Bryan is active in the Houston Family Law Sector of the Houston Bar Association and various family law groups in Texas. His deep understanding of family values and his professional dedication make him a compassionate advocate for families navigating Texas family law.