You haven't been living under a rock for the past six weeks, so I know that you are aware of the mass shutdowns, quarantines, and social distancing orders that are in place due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many of you know people who have contracted the virus. Some of you may even have tested positive yourselves. In a time like this, the most prudent thing you can do is take care of yourself. Your family law case will be here when you are back up and healthy.
Problems in your marriage will become evident during a quarantine.
With that said, problems within your family may become exacerbated by several issues related to being at home with your family for an extended period. For one, your typical busy schedule may have caused you to be out of your home more than you were in it. As a result, you may have been able to paper Mache over any relational issues you and your spouse had been having.
Only seeing one another for an hour or two before bed and then hitting the road the following day could cause you all to think that there aren't any problems in your marriage. Continuous contact during a quarantine probably put an end to any illusions you had about the strength of your wedding.
A loss of employment can also cause fissures in your marriage.
Another issue that I have seen create enormous problems for people in marriages teetering on the brink of divorce is a sudden loss of income. You and your spouse may have been doing ok at your wedding when times were good economically. Both of you may have had payments that allowed the bills to be paid, credit cards to be kept up with, and "fun stuff" to be purchased without a second thought.
Cut to our current economic situation as a city, state, and nation, and we would all agree that times have been somewhat challenging. A loss of a job or even the loss of your prior income due to a cutback in hours or pay rate could cause the stress level inside your marriage to reach a peak. At that point, minor disagreements can turn into arguments. Arguments can turn into fights. Fights could turn into a call to a divorce attorney.
Cool down and consider an alternative to the traditional divorce process.
This is where I tell you that not all divorce attorneys will stir the pot and kick the metaphorical hornet's nest that is your marriage. Most attorneys would prefer that you not get divorced in the first place. If a divorce is necessary, the family law attorneys at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan would like to help you craft an agreement with your spouse that upholds your rights and those of your children before any other considerations are made.
The other issue to consider during this time is that the courts are closed to hearings and trials for the foreseeable future. While some matters may be able to go before a judge in a hearing via electronic means (the computer), the courthouses are closed, and regular hearing schedules are up in the air for now. Meaning: even if you wanted to, it would not be easy to get before a judge and have your matter addressed.
With all of this said, there is probably a no better time than now to consider why a collaborative divorce may be best for you and your spouse. For those unfamiliar with what collaborative divorce is, let's go over the basics of this process so that you are in the know.
What exactly is a collaborative divorce?
The best way that I can describe a collaborative divorce is that it is a divorce where you and your spouse can work together to protect the best interests of your children and yourselves. Technically, a typical divorce can also be described in this manner. However, we all have heard the horror stories of divorces gone wrong from friends and family. Fortunately, those divorces do not occur with any great regularity, but they nevertheless do happen. Collaborative divorces seek to take advantage of your and your spouse's desire to work together to achieve a mutually agreeable end to your marriage.
Shielding your children from the inherent conflict of a divorce as well as protecting and preserving your marital property as much as possible are typically the twin aims of a collaborative divorce. Costs of collaborative divorces tend to be a fraction of those "typical" divorces that you may have heard the previous horror stories about.
A Texas take on collaborative divorces.
The hallmark of a collaborative divorce in Texas is that you will be avoiding the courtroom altogether. The thing that most people that sign up for a divorce fear the most is having a judge decide their case. Collaborative divorces seek to shift the decision-making power from a judge to you and your spouse. This, truthfully, is where the power always lays, but the problem is that some spouses love to fight more than they love to resolve issues.
Collaborative divorces are not always walked in the park, however. There will likely still be disagreements between the two of you. However, you can use your lack of hatred to help foster discussions that can ultimately lead to collaborative solutions. Your lawyers will assist in this process as well.
Rather than submitting discovery requests to your spouse for financial information and documents, you and your spouse would agree to exchange documents and financial statements at the beginning of your case. Understand that you and your spouse would sign an agreement not to go to court if you end up having disagreements down the road in your divorce. When there is no tiebreaker in your case, it makes a ton of sense for you and your spouse to set up goals and attempt to meet them rather than focus on petty fights and quarrels.
Decide on your end goals first, and then figure out the steps to get there.
This is a suitable method for you to employ outside of your divorce, as well. If you have a goal that you want to achieve, you identify that goal and then figure out what steps you need to implement to meet that goal. The same lesson can be applied to your collaborative divorce. You and your spouse would mutually identify goals and then figure out whatever methods are needed to get to that goal.
Collaborative divorce does not mean that you and your spouse will avoid discussing the complex issues in your lives. Instead, you will meet those issues head-on and work together to figure out what goals you have for specific areas of your case and your lives.
Time with your kids does not need to be determined via a battle royal.
For instance, the most fundamental question of divorce for two parents would be how they will split time with their children. A collaborative divorce allows you and your spouse to work together, bearing in mind your work schedules and the needs of your children to create a possession/visitation schedule. Judges are not in a great position to craft agreements that suit all parties equally.
Paying bills is a critical yet often overlooked part of your divorce.
You and your spouse may be so caught up in particular aspects of your divorce that you have not stopped to think about how you all will divide up the responsibility to pay bills. School tuition, daycare, the mortgage, car loans, utilities will all be due whether or not you are going through a divorce. While it may seem easy to split them straight down the middle, there are some instances where spouses take weeks, even months, to determine how to divide them up.
In a collaborative divorce, parties are more apt to divide bills reasonably and fairly. Knowing that you cannot fall back on the judge to play tiebreaker means that petty squabbles about a cell phone bill are not likely to distract you both from deciding much more essential issues about your children or property.
Child support does not always have to be a major stumbling block towards divorce completion.
Child support is one of those issues in a divorce that is almost always contested. If you are the parent, who is expected to pay child support, you probably think that the amount that your spouse expects you to pay is too high. On the other hand, if you are the spouse receiving child support, you will probably believe that the standard child support obligation is not nearly enough.
Whatever chair you are sitting in, know that child support can be negotiated in most cases with little to no fighting. The Texas Family Code lays out guidelines for child support that boils down to a math equation. The net monthly income of a payor spouse will be multiplied against a percentage (20, 25, etc.) based on the number of kids involved. That equation will yield a monthly support obligation that will be paid from you to your ex-spouse, or vice versa.
Suppose one of your children has a particular need or other circumstances call for a greater or lesser amount of money to be paid. In that case, that can be negotiated within the collaborative divorce. Remember that you and your spouse agree to disclose financial information to one another at the outset of your case. This makes dealing with child support that much easier.
Remember that child support is not a money-making opportunity nor an effort to drain your pocketbook dry. Ultimately it is a way to ensure that your children are cared for on a fundamental level despite the new living circumstances they will find themselves in over the coming weeks and months.
Keeping as much of your money in your pocket is incredibly important in times like these.
Instead of having to go through months of arguing over discovery, inefficiently hiring multiple people to value your home and other assets, and doubling up on costs associated with other aspects of your divorce, a collaborative divorce allows you and your spouse to utilize the same team of people working on your case. While each of you will have an attorney to advise you, you can save a great deal of money by not having to double up on the hiring of other people associated with your case.
Many clients come to learn very quickly that if you want a war with your spouse, it is not difficult to get. However, that war is going to cost you time. In a divorce, time is going to cost you money. Rather than focus on immediate goals that get you nowhere, like forcing your spouse to spend money, why not focus on goals that are long-term and centered around your future and your children?
In uncertain times where the financial markets, jobs, and even schools are on unsteady ground, it is best for you and your spouse to be in control of your divorce. Do not allow other people, even a judge, to intercede into your case unless you have to. Considering a collaborative divorce in the age of coronavirus may be the best decision that you and your spouse have made in a long, long time.
Questions about COVID-19 and divorce? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the information contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We have our licensed family law attorneys ready to speak with you on the phone and meet with you over video conference six days a week. These consultations are free of charge and can go a long way towards helping you learn more about your particular circumstances within the world of Texas family law.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Do you have coronavirus-related problems? Read this blog post for solutions
- Coronavirus and your Texas family: What you need to know
- Harris County's Stay at home order does not affect exchanges of children
- Divorce COVID style- Why you should consider a collaborative divorce
- How to get a Common Law Divorce in Spring, Texas
- Am I Married? - Marital Status in Texas
- Can I sue my spouse's mistress in Texas?
- When is Cheating Considered Adultery in a Texas Divorce?
- Six things You Need to Know Before You File for Divorce in Texas
- Common Questions about Texas Prenuptial and Marital Agreements
Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's essential to speak with one of our Houston, TX, Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our divorce lawyers in Houston, TX, are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact the 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 Houston, Texas, Cypress, 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.