Having to manage a divorce is difficult enough on its own. Having to manage a divorce when you and your spouse already have child support and/or child custody order in place is typically even more difficult. While you may have been able to make it through your first court case without the need for an attorney, a divorce is a different ballgame. True, there is no requirement that you hire an attorney to get divorced in Texas. However, having an attorney can make a significant difference for you depending on the facts and circumstances of your case.
Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will pick up where we left off in yesterday’s post by discussing how to manage this process. Specifically, I would like to start off by sharing with you my thoughts and when you should seriously consider hiring a lawyer for your divorce. No two divorces are created equally, and if you see any of the following factors as being relevant in your case then you should seriously consider hiring an attorney.
Look to the following factors when deciding whether to hire an attorney for your divorce
The more complicated your case, the greater your need is to hire an attorney to represent you. Keep in mind that not only are the well-being of your children at stake in a divorce but your finances are as well. It is frequently said that a divorce case becomes a business transaction once the case is filed. There is some truth to this. If you are able to put emotions aside and focus entirely on the issues then you will be a step ahead of the game.
Before your divorce begins you can begin to objectively evaluate the facts and circumstances of your case. You may determine that after reviewing your life in greater detail that you do need to have an attorney representing you. In general, here are the circumstances that I believe should lead you towards hiring a licensed family law attorney for your divorce.
First off, if you think that your well-being or that of your child is at risk then you absolutely need to hire an attorney. If all else fails you can always contact the police if your spouse is threatening you or your child. However, how would you react if you think that your spouse is capable of pulling your child from school? Would you know how to react? What if your spouse is coming in and out of your home? The police may not be able to do anything since the house belongs to your spouse as well.
A family law attorney knows how to provide you with an opportunity to present your circumstances to a judge in order to see if a protective order could be awarded to you. It’s that level of experience in handling divorces and potentially dangerous situations that can provide you with the greatest advantage possible. Not knowing the law is a huge disadvantage to have in a divorce case.
Next, you need to understand that whether or not your case is uncontested. A lot of people will walk into our office and assure us that they have an uncontested divorce. That is a phrase that is used quite a bit in the divorce world. Most people seem to think that if you and your spouse are being pleasant to one another that this means your divorce is uncontested. However, an uncontested divorce is an actual legal concept that is worth discussing here.
An uncontested divorce means that your divorce has no contested issues. Property division, child custody, child support, etc. must be settled at the time your divorce is filed in order to be considered truly uncontested. If you and your spouse still have issues to work out that’s fine. Most contested divorces settle in mediation or in informal settlement negotiation sessions prior to trial. However, if you still have some issues to hammer out with your spouse you are best served by hiring an attorney to represent you.
Is your spouse represented by an attorney?
A good sign, and in some ways the most important, that you need to hire an attorney to represent you in your divorce is that your spouse has already done so. Once your spouse hires an attorney, he or she is at a distinct advantage over you, no matter how seemingly “simple” your case actually is.
Imagine challenging your spouse to a race up and down Mt. Everest. If your spouse has a Sherpa (guide) with him, he will know the best and safest routes to take up the mountain, along with many other advantages that a Sherpa will provide. The same analogy applies to hire an attorney for your divorce. If you would feel more comfortable hiring an attorney for your divorce, then you ought to. It will provide short term and long-term benefits.
What does the financial landscape look like for you and your family?
The more property that you and your spouse own, the more likely that you are to need an attorney to represent you in a divorce. This is pretty straightforward, after all, if you and your spouse have no debts and no property to your name then the financial stakes for your divorce are pretty low. On the other hand, if you and your spouse own a significant amount of property or have taken out a number of loans together then the stakes have gone up considerably.
There are basically no people that are not the attorney who is qualified to negotiate and finalize the settlement of complicated financial issues in conjunction with a divorce. Even something as "simple" as selling a house after a divorce can be difficult. Or, if you were to stay in the house and your spouse were to live elsewhere would you know what paperwork to draft that will protect your interest in the home and protect his interest in being paid his share of the equity? What about the mortgage? Do you know how to get his name off of that loan?
While hiring an attorney to do some fairly simple paperwork may seem like a pain or unnecessary, I can assure you that it is a short-term investment that can provide you with a great deal of long-term benefit. The last thing you want is to think that you have settled your divorce only to find out years later that mistakes were made that are costly to you and your ex-spouse.
What is your personal financial situation looking like at the conclusion of your divorce?
For a lot of people, a divorce can be a drain on your finances. You may be nodding your head vigorously at this statement. The fact is that finances are personal and if yours have taken a hit as a result of your divorce then you may need to ask for spousal maintenance or alimony in your divorce. The questions to ask yourself in this situation are whether or not you qualify for spousal maintenance and how you could even go about negotiating for it.
The requirement in Texas is that for a judge to award you spousal maintenance you must have been married for at least ten years. Importantly, you must be able to show that you could not meet your minimal, basic needs without the assistance of the spousal maintenance. Being able to negotiate for maintenance in mediation (known at that point as contractual alimony) is possible, but usually only with the assistance of an attorney. Judges are not prone to awarding maintenance, either. So if you are concerned about being able to feed your children or pay your bills after your divorce then you should certainly consider hiring an attorney for your divorce.
Special child support considerations
Child support is a common part of divorce cases involving children. The Texas Family Code has laid out guideline levels of support that function very well for most people. A percentage of the spouse who pays the support will be taken on a monthly basis and paid directly to the parent who cares for the children on a full-time basis. Typically, twenty percent of the paying spouse's income will be paid if one child needs support, twenty-five percent for two children, and on up to 40% (at least) for five children or more.
However, if you are the parent of a child who has special needs then you have other considerations to make in regard to child support. You may need additional support to pay for therapy or other services that your child requires. Or, you may need to be paid child support beyond the child's eighteenth birthday. All of these special considerations mean that you are best served to hire an attorney to negotiate them for you.
It is not uncommon to have your spouse tell you that he is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that your special needs child is cared for and attended to in the divorce. The next thing you know, he is trying to only be responsible for paying a minimal amount of child support. His argument is that he is more comfortable in taking care of excess costs on his own rather than formally paying you support for them. This is not acceptable, and if you don't hire an attorney to advocate on your behalf he or she may be able to get away with this.
Can you get advice from an attorney without actually hiring him or her?
This is sort of a “can you have your cake and eat it, too?” type of question. I think you would agree that it is a good thing to have the advice of an attorney in your family law case. However, I think most people would assume that to hire an attorney would take a great deal of money and resources that may not be available. I would argue that if you do not want to hire an attorney on a full-time basis, there are many ways to still draw upon the advice and expertise of an attorney.
For instance, in a limited scope arrangement, you can hire an attorney to review paperwork with you and provide you with advice on an hourly basis. If you have a hearing coming up and are not clear on how to approach your case then a lawyer can be hired to work with you on preparing for that hearing. Our office works with clients on this basis with regularity.
Additionally, if yours is an uncontested divorce, you may want an attorney to just draft the final orders in your case. If so, you can hire an attorney to just draft the orders for you. That lawyer will usually not file the paperwork for you as well, but you can take the lawyer’s orders and sign your name to them once you have read and understood the language used.
It is well worth your while to explore what sort of limited scope relationships you can pursue with an attorney. There are benefits to doing so that can last a lifetime for you.
Questions about divorce in Texas? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
Even if you have already been through a family law case in the past, a divorce is a completely different ballgame. To be prepared for what to expect and to understand all of the issues of your case it is advisable that you contact an attorney.
The lawyers with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are equipped to provide you with the sort of legal representation that you need in a southeast Texas divorce case. We represent clients across our community and do so with a great deal of pride. For a free of charge consultation with one of our attorneys, please contact us today. We can answer your questions and provide you with feedback on whatever circumstances that you are facing. Thank you for spending some time with us today.
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Spring Divorce Lawyer
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 ar Spring, TX Divorce Lawyer right away to protect your rights.
A divorce lawyer in Spring TX is 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 Spring, Texas, Cypress, Spring, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.