How Do I get a Divorce in Texas?

Getting a divorce in Texas is all about following the process. Of course, if all you want to do is get divorced you need to do nothing more. There is a specific set of circumstances, rules, procedures, and steps that the state has laid out for spouses who are interested in obtaining a divorce. However, if you want to do more than that and accomplish something meaningful in your divorce then you should stick around. The attorneys at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will list off some information in today’s blog post that may help you focus on the important parts of divorce and understand better what it means to not only get divorced in Texas but do so while achieving goals within the case itself. 

For starters, it is important to note that you do not need to have an attorney to get divorced in Texas. A lot of people assume that because we are family law attorneys that we are going to push you to hire an attorney for your divorce. In many ways, we do this here on the blog. We want you to know that there are attorneys out here who can work with you in your case if that is what you choose. However, there are also circumstances where you may not need to hire an attorney. In the interest of transparency, I wanted to share that information with you. Surely, you could use some unvarnished truth during what could end up being a great deal of smoke, half-truths, and exaggerations. The world of divorce is full of all these. 

Let’s get right into it. A divorce is not a maze, although it can feel like it, but is a process based on well-defined steps. If you can learn the process and steps involved, you can feel like you have a game plan in place. Otherwise, you can be made to feel like your divorce is constantly happening to you rather than you are happening to it. This means being intentional, thinking about the future, and then putting your best foot forward to accomplish your goals.

Questions about any of the material contained in today’s blog post can be directed to the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week where we can listen to your situation and provide you with information that may be able to help you make some sense out of this process, which we call divorce. 

Step 1: decide that you need a divorce

A lot of times our attorneys will be asked the question- how can I avoid a divorce? There is a lot of advice available to you about avoiding divorce available both through the people in your life as well as books and the internet. Not knowing what your circumstances are makes giving information on this a little difficult. If you are leaning towards divorce or are at least considering a divorce, then you need to ponder over what a divorce will mean for you and your children. Do you need a divorce?

Are the problems that you are experiencing in your marriage temporary? Could they be a result of a health issue, time issue, or another factor in your life that will not be with you as frequently moving forward? Are you having to work a different shift at work and as a result are not home as much during the evenings with your kids? Maybe that is the cause of the stress your wife is experiencing and not some issue with you. If there is an issue with your marriage it is wise to deal with that topic immediately and not let it fester. However, you and your spouse may just need to acknowledge that the problem in your marriage is not permanent and is something that the two of you can work on together. 

On the other hand, there may be chronic issues in your marriage that you can try to work through to avoid a divorce. Have you tried to discuss the problem areas with your spouse? Is he or she receptive to the idea of working through the problem together as a team? Do you know if your spouse would go to counseling with you or is that something you have ever discussed with your spouse? Avoiding a divorce is the best possible option to choose from when all options are on the table. Once you file for a divorce it is possible to still not get divorced. However, it becomes more difficult once the wheels are in motion to stop everything. The momentum of the case sometimes is overwhelming and you find yourself getting moved along the process without really thinking twice.

This is where you can begin your thought process when it comes to divorce. If a divorce has not yet been filed then you have more time to think about whether a divorce is what you and your family would be best served by. On the other hand, if your spouse has filed for divorce then you have fewer options on the table. In that case, your spouse has already filed the case and you are best served to participate in the case even if you do not want to. That is what we are going to talk about next in today’s blog post.

Participate in the divorce (even if you don’t file the case)

Some people have the thought when a divorce is filed against them by their spouse, that they can avoid the divorce if they act like the case was never filed in the first place. Just put the divorce papers that you are served with under a stack of junk mail on the counter and forget all about it. This is not the way to go about getting a divorce. After all, this is a blog post about how to get a divorce, not how to avoid a divorce. 

After all, there is no way to avoid getting a divorce if your spouse wants to get divorced. Texas is a no-fault divorce state. That means that your spouse does not need to list a specific fault ground for divorce in their petition if he or she wants to get a divorce. Rather, citing irreconcilable differences is sufficient to get a divorce in Texas. This changed the playing field in divorces when the state legislature made no-fault divorce legal in Texas. You can specify a fault ground for divorce but understand that it is not necessary. Fault grounds, if successfully proven by you or your spouse, can impact how community property division is done or how conservatorship rights and duties are assigned to you and your spouse. 

Not participating in a divorce that is filed against you is a mistake. You will want to be able to have a say in the process that involves ending your marriage, dividing your community property, and even determining rights, duties, custody, and visitation for your children. There is a lot at stake in a divorce even if you do not have kids or have only a small amount of property to divide. Don’t assume that it is not worth the effort to pay attention to your divorce or to file an answer to your divorce. It is well worth your time to participate in the process, and it does not mean that you will necessarily be signing up for an overly contentious divorce case by filing an answer to the divorce petition that was filed against you. 

The bottom line is that if you choose not to be a part of your divorce the case will go on without you and you will be left behind. Your spouse can still divorce you even if you never file an answer or otherwise participate in the case. He or she can submit her orders and terms of the divorce to the judge in your case. So long as there is proof of service on the record and he or she has waited the requisite number of days to get divorced then a default judgment can be granted in the case. These orders are just as valid as any other divorce court order that can be obtained in a divorce. The only difference is that these orders would not have had any input from you and that can be a problem for you both in the short and long term. 

By not participating in the divorce, you may find that your community estate, mainly property accumulated during your marriage, is divided in a way that is not to your liking. What if you would have been able to receive a portion of your spouse’s retirement account had you participated in the divorce but chose not to for some reason? What if your spouse can receive 80% of the money in your bank account rather than the 50% that would have been standard had you participated in the divorce? This can be a real problem for you now and in the future. 

For issues with your children, if you are not going to participate in the divorce for yourself hopefully you would do so for your children. A visitation schedule for your children is something that will be created in your divorce. You may get an unfavorable possession and visitation schedule if you do not participate in the divorce. This means that your relationship may suffer because of not being able to see your children as often as you would like. Child support is another topic that is covered in a divorce case. If you are the parent who would be paying child support, then you would be able to submit paystubs and a history of your income for an accurate amount of child support to be assessed against you. However, if you do not participate in the divorce then your spouse would be able to name a number and have that potentially ordered for you to pay. 

It is unlikely that if you have much community property or if you have children you would choose not to participate in the divorce. There is too much at stake in your life to not be a part of a divorce case. However, even if you have no kids or a minimal amount of property you should still choose to participate in the divorce. Not participating in the divorce does not stop the divorce from happening. We have already seen that the case will continue regardless of whether you choose to participate. If you do not know where to go from here when it comes to your divorce, then you can contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan to schedule a free-of-charge consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys. 

Communicate regularly with your attorney

One of the most frustrating parts of a divorce from the perspective of you, the client, is not knowing what is going on with your case. Even if you just came from a hearing or just talked to your attorney the process can be confusing enough to put you in a position where you do not necessarily know what is happening in your case. If that happens to you the first thought that likely will go through your mind will be to call your attorney. This makes complete sense given that you are paying your attorney to represent you in this case. However, your attorney may not keep up with you the way that you expect. If this is the case, then you need to think about how you want your attorney to communicate with you throughout the case. Unironically, this all begins with a conversation. 

I like to talk to clients early in their case about communication expectations. I know from experience that I could be working my tail off on your case but if I am not communicating with you about the work being done then it doesn’t matter. If you are upset because I haven’t called, you in a month then all the good news in the world isn’t going to bring you down all that quickly from being upset. Once a person is upset it is hard to unwind him or her. So, I know how important it is to maintain lines of communication frequently between myself and you as the client. At the beginning of a case, I will casually talk to clients about how they like to be communicated with so that there are no misunderstandings later on in a case. 

First, talk to your attorney about what your expectations are with communication. Some clients that I have worked with are very low maintenance in terms of communication. If you fall into this category, then you do not need weekly conversations and updates on your case. Unless you have a court date upcoming or unless something major happens in the case you don’t need to be contacted. Great. This saves the attorney time and saves you money. Remember that family law attorneys bill by the hour. This means that the attorney will charge you for the time spent on the phone talking about your case.

However, this should not deter you from wanting updates and from talking on the phone with your attorney. Sometimes you must receive an update. I talk to clients at the beginning of the case if they prefer email, phone, or in-person meetings. It is incredibly inefficient to try over and over to communicate with your attorney in a manner that you have seen he or she cannot respond to you in. Consistently emailing your attorney long and narrative-like statements over and over are not going to win you many friends at the lawyer’s office. Rather, talk with your attorney before your case begins so you know how he or she prefers to be communicated with. Sometimes a client will ask to speak with me every week no matter what is happening in their case. This is not a request that every client makes but I think it is a reasonable request for those who do make it. The big thing to keep in mind is that if you stay in good communication with your attorney then there will be few surprises that pop up in your case.

These are some steps to get divorced in Texas that people do not initially consider. I hope that the Law Office of Bryan Fagan was able to share your thoughts on this subject in a way that is unorthodox and entertaining. As always, you can learn more about our office by calling our attorneys and by reading the posts on this blog to have questions ready to ask the attorney that you are meeting with. 

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 consultations 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 how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.

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