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Representing yourself in your divorce? Be sure to consider these popular divorce myths

Yesterday we introduced a topic that is an important one in my opinion, namely, popular myths that if believed could harm you during your divorce. Specifically, I noted that myths and untruths couldn’t harm you all that much if you have an attorney but if you are trying to represent yourself then that is not the case. The things you don’t know and the things that you know that aren’t true can all come back to bite you in the rear-end when your divorce is all said and done.

Today we will continue along our track of providing you with a whole lot of truth and some commentary about those truths. Specifically, we will discuss topics ranging from the reasons why you can get a divorce in Texas to just how much fighting actually goes on in a typical Texas divorce.

Divorce is a battlefield no matter what

You and your spouse are probably not too happy with one another if you are considering a divorce. I realize that this is not a super profound statement but it is true nonetheless. Something has caused one of you, perhaps both of you, to want to move towards a divorce. The reasons could literally be anything under the sun but the overall point I am trying to make is your anger/mistrust/apathy has you on the verge of ending your marriage. It is reasonable to conclude, then, that a war of words is about to ensue, right?

Not necessarily. In fact, most divorces are not the full on, drag out mudslinging events that we see in movies and television. Those folks want drama, excitement and anything else that captures the imagination and attention of us as the viewing public. The reality is that divorces are usually pretty straightforward and rarely see the inside of a courtroom.

That’s not to say that divorces are all easy and never end up having awkward or personal moments. This is a marriage that we are talking about so there are all sorts of emotion/history/relational aspects that will need to be sorted through before the case is over with. However, the process is long and pushes you both towards settlement rather than courtroom battles. If it is drama and fighting that you expect in your divorce then you will likely be left disappointed.

Take mediation, for example. Mediation is a process by which you and your spouse mutually agree to a third party attorney who will help you and your spouse settle the outstanding (yet to be settled) issues in your case. This process takes a half day in most cases and sees the mediator act like a ping pong ball- bouncing in between you and your spouse (who are in different rooms) in order to reach a settlement. The judge in your case will likely require that you mediate your case at least twice before coming in to see him or her. Your case likely will be less about fighting and more about finding middle ground.

Your teenagers get to choose who they live with

This is a rumor that people who are seeking attorneys hear about as well. The most popular notion that I have heard about in relation to this idea is that once a child reaches age 13 the child has a right to talk to the judge about which parent he or she wants to live with primarily. With this untruth in mind, parents will come in to talk to me with full confidence that their child is going to end up living with him or her based on the aforementioned myth.

For context, understand that judges make decisions regarding children based on what is in their best interests. There is no standard in the Texas Family Code for what is in the best interest of a child so each judge creates their own subjective interpretation with a few guiding principles mixed in.

The actual legal standard is that a child can speak to the judge about this issue if a parent files a motion to have the child do so. If the child is over the age of 12 the judge must allow for this to occur. If the child is under the age of 12 it is up to the judge to determine if the child is mature enough to do so. Either way, the judge will not be bound by the opinion of the child. He or she will use that opinion along with other evidence and circumstances to make a determination as to where your child should live primarily.

No child support means no visitation

Unfortunately it can happen that some parents do not pay child support that they have been ordered by the court to pay. This is harmful to the child, specifically, but when a parent needs this money in order to budget out the following weeks this can put an entire family in a bind. I have had confused parents tell me that their belief and understanding is that if their ex-spouse fails to make timely and full child support payments that they can then withhold visitation with the child.

This is not true. You cannot withhold visitation from a parent who fails to make timely child support payments. By the same token, a parent cannot withhold child support simply because visitation is being withheld from him or her. The state of Texas has laws like this on the books in order to keep parents from using their children as bargaining chips in post-divorce battles. If your spouse does not allow you visitation with your child or is not paying you child support you would need to file an enforcement suit against him or her. Failing that, you must continue to pay your child support and must allow the other parent time with your children as ordered by the court.

Child support is optional

In most every divorce case, the parent with whom the child does not live with primarily will be ordered to pay child support. Even if you and your spouse agree to a divorce and then go about getting the divorce on your own without an attorney it is likely that the judge will order that some child support be paid unless you can prove that doing so is not in the best interests of your child.

A divorce cannot be completed until you submit your final decree of divorce, along with other documentation to your judge. Then, you or your spouse will need to appear in front of the judge to have him or her review the documentation and formally divorce you both. If he or she does not see that child support is a part of your decree it is likely that you will be asked questions as to why it is not. Divorces can be held up for this reason.

Child support doesn’t mean that your spouse can just choose any number out of the blue and have you ordered to pay that amount. Rather, it is a set number based on your net monthly income multiplied by a percentage (20% for one child, 25% for two and so on up to 50%). It is one of the more straightforward parts of a divorce in most cases.

Concerned about divorce? Contact a family law attorney before moving forward

It is understandable to be worried and intimidated when it comes to divorce. These are important issues that you are going to be deciding and can impact your family for years to come. You want to make good decisions not only for yourself but for your children.

An experienced family law attorney can help you pinpoint the specific issues that are most important to you and your family. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC offers free of charge consultations six days a week with licensed family law attorneys where your questions and concerns can be address in a comfortable environment. We take great pride in representing people in our community just like you. Thank you for your time and interest in today’s subject and we hope you will return tomorrow to learn more about Texas family law.

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