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Can your spouse pay for your attorney’s fees in a Texas divorce?

Suppose that you were suddenly confronted with information that your spouse cheated on you, has been gambling away your retirement savings or had abused one of your children. What would you do? Would you want to get a divorce? For some people, the answer to this question would be yes. Those are clearly serious violations of trust and would require at least consideration of divorce, for many people.

What does it mean to file for divorce in Texas? Well, the majority of the time it means hiring and paying an attorney to assist you in that process. After all- you’re an accountant, or waitress, chemical plant worker or nurse. You don’t know much of anything about the law and know even less about how individual courts in southeast Texas operate. You’d be lost without an attorney, you figure. So how can you go about hiring an attorney but not feeling the financial brunt of that decision years later?

One of the major questions I receive from clients and potential clients of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is whether a person’s spouse can be ordered to pay for your attorney’s fees. In a situation like I laid out at the outset of today’s blog post that request would appear justified. After all, you’ve done nothing wrong and do not want to file for divorce. However, the actions of your spouse have forced your hand into doing so. Now that you’re here you want to see the process through but don’t want to feel its financial effects for the foreseeable future.

Let’s discuss this topic before we go any further in today’s blog post. Specifically, how possible is it for your spouse to pay for your attorney’s fees in a divorce case in Texas?

Asking for your spouse to pay for your attorney’s fees

In order to have it ordered in your divorce for your spouse to pay for your attorney, you cannot simply file for divorce and then send a text message to your spouse asking her to pay for your attorney's fees. Rather, in your Original Petition for Divorce, you must plead (ask) the court to order your spouse to pay for your lawyer fees. In the law, you cannot be granted relief for which you do not plead in your Petition. Make sure that your lawyer includes this request.

Next, you will need to specify that you are asking for interim attorney’s fees. These are attorney’s fees that will be paid by your spouse throughout your divorce. You can be awarded attorney’s fees at the end of the divorce, but this means that you will only be reimbursed for those fees after having to come up with them over a period of two, three or more months. This is better than nothing but can still put you in a financial bind for the duration of your case.

If your case has the following factors at play he or she will be more likely to grant your request for interim attorney’s fees. First, a judge would look to your personal financial situations to make an assessment on whether or not the awarding of interim attorney’s fees is appropriate. For instance, if your spouse earns a great deal more money than you do it is more likely that you could have interim attorney’s fees awarded to you. If your having to pay for an attorney would put you in a significant financial bind then attorney’s fees may be awarded on an interim basis.

Finally, if your spouse has hired an attorney and it is likely that you have a complicated, lengthy divorce in front of you then it is even more likely that you could be awarded interim attorney’s fees in your divorce case. For instance, if custody is being disputed (such as if both you and your spouse want to become the primary conservator of your children) or you have significant financial assets to dispute then your case will more than likely take at least four or five months to settle.

The typical request for interim attorney's fees is made within a pleading called a Motion for Temporary Orders. This is a request by you to have a temporary orders hearing set up where issues like the use of the home, child support, child custody, etc. are all determined. The simple request that your spouse is ordered to pay attorney's fees, in general, is usually made in the Original Petition for Divorce.

What happens if you want a divorce but your spouse doesn’t?

In the event that you already have child custody or child support orders in place and are not yet divorced, your spouse may not see the point in getting a divorce. He or she may not want to get off of your employer-provided health insurance. He or she may genuinely want to remain married to you for the normal, emotional reasons. Those are all viable reasons and ones that are tough to argue with.

However, if you want to get a divorce then there is nothing stopping you from getting that divorce. It only takes one person in a marriage to want a divorce to be able to move forward with that process in Texas. The reason for that is that Texas is a "no-fault" divorce state. This means that a divorce can be given in Texas without either of you have done anything "wrong." The way I talk to clients about this is that you can get a divorce because your spouse abused you or because you don't like the way he chews his meatloaf. A big reason for divorce or no reason at all can lead to a dissolution of your marriage.

What is the difference between a contested and uncontested divorce?

If you and your spouse have settled (agreed) upon all issues in your divorce prior to the time that your divorce is filed that means you have an uncontested divorce. This is a pretty difficult bar to reach. All issues- custody, child support, property division, etc.- must be agreed on. Not partially agreed on or agreed on in theory. You and your spouse must have worked through these issues and have a settlement ready to go. All that is needed is for your attorney to put that agreement into an order for the judge to sign.

On the other hand, a contested divorce is one where your spouse and you do not see eye to eye on certain issues in your divorce. It could be that you all don’t agree on any of the above subjects. Or you could agree on 99% of the case but there are a few issues that are still yet to be agreed upon. Either way, you all have some work to do. Your case will likely have temporary orders hearing dates and a trial set early on in the case. These dates will provide you both with deadlines to attend mediation by in hopes of reaching an out of court settlement. If no settlement can be reached then you will have to attend a temporary orders hearing and/or trial where the judge will decide the issues for you based on the evidence you both present through your attorneys.

Getting divorced in Texas if you weren’t married here and if you aren’t a U.S. citizen

You can get a divorce in Texas even if you were not married in Texas. As long as you were validly married in the state/country where your ceremony was performed and you or your spouse have lived in Texas for at least the past six months and in the county where your case was filed for at least the past 90 days.

By the same token, you can also file for divorce in Texas even if you are not a United States citizen. The same requirement to file for divorce as anyone else would apply: residence in Texas for at least the past 90 days and residency in the county you want to file in for at least the past 90 days is required.

When can you get an annulment instead of a divorce in Texas?

Getting an annulment is very difficult in Texas. An annulment is an order from the court declaring your marriage to be void. A void marriage is one that is not valid and therefore has never existed, legally speaking. Let’s discuss the circumstances that could lead to your getting an annulment in a Texas family court.

If you were married when you were either 16 or 17 years old and did not get your parent’s permission to get married then you can get an annulment. Note that you or your parent(s) must file for the annulment before your 18thbirthday, so this is a time sensitive requirement.

Next, if you can prove that you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs and did not have the ability to consent to the marriage then you can get an annulment as well. Please note that you additionally could not have voluntarily lived with your spouse since the effects of those drugs/alcohol ended. If you have done so then you will not have an opportunity to get an annulment.

Impotency is another way to be granted an annulment in Texas. The impotency could be based on physical or mental reasons. If you did not know of the impotency at the time of your marriage and have not voluntarily lived with your spouse since the time of your learning of the impotency, then you have the ability to have an annulment granted.

A mental defect that barred you from having the mental capacity to consent to the marriage, or your spouse being in that situation is another way to be granted an annulment. Again, you could not have resided with your spouse, or vice versa, since the discovery of either of your mental handicaps were discovered.

Finally, there are some technical ways to qualify for an annulment in Texas. First, if your spouse hid the fact that he or she got a divorce from another person within thirty days of your marriage ceremony you can be granted an annulment. However, you could not have known about the marriage ceremony, and could not have lived with your spouse since you found out about the divorce. Also, if you were married less than 72 hours after your marriage license was issued then you can get an annulment.

If one of these fact patterns is not in place for your marriage, then it is likely that you are going to have to move forward with a divorce rather than be able to have your marriage annulled. Avoid marriage declaration is possible only if you or your spouse were married at the time of your marriage, you and your spouse are close relatives or you or your spouse were under the age of 16 at the time of your marriage.

While these circumstances may not apply to you, it is worthwhile to know just in case you fall within one of these pretty narrow categories. Otherwise, be prepared to enter into the divorce process.

Questions about divorce in Texas? Stay tuned tomorrow while we continue to discuss this topic

Having questions about divorce is normal. If you want reliable and honest feedback about your particular circumstances, then please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys work on behalf of families like yours from all over southeast Texas. One of our free of charge consultations is only a phone call away.

Representing and advocating for people in our community is our main objective and is the reason why we open our office doors each morning. We invite you to look at our website and see what services we can provide you with as a client. I believe our office is the most qualified and prepared to accomplish your goals and those of your families. Thank you for your time and consideration today.

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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Spring Divorce Lawyer

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with ar Spring, TX Divorce Lawyer right away to protect your rights.

divorce lawyer in Spring TX is skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Spring, TexasCypressSpringKleinHumble, KingwoodTomballThe Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris CountyMontgomery CountyLiberty County, Chambers CountyGalveston CountyBrazoria CountyFort Bend County and Waller County.

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