Finalizing a Divorce in Texas

So, you’ve done it. You managed to complete your Texas divorce case. It’s over with and you can finally move on with your life, right? Well, sort of. Yes, your case is just about over with, and you can now start to plan out the next phases of your life starting with how quickly can you put this case in your rearview mirror. That is a normal reaction to have. However, what you need to do in this situation is think clearly about how to finish off your divorce actually and officially. Until then you will have loose ends to tie up.

There is a difference between emotionally feeling like your divorce is over with and your divorce being over with. An emotional end to your divorce can feel like your spouse is no longer a part of your life. This is a change to be sure, given that you have spent a large part of your life being connected to this person in some way. That big, exhaled breath that you may take when you finished a big exam or completed a project at work may not even compare to what you did when it felt like your divorce was finally over.

On the other hand, there is a point in your divorce where you will also be legally divorced. I’ll spare you the wait and just tell you that when a judge signs your Final Decree of Divorce that is when you are legally divorced. You can truly take that huge sigh of relief once the judge has signed your Final Decree of Divorce. Otherwise, you are still divorced and still have work to do. Just what that work is will be the subject matter of today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan.

Have you thought about the possession and visitation of your children?

If you are reading this blog post and have not thought about how your post-divorce life is going to be impacted by your children, then you have some work to do. Getting through the divorce by any means necessary may sound like a plan from an emotional perspective but from a real-life perspective it does not make any sense at all. Quickly getting to the end of a divorce means that you are probably skipping some important steps that are going to be something that you need to pay close attention to. Children’s visitation and possession issues are among those important subjects. 

Has the visitation and possession schedule that you and your spouse have been working through worked well for you and your spouse? More importantly, how have your kids taken to it? This is something that you need to think critically about as you head toward the end of a divorce. It is not a given that the orders that you have will need to be the long-term solution to the problems that you and your spouse are negotiating through when it comes to visitation and possession. As such, you should think about how well the plan has been working and what you would change, if anything. 

The logistics of a visitation schedule are something that many parents overlook for many reasons. If you are having trouble making sure that you can pick up your child on time, then that is a major red flag. No matter how willing you are to make this visitation plan work, if you cannot reasonably get to the right place at the right time then you are going to experience problems in this subject. Problems with logistics can lead to enforcement cases being filed against you after your divorce is all said and done. Rather than sign up for this reality you should take advantage of the time that you have in your divorce and figure out a better plan for you and your family. 

Who is going to be the primary conservator of your children? 

In some divorce cases, this is a question that has already been answered by the time you get to the end of a divorce. The primary conservator of your children is the parent who cares for the kids during the school week, works on homework, and takes them to events and things of this nature then you have been fulfilling the role of a primary conservator for some time. Many times, the parenting roles of you and your spouse can be determined by your work/income-earning responsibilities. This can be a tough pill for some parents to swallow but it is nonetheless true. Many parents would like to change how they have parented their children, but divorce is not necessarily the time to make sweeping changes and then expect a divorce court to update their decisions as a result. 

The primary conservator of children is the recipient of child support, as well. This parent spends more time with the kids so there is often a deficit when it comes to spending on the kids concerning the other parent. For that reason, the family courts of Texas will assess child support to even out those costs in line with the income of the non-primary conservator as well as the number of children that are before the court. These are also known as the Child Support Guidelines, and you should be aware of them before you are officially through with your divorce. Simply agreeing to any child support figure that is thrown at you is not a good decision, even if you are doing so to hasten the end of your divorce. 

From our experience, this is an especially important topic for fathers. The reason is that many men believe that there is an explicit preference in the law for mothers to become the primary conservator of children. If you are a father reading this blog post, then I want you to know that this is not true. There is no preferential treatment given to mothers or fathers under the law in Texas. Preferential treatment is given is to parents who exercise as much time with their children as possible. 

What does this mean? You should consider rights and duties concerning your children just as much as time with them. I know that this can seem difficult especially when you figure out that you may be spending less time with the kids than you ever have before. Trying to do everything that you can to get more time with your children may be the most sensible thing you can do during your divorce at least from this vantage point. However, do not disregard how important it is to be able to have rights and duties to your children that are in line with their best interests. 

Judges can tell if you have been a parent who has spent zero time with your children and are now trying to come off as a “parent of the year candidate.” It is not worth your time to try and suddenly change who you are as a parent to appear to be a more involved parent than you are during the divorce. That’s not to say that it is not a good idea for you to become a more involved parent or anything like that. However, if your motivation is to do so to become better positioned for a divorce case then your motivation is off, and the results of the case will probably not be what you want them to be. 

Developed a mediation plan yet?

The place where most divorce cases end up being finalized is in mediation. Mediation is a process where you and your spouse will agree to have a third party, a neutral mediator intervene in your case and help you settle your case before having to go to a trial. This is a familiar result for most people who get divorced in Texas. Most people who go through a divorce in Texas end up settling their cases in mediation. The mediation process involves you and your spouse spending an extended period focused on being able to settle the case. This involves putting aside work and other commitments and instead focusing all of your energy on one thing: settling your divorce case.

From my experience, this is where many people start to get the emotional feeling that their divorce is coming to an end. You physically go to mediation, endure the process there, wait for responses and counter-offers from your spouse, and then you feel like the case is finally over with. However, did you put enough thought into the process of trying to settle your divorce or did you just try to do whatever was easiest to get your case done and over with? I understand why you would want to try and do whatever you could to finish your divorce as quickly as possible. Nobody in their right mind would say that divorce is fun or that the case is something that you should try to prolong. 

However, it is not a good idea to try and sacrifice the well-being of you and your children to finish off your divorce faster. This can lead to bad results both for you and your children. Consider that the divorce case itself is the best opportunity that you will have to achieve favorable results for your family. It is not a safe assumption to make that you will be able to come back and modify your divorce results later. Rather, it is a much better plan to get the best outcome you can in the divorce case itself. 

What about drafting a Final Decree of Divorce?

Have you thought about how you are going to draft your Final Decree of Divorce? If you have an attorney, it would involve having your lawyer either draft the final decree and have you review it for errors/questions or having your lawyer review the draft submitted to you by the opposing attorney. Either way, having an attorney to assist in this process can be very helpful for you who are trying to finalize a divorce without having many issues come up or in trying to avoid mistakes that can cost you. 

The last thing you want to do is find yourself in a position where you are unable to achieve the outcome that you negotiated because the final orders that were drafted in your case do not match up with the mediated settlement agreement. The way to make sure that your orders match up with your settlement agreement is to be patient. I know that this is going to be difficult at the end of a long divorce. You are going to be chomping at the bit to get the case done and over with. However, these are the moments in a case that can define whether you are successful in trying to tie up the loose ends of your case and whether you have left problems for yourself later. 

For example, let’s say that you have not reviewed the final decree closely enough and there are some issues with how conservatorship rights/duties are divided between you and your spouse. Your children may have different decisions made for them than there otherwise would be because of this. You can take the time necessary to review the language in your final decree and you absolutely should do so. It is not enough to look through the emailed version of the decree when your lawyer sends it to you and to do nothing else. You need to take the time to look through the document page by page, paragraph by paragraph to make sure everything lines up the way that you think it should. 

Ask your lawyer questions. Challenge him or her (respectfully) on things. This is your best opportunity to get everything done right. Take advantage of the opportunity and you will not have regrets later. 

What about the final steps of the case? Have you planned those out?

Once you have or final decree of divorce double-checked and ready for signature you and your attorney should plan out how you are going to make sure that the documents that you have for the judge are ready and complete. You will be expected to attend a final hearing before the judge known as a proof-up hearing. In the prove-up hearing, the judge will review your documents and ask a series of simple questions about your divorce. Your responsibility will be to answer your questions and ensure that the documents the judge needs to finalize your case are prepared and ready.

Examples of those documents include a wage withholding order, a deed of trust to secure assumption as well as a special warranty deed. Some of these documents will require the signature of the judge while some will not. you and your attorney can review the website for your court to determine what documents will be required. Going to approve up hearing without these documents would be like going to a high school class without the supplies you need for an important project. this wouldn’t have been something that you would have done in school, and it should not be something that you get caught doing now that you are closing in on the end of a divorce.

Once you have attended the proof appearing with your attorney and the judge has agreed to divorce you and your spouse you are officially at the end of your case. From there, you can request a certified copy of your final decree of divorce to have on hand in case you need it. Having electronic versions of your final decree of divorce can be helpful as well to keep on your phone or elsewhere. This is the point of your case when you are at the end, and you can feel confident knowing that your divorce is over.

Ideally, you would have spent enough time familiarizing yourself with your orders that you can follow through with them correctly once your case is done with the period this will help you be able to transition better into a post-divorce life where you and your family can adjust to your new surroundings and feel like you were able to give it your all and pay attention to the details that were most important to your divorce.

Otherwise, it is a good idea to have support during your divorce most notably from family and friends. This is a factor that many people overlook at the beginning divorce case. However, I think that it is something where you can measure the success of divorce by how well a person transitions into their life after divorce. Having a diligent attorney can certainly help you further this goal.

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.

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At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, the firm wants to get to know your case before they commit to work with you. They offer all potential clients a no-obligation, free consultation where you can discuss your case under the client-attorney privilege. This means that everything you say will be kept private and the firm will respectfully advise you at no charge. You can learn more about Texas divorce law and get a good idea of how you want to proceed with your case.

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