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Confused About Family Laws in Texas? Read This Guide to Learn More

Nearly everyone in our state may find themselves involved in a family law case at some point. Many of us will become parents, get married, or both during our lives. Our ability to form families and relationships is crucial to our well-being. But when these relationships turn sour and start affecting us negatively, Texas Family Act steps in. Struggling marriages or other relationships often affect children the most, leaving them caught in the middle.

Navigating modern family dynamics and their impact on children

Families are more diverse today than they ever have been in our nation’s history. Long gone are the days of the nuclear family- one husband, one wife, and a couple of children from that marriage. Mixed families are increasingly becoming the norm nowadays, for better or worse. With those changing family dynamics come challenges for families, family law practitioners, and lawmakers who have to keep up with those changes. A failing marriage or other relationship often has the most significant impact on children, as they are the ones who can truly become caught up in the middle of any family-related issues.

Today, we’re here to discuss this question: Are you prepared for your family law case? Regardless of your legal expertise, it’s essential to equip yourself. Don’t dismiss it just because you’re not a lawyer or disinterested. If your children, marriage, or property are involved, prioritizing your understanding of Texas family law is crucial.

Family law cases are all about minimizing instability in the life of your child. You will have your own goals, but ultimately they pale in comparison to maintaining some semblance of normalcy in the life of your child. If you can anticipate problems and roadblocks to resolving the issues that exist in your case you can begin to problem-solve solutions. The alternative is to constantly find yourself surprised by the events of your case, leading to a longer, more expensive, and more tumultuous case. Again, if you think the experience has been bad for you to imagine how bad it could be for your child if you do not prepare yourself and your family in advance of beginning your case.

Divorcing your spouse in Texas

Divorce is not just a state of mind. To be legally divorced, you must file an Original Petition for Divorce. Then ultimately have a judge sign a Final Decree of Divorce. So, when you hire an attorney to file your divorce, you are not divorced. Despite common misconception, you remain married until the judge decrees otherwise. Until then, conduct yourself as a married person. Be aware that your actions can impact your case, either positively or negatively.

Texas Divorce: Understanding Residency Requirements

You and/or your spouse must be a resident of Texas in order to file for divorce. You cannot move here from Louisiana, California, Mexico, or anywhere else and file for divorce here on your first day living in our great state. Specifically, you must have been a resident of Texas for at least six months and a resident of the county in which you plan to file for at least 90 days before you are able to file your divorce petition. This is because the court does not have jurisdiction over your case until you meet these residency requirements.

In most instances, you cannot finalize your divorce immediately after filing. Even if you and your spouse have a written agreement ready for submission when filing the petition, Texas law requires a waiting period of at least sixty days from the date of filing before granting the divorce. An exception to this rule is if there is violence in the marriage and a speedier divorce is justified due to the continued risk of harm to one or both spouses.

60-Day Waiting Period in Divorce Proceedings

The rationale behind this 60-day waiting period is that the State wants to encourage you and your spouse to attempt to reconcile your differences in that two-month period. I’d wager that dropping the 60-day requirement would lead to a surge in divorce filings. Generally speaking, divorce is not a positive thing for society, though it may benefit you and your spouse on some levels.

I want to emphasize that while divorce can be completed in as little as 60 days, it’s unlikely that yours will be. Most divorces have disagreements on various subjects that require some extensive negotiation to get past those disagreements. Also, most divorces will require at least two mediation sessions before resolving. That, combined with the time needed to draft final orders, sets a majority of cases past the 60-day minimum.

What happens during that 60+ day period of waiting to finalize a divorce?

A byproduct of having to wait at least a couple of months to finish your divorce is that there is a lot of time to fill in that period. Obviously, 60 days (at least) is the amount of time that we are talking about, but that is a long time for a family to operate in the flux of a divorce. For that reason, family courts in Texas will encourage parties to arrive at temporary orders.

Temporary Orders: Guiding Your Divorce Proceedings

Temporary orders basically will provide to you and your spouse marching orders on all aspects of your case. Custody, visitation, and support orders for your child will be provided. A breakdown of your household bills and the mortgage will also be divided up between you and your spouse. Which person will be able to remain in the family home will likely be determined by whichever spouse is able to reside primarily with the children.

The first of the two mediation sessions that I referenced in the section prior to this one will occur prior to temporary orders. Most family courts in southeast Texas will require that you attend mediation for temporary orders prior to coming into court for a hearing. This will ensure that you and your spouse get the first crack at attempting to resolve your issues without the intervention of a judge. Mediation occurs at an attorney’s office that you and your spouse select with the help of your own attorneys.

Mediation in Divorce: A Ping Pong of Resolution

While placing you and your spouse in separate rooms, the mediator will bounce back and forth between your rooms. They are like a ping pong ball in an attempt to help you resolve all issues relevant to your case. If a settlement is reached, temporary orders will be drafted based on your mediated settlement agreement. Importantly, any reason for attending a temporary orders hearing will be erased.

Again, the purpose of temporary orders is to allow you and your spouse to understand what your responsibilities are to your children and each other during the divorce. Importantly, if you do have children it will allow you a series of practice months to learn how to adapt to a visitation schedule, child support payment schedule, and the changes that will be inherent in getting a divorce and raising a child. Co-parenting is a term that is often used to refer to this process.

Property issues in conjunction with Texas divorces

While not as much of an issue in the temporary orders phase of a Texas divorce, the property will certainly become an issue in your case by the time you reach negotiations for final orders. Dividing property in a divorce can often lead to contention and hurt feelings. It’s wise to familiarize yourself with how the law treats marital property before entering a divorce process.

Texas is a community property state. Under Texas law, all property that isn’t classified as separate property is considered community property. That explanation does not do much to tell you what property you have in your living room is separate and what is community property. All I did was introduce a couple of terms to you and not define them. Let’s define the terms that we are using before we proceed any further.

The Texas Family Code defines separate property as property owned before marriage or acquired during marriage through gift or inheritance. Everything else falls under community property. Sounds straightforward, right? Not quite. Despite this clear distinction, complexities can arise, complicating matters between community and separate property.

Child custody and Texas divorce cases

Once your divorce is finalized, it’s presumed that you and your spouse will be named as joint managing conservators of your child. Being a conservator means assuming specific rights and duties as a parent. You already hold these responsibilities, but they haven’t been officially designated by a court in writing.

Joint managing conservators can share in the rights and duties of raising a child in an equal fashion in most regards. The exceptions to that statement are that only one of you will be able to reside with your children primarily and select where that is, and only one of you will be able to receive child support from the other. These rights are intertwined: winning the right to determine your child’s primary residence also entitles you to receive child support.

As far as time with the kids is concerned, we typically refer to that as “possession” in the world of family law. Just because you share somewhat equally in the rights and duties associated with your child does not mean that you are both able to share equally in your child’s time. The parent with the right to determine the primary residence of your child will have more time most likely. In tomorrow’s blog post from our office, we will discuss this topic in greater detail and introduce other topics in custody law such as summertime and holiday visitation.

Conclusion

The impact of family law resonates deeply with virtually every individual in our state. Recognizing the pivotal role these laws play in safeguarding our familial bonds and ensuring the well-being of our children underscores their significance. As outlined in the Texas Family Act, these legal frameworks serve as a cornerstone in addressing the complexities of failing marriages and strained relationships, aiming to mitigate the adverse effects on all parties involved. By fostering an environment conducive to resolution and support, these laws strive to navigate the delicate balance between personal autonomy and communal responsibility, ultimately shaping the fabric of our society.

Questions about family law in Texas? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have questions about your family situation or are seeking clarification on anything that we discussed in our blog post today, please consider contacting the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys work on behalf of our clients to achieve their goals in courts across southeast Texas.

Our attorneys and staff pride themselves on putting the interests of our clients first and advocating tirelessly for them in courts across southeast Texas. A free-of-charge consultation with our office is only a phone call away. These consultations are a great opportunity to ask questions and receive feedback about your specific circumstances.

We invite you to take some time to browse our website to learn more about our office. We also have blog posts that cover every area of Texas family law. Feel free to read as much as you would like and we appreciate the consideration and time that you spend with us here on our blog.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers

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 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, 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 Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, 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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