As you begin a divorce case you will quickly notice that your life is changing. They say the only constant in life change. The person who came up with this saying must have gone through a divorce. Your relationship, family life- even how you raise your children- is all changing. Change can be good, and change can be necessary. Hopefully, both of those things are true for you and your family. However, that doesn't mean that your divorce won't be without challenges and adversities that you need to overcome. Fortunately, you will have a support system available to you through your attorney's office as well as the people in your life that are going to stick by your side through thick or thin.
What is a divorce? It is a legal process that will end your marital relationship with your spouse. To obtain a divorce you can’t just poke your head out your bedroom window and declare yourself divorced. You also can’t just tell enough people that you are divorced, and it will be so. Rather, you must follow the steps involved in the divorce process in Texas to be legally divorced. This can be confusing to some people who believe that by living apart from your spouse for a “long” period you effectively become divorced. That is not true.
Separation does not equal divorce
When I was a young family law attorney I was honestly surprised to see that some people simply up and left their homes, never to return but did not try to get a divorce in the process. These folks would leave home, their spouse, and sometimes their kids and just live another life apart from them. Maybe the idea of getting a divorce crossed their mind at a certain point but even that is unclear. What was clear is that the people who did this didn't care about their marriage and just wanted to be on their own. So, they found a new place to live and started to live their life independently of their spouse.
This is risky for several reasons. Let’s begin by pointing out that you cannot live apart from your spouse for a certain period and obtain a de facto divorce. The law does not look at divorce in the same way it looks at marriage. If you are common-law married to your spouse, then moving out of the home that you share with your common-law spouse does end the common-law marriage. If you fall into this boat, then your common-law marriage has come to an end.
For everyone else, you will need to get a divorce. Moving out of the family home and into an apartment around the block does not end the marriage. While you are living apart from your spouse, he or she can obtain a loan that becomes a part of the community estate and thus is your responsibility, as well. Does your spouse like to shop? Imagine him getting a Target credit card and buying every item in the store. You’re married to that person. Debts incurred during your marriage are community debts and thus your responsibility. That is something very few people who start the divorce process are aware of.
In a divorce setting, it is very unlikely that you would be made to pay these bills for your spouse. You did not take part in the shopping and were not even aware of him taking out the credit card and making the purchases. However, in the real-world Target doesn’t know this. Suppose that your husband does not pay his credit card bill as agreed to. The people with Target would not be happy about this and would reach out to your spouse to politely ask that he pay his bill. Maybe he gets on a payment plan with them or tries to restructure the debt. However, if he does not pay the bill a lawsuit could be filed on behalf of Target. Guess who probably would be named in that lawsuit.
You are likely to be named in a potential lawsuit on behalf of any creditor who also files suit against your husband in this type of situation. Their lawyers would be looking to name any other party they could that may be able to pay the bill to Target. You being the spouse of your husband would be an extremely logical person to also name in the lawsuit. This happened because you moved out of the family home but did not file for divorce. Staying married to your spouse not only keeps your life neutral but opens you up to potential liabilities just like we were described above. Don't let this be you. When you decide to move out of the home you need to decide quickly about filing for divorce. A divorce is a step that not only serves to end a marriage but also serves to protect you from creditors, among others.
Feel conflicted about filing for divorce?
One of the emotions that I have observed in people over many years who are interested in filing for divorce is that many of them feel conflicted about whether they are doing the right thing by filing. You may count yourself among this group. It is normal to feel like you are thinking about doing something that is not right when you consider a divorce. You probably remember the marriage vows that you and your spouse shared on the day of your wedding. Those words may be ringing in your ears these days now that you are taking steps, or at least thinking about the possibility, of a divorce. Should you tread carefully when it comes to filing for divorce or jump in, headfirst?
Like most things in life, it is wise to consider your options when filing for divorce. You can stay married but if you choose this option, I will point you towards counseling or something like that when it comes to methods that you can choose to employ to try and save your marriage. Here is my reasoning. If you want to stay married there are problems in your marriage. Or else, why would you be considering a divorce? If you are having problems in your marriage that are significant enough for you to consider divorce, then you need to do something about those problems. Many times, your spouse will not even know that there are issues in your marriage. Observing issues in the marriage but never saying anything to your spouse about them will drive you insane. You will fixate on those problems while your spouse is oblivious to them.
On the other hand, there may be obvious problems in the marriage that have been caused by you or your spouse. These include infidelity, abuse, family violence, financial infidelity, and other major problems like this. In a situation like that, your spouse and you both need to want to remain married and then take concrete steps to fix the problem. This can be done through behavioral changes that are made immediately. Many times, this occurs when your spouse and you attend marriage counseling. If your spouse is unwilling to attend counseling or even to admit that there is a problem in the marriage, then you have a decision to make- remain married to a person who is not willing to address a problem that you have or move forward with a divorce.
It is up to you to file for divorce or remain married. Remember, however, that it is important for you to decide one way or another. Staying in a marriage but waking up every day thinking about filing for divorce accomplishes nothing for anyone. You cannot grow in the relationship if you are constantly thinking about leaving the marriage. Additionally, you cannot expect to have any closure or peace within yourself if you are constantly feeling conflicted about whether you even want to be married.
You can take some time to think about whether a divorce is right for you. Sometimes that decision will come to you rather quickly and other times it will take some contemplation. Decide and then decide how you want to go about the next steps. If you decide to stay married it is a good idea to seek counseling or to take other steps that move, you towards the goal of improving your marriage and addressing the problems that you all are facing. This may start with you talking to your spouse about the problem. If he or she is not willing to take on this problem, head on then you have a bigger problem on your hands than you thought.
Remember, in a functioning marriage, the problem of one spouse should be the problem of the other. If your spouse does not take the problem seriously that you have been contemplating, he or will sooner or later. The major difference is that if he has dealt with the problem later it is much more likely to be in the form of divorce papers being handed to him.
On the other hand, if you have decided to file for divorce then this is something that you must decide on and then move forward. There is no use in sitting around and waiting for a perfect moment to file for divorce. There will never be the absolute perfect time to file for divorce. There will always be an opportunity to not file or a reason to second guess yourself. However, if you have gone through the steps that we have described above then you can feel more confident in yourself that you have not rushed to a hasty judgment and have instead given the subject appropriate thought and are making the best decision for yourself and your family.
What to expect in the divorce process itself
When you file for divorce, you should expect things to not necessarily go as smoothly as you were hoping. This can be true even if you hire the greatest group of attorneys around (like those with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan) to represent you in your divorce or if you largely accomplish your goals in the case. There are so many moving pieces in a divorce that to say you can’t control them all would be an understatement. You need to be able to accept that there will be things that come up in a case that you could not have predicted and could not have stopped from happening even if you could have seen them coming.
Flexibility is the name of the game. Rolling with the punches, so to speak. However, you also need to be willing to stand up for yourself in situations where that is necessary. For example, suppose that you and your spouse work out temporary orders where you agree to have the children for a certain period each week while your spouse has the kids for the other portion of the week. Choosing how to divide your time with the kids and then agreeing to a custody schedule is common in a divorce. However, if your spouse begins to violate the agreement and that impacts your possession of the kids then this is a problem.
Identifying those areas of a divorce case that you need to stand your ground on and which areas you can be more flexible in are the two most important components of a divorce case. When it comes to your time with your children this is something that you probably will not need to be told about more than once to be strong regarding. You will want to address the issue with the judge in your case, likely through a motion to enforce temporary orders. Drafting, filing, and arguing in court a motion to enforce temporary orders is a major undertaking but it is necessary if you want to protect the temporary orders that you worked so hard to negotiate in the first place.
There is also a set process that you will need to follow to get divorced. This is the same process that everyone who files for divorce in Texas must follow. If you do not file the correct documents, meet certain deadlines, or follow the law your case risks being delayed, A delayed divorce ends up being a more expensive divorce. A more expensive divorce ends up being harmful to your post-divorce life. There is a definite domino effect here as far as how one decision can have a ripple effect through your entire case. The question you need to ask yourself is how you can best try to avoid these situations and position yourself for a timely divorce.
The importance of hiring an experienced family law attorney
You must be willing to have representation in your divorce if you need it. The general rule of thumb that I talk to people about is that if you have children under the age of 18 and/or property that will need to be divided up in the divorce then you should consider hiring an attorney. Even if you do not have children then you should still strongly consider hiring a family law attorney for your divorce. there are many important components to a divorce case depending on your age, state in life, or specific needs. If you are a person approaching your retirement years, then being able to divide up retirement accounts in the divorce would seem to be an extremely important subject. For that reason, you not only should consider hiring an attorney for negotiation purposes throughout the case but also in making sure that your domestic relations order is drafted correctly and can divide up the relevant retirement plans as agreed to in the divorce.
Having a family law attorney by your side during a divorce can also help to facilitate better settlement negotiations between you and your spouse. Sometimes you and your spouse will be able to communicate directly with one another about certain subjects in your divorce. However, in some types of cases, you and your spouse may not even be willing to talk to one another directly. In that case, having an experienced attorney available to help communicate settlement offers during negotiation can be critical. The last thing you want to see happen is your case proceed to a trial or temporary orders hearing when you otherwise could have settled your case. This happens from time to time in situations where you and your spouse are not able to communicate and therefore miss out on the opportunity to negotiate a settlement rather than to litigate your case. Choosing the right family law attorney for you can go a long way towards avoiding a potential circumstance where you and your spouse spend more time in the courtroom than you would have needed to otherwise.
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 about how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.