A divorce in Texas is not all about waiting until the end of your case for a trial. Rather, there are stages to divorce and points of progression that you can track like any other project that you engage in for work in school. The major difference, of course, is that your divorce case is a central component of your life and one that and will surely be and packed full beyond the day-to-day events of your case. Net divorce, there are two components to a case that can apply to you and your family: the property aspects and the child custody aspects.
Another thing to keep in mind with your divorce is that it can take some time for the case to complete. In Texas, there is a minimum of two months from the date you file your case until your case can officially be completed. This 60 day waiting. Is intended to allow you an opportunity to determine whether or not the divorce is right for you as well as provide you with an opportunity to negotiate through the case and reach an endpoint that is something that works well for you and your spouse. However, most divorce cases will take longer than two months then you need to be prepared for the impacts that can occur from the beginning to end of a case.
When it comes to your property, many people think that they have to hold on for dear life until the end of the case when their property will either be divided up between themselves and their spouse or will be classified as being owned by you or your spouse individually. This is the basics of Community property law in Texas. All property at the beginning of your divorce is presumed to be owned by each of you jointly. Community-owned property is eligible to be divided in a Texas divorce. Think of your home that you purchased during your marriage, any money you have in the bank as a result of income earned during the course you ever married, investment contributions and growth during the time of your marriage, and many other personal items in the property.
On the other hand, you and your spouse likely came into your marriage with some property of your own. That property could be fairly small such as personal property items or could be fairly substantial such as a rental home, vehicle, or another piece of property. At the beginning of a divorce, you will be tasked with determining the property that you own as well as what category the property belongs in. That property could be classified I see their community or separate property in this may be divisible in the divorce. If you are planning on for their piece of property as separate then you need to have evidence ready to show a court why that particular property is separate. Otherwise, you may risk the property becoming part of the community estate.
Why is it important to protect your property during a divorce?
You may have a legitimate question about why it is even important to protect property during a Texas divorce case. After all, you’ve never had a problem with your property being taken, abused, destroyed, or otherwise tampered with before. You and your spouse have a good relationship even though you are going through a divorce case. With all that said, why would it be important to specifically attempt to protect property at this stage of your divorce? Aren’t there bigger things to concern yourself with?
The truth is that you have no idea what is going to happen in your divorce as far as your property is concerned. We would like to think that you and your spouse would be able to work together during the case and not act inappropriately when it comes to your property but there is no guarantee that this will happen. Otherwise sane and reasonable people can find themselves acting out of control during a divorce case. There is something about the stress associated with a divorce that can lead your spells 2 act inappropriately or without consideration for you or your belongings. As a result, protecting your property is extremely important.
A story that I am quick to tell people about in situations like this is regarding a former client and their experience in a divorce that he was going through. This gentleman was married to a woman in Montgomery County where they owned a home together. However, our client for the most part lived in work outside of the state of Texas in the oil and gas industry. His work required him to travel frequently and he was rarely at home. When he did go home it would be to visit with his son for a short period before going back out on the road to work. His wife did not work and he was the sole income earner for the family.
Overall, this divorce was not dissimilar from many others. Things were tense in the marriage but our client not being at home very much made things a little bit easier for everyone to tolerate. Both parties had attorneys and were working together to resolve their divorce without an unnecessary trip to court. Not only do courtroom visits cost money in time but our client was not in a position to go to court all that often due to his being on the road and working substantial amounts of time. Everyone knew that it was in all party’s best interest to be on their best behavior and act civilly towards one another.
Or at least, that was the understanding at the beginning part of the case. Our client and their spouse were able to agree to fairly routine temporary orders without having to go to a hearing. Those temporary orders are standard protections against spouses behaving badly towards one another during the divorce. It prevents both parties from making disparaging comments about the other in front of their children, showing up at their places of work unannounced, and harming or disrupting their use of the property. These are fairly common in routine protections that are provided for in these temporary orders.
At a certain point, however, something changed in the case. The opposing party became much more aggressive in asking for increased child support, restricted access for our client to his son in a range of other requests and demands that were not the least bit reasonable. This sort of thing does happen from time to period again, people are not at their best from a mental standpoint during a divorce. As a result, it tends to happen that some cases go off the rails to a certain extent and you can find yourself as an attorney with an opposing party who is extremely unhappy in a 10/2 allow that frustration out in different ways. One of those ways would be to ask for and do things that in a divorce that are counterproductive to all parties involved and generally speaking do not work to anyone’s advantage. There is only so much that our client or we could do in this situation.
What can end up happening, however, Is that the demands of one party or their behavior may go so out of bounds that additional steps must be taken 2 protect not only your family but your property as well. In this case, we did have a temporary order in place that otherwise could have helped our client avoid significant harm Do to the negotiation for temporary orders. Most specifically the temporary orders mandated that both parties show respect towards one another’s the property and towards their Community property.
Also of note, our client was paying child support to his wife during the temporary order stage of the case. He was current on child support and there have been no problems with making sure that his payments we’re getting made on time and in full. The major development of this case occurred when our client returned home from working on the East Coast. He was still able to access the home during the divorce case to retrieve his belongings and to see his son. Our client owned a large gun safe in which he primarily saved up cash and stored it in safe. This was a safe that his wife had never shown much interest in and did not know the combination to.
When our client went home he went into his bedroom closet to open the safe when he found that something was wrong. While the safe was closed the digital lock had been damaged. When he opened the door he was shocked to find that thousands of dollars in cash had been removed from the safe. Remind you that our client wasn’t going to use this money for anything other than caring for his son. There were no issues with child support or it is provided for. Our client’s wife was not responsible for any of the bills during the divorce though she would be in a position where she would have to begin working again once the divorce was over with. This was the backdrop of our case at the time of this incident involving the safe.
Our client immediately asked his wife if she knew anything about what had happened to the safe. Had the house been broken into? Had she broken into the safe? Did their son somehow try to access the safe? His wife answered no to all of his questions. Of course, our client reasonably believed that something had to be wrong with the situation. How else could you explain what he had found with the safe being opened in this way? His only choice was to call a local locksmith to see if he could get some assistance in repairing the safe.
The local locksmith in his area answered the phone and listened to the situation as our client described it to him. As luck would have it the locksmith said that he was familiar with the situation because he had just received a call from that address. That’s right: our client had managed to contact the very same locksmith who had broken into the safe in the first place. Apparently what had happened is that our client’s wife lied to the locksmith and said that she had at first forgotten the code to the safe and then had damaged the keypad out of frustration after she was not able to access the safe. From there, the locksmith relied upon her falsehoods and then arrived to open this safe.
What followed was a phone call to our office and then a phone call from our office to the opposing attorney. The opposing attorney was shocked herself. By the end of the day, the money had been returned by our client’s wife. However, additional concessions would have to be made during the negotiation phase for final orders given this violation of the temporary orders. This is a prime example of how a violation of a temporary order can have a far-reaching impact on a divorce case. Without those temporary orders, the opposing attorney might have put up more of a fight in terms of trying to deny her client’s actions. Or, her client may have felt even more emboldened to be even more aggressive when it comes to trying to take advantage of our client in terms of gaining access to what she considered to be Community property.
Preserving the property and rights of you and your spouse
The bottom line is that in a Texas divorce case, temporary orders and injunctions are issued by a court to protect the property and rights of you and your spouse. Courts acknowledge that left unchecked, people can and will engage in bad behavior. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes pretty stiff penalties to caused people to behave themselves in the context of a divorce. Temporary orders do just that. Although you and your spouse can negotiate through these temporary orders and create your orders based on your circumstances there are some temporary orders and injunctions that are standard across the board for Texas divorce cases.
As we have previously discussed, a complete inventory and appraisement of your assets and debts must be submitted to the court. Preferably, this will occur before a need temporary orders hearing or even mediation. Please note that these inventory and appraisements are done under oath. Essentially, you are swearing to the court that what you are submitting in writing is true and correct to the best of your knowledge.
Next, you will be able to spend money, reasonable amounts, on attorneys fees and court costs. This means that you can hire an attorney to pay his or her attorney’s fees and not worry yourself about violating court orders. The court expects that you will hire an attorney and need to pay him or her. In that same vein, you will be prohibited from spending money on items or costs that are over and above reasonable living expenses for the duration of your case. This means that you should not plan on purchasing items for a new house or doing anything contrary to what you need to do to live during your family law case.
You may also be able to negotiate for exclusive control over certain pieces of property. For example, it is customary in temporary orders for one spouse to be awarded use of the home during the divorce case. This does not mean that that spouse will end up with the house after the divorce. All it means is that the parties either agreed to one of them remaining in the house or that was ordered by a family court judge. This is important that the parties can trust one another so that they can feel comfortable in and around their home.
These are the sort of basic protections that temporary orders in Texas provide to you and your spouse. Please note that your temporary orders may differ from these standard provisions to a certain extent. You and your spouse can negotiate for specific protections that are more applicable to your circumstances. However, I think that it is a good idea for you to be aware of the basic property-related protections as contained in standard temporary orders. The more you understand about these protections the better positioned you will be to know your rights and Act appropriately during a divorce case in Texas.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.