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What effect does reconciliation have on equitable distribution?

Have you ever had second thoughts about an important decision? I think we all have found ourselves in a position where we are having to seriously reconsider a decision that we made or will need to make shortly. That decision could relate to our family, our work, or another matter entirely. Human nature is a tricky thing to get a hold of. One second we could feel confident about a certain decision that we have to make, and the next we could be left scratching our heads.

When we have an important decision to make, there are lots of ways to figure out what direction to go in. We can try to be objective about the situation, remove all emotion and simply assess the situation as rationally as can be. On the other hand, some of us would prefer to put emotion at the forefront of our decision-making. Lead with the heart, as some would say. This can allow you to understand how you feel about a particular subject on a basic level- removing all those thoughts that our brain may attempt to use. 

However you ultimately make decisions in your life, the fact is that we as humans have trouble making up our minds a lot of the time. This can be true in relatively unimportant situations just as much as it can be true in important scenarios. Have you ever sat there staring at the drive-thru menu or the face of a busy waitress and had no clue how to decide what to eat for lunch? What about choosing whether to go to Galveston or  Lake Conroe for a weekend of rest?

My point is that in all of this, it can be a chore to have to think through all of the factors, emotions, and other issues that surround certain problems in our lives to make a decision. Even after a decision is made, we are still capable of changing our minds and wanting to go back and reassess.  If this sounds like you then you can join the club. Indecision can impact all of us in particular ways. What we can hope for is to avoid the pangs of indecision when it comes to the issues that are most important in our lives and that of our children. 

If you are going through a divorce then I can think of no decision that is more important than simply choosing to start the process. There is an old saying that goes something like this: "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Meaning: sometimes beginning a process or journey is the hardest part. If you have struggled with the decision regarding whether or not to begin a divorce in Texas then today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is for you. You are not alone when it comes to having second thoughts about considering or filing a divorce case. 

Our attorneys get calls on a not infrequent basis from clients stating that they are having second thoughts about the divorce. Their spouse may have asked them to reconsider for the sake of the family or their children. The client may be shying away from divorce because it is clear the process is too much to take from an emotional or financial perspective. Or, the person may have figured out that the divorce is not going to go the way that he or she had planned and it is better to put the case in reverse rather than to proceed. 

Whatever the reason, as an attorney we have to respect the decision that a person makes. There are factors to consider when it comes to divorce and reconciliation, however. Done well and with enough intentionality, reconciliation can be a great thing for your family and your kids. On the other hand, if the reconciliation attempt is being done haphazardly or without considering the implication of that decision it can delay the inevitable, increase the cost of the divorce and end up driving a wedge further between you and your spouse. This can impact your post-divorce relationship a great deal- especially regarding how you will co-parent your children as single adults. 

What issues should you consider when reconciling during a divorce?

Ultimately the decision to reconcile is a two-way street. You and your spouse must both agree that reconciliation is what you want as a team. If you decide that you want the reconciliation and call your attorney to discuss that the first thing your lawyer will probably do is call their opposing counsel and make sure that their clients want the same thing. It's a heartbreaking situation for you to want to reconcile but to find out that your spouse does not feel the same way. A divorce can and will proceed even if only one spouse wants to split up. 

So, once you and your spouse have made a coordinated decision to end or pause the divorce to attempt to reconcile what are some questions that you need to ask yourself to determine how to proceed? What needs to be done regarding the divorce case as far as alerting the court? Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are in a position where a divorce reconciliation is a distinct possibility in your case. 

Is your case going to be dismissed anytime soon? Most courts are pretty lenient with how long they will allow your case to remain on the docket even if nothing is being done within it. There is a legal concept known as DWOP- dismissed for want of prosecution. Meaning- nothing was done on the case, the ball wasn’t getting moved forward so the judge tossed the case off their docket. Housekeeping for judges. Take out the trash and all that. This could happen to your divorce if you and your spouse attempt to reconcile for an extended period and do not motion the court to dismiss your case.

Why does this matter? Well, you and your spouse may not be able to pull off the reconciliation as you would have hoped.  The issues that were driving you apart may prove to be more significant than you had bargained for. As a  result, the divorce may still be necessary even after months of reconciliation attempts. However, if you are not careful (and your attorneys aren’t, either) the judge may dismiss your case after a hearing to determine why nothing has been done in so long. 

This can cause you to have to go back, re-file the divorce and start from scratch. Time, money, and emotion may have gone into this process that can never be retrieved once you have to re-file a divorce. Instead, you could file an agreed motion to dismiss the case once you all determine that the reconciliation will be effective. Or, you can appear at the DWOP hearing to explain what is happening in your case. The judge can talk to you about allowing you to take a few more weeks or months to reconcile before dismissing the case. This is much preferable to having the judge do so after you all don't attend a hearing at all. 

Another issue that is important to consider is that of any temporary orders that have been set up or injunctions to the same extent. These injunctions are valid court orders even if you and your spouse are reconciling. If you are required to pay temporary child support or give your spouse exclusive use of the family home, for example, then she would be within her rights to technically hold you to those orders. This is not exactly ideal when you are attempting to reconcile a marriage on the rocks. 

You should take a look at those orders and any other requirements from your case to see if something could go wrong during the reconciliation. There are a million different specific factors that may be relevant to your case that you need to consider. Do not put yourself in a position where your spouse can potentially hold you accountable for an order that is based on a divorce that you are no longer seeking. Is it incredibly likely that he or she would do that? Probably not. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't even consider the possibility. 

This means that you and your spouse should probably talk through these issues and put something down in writing to temporarily lift any injunctions or pause any orders that are in place temporarily. You can file an agreed motion to suspend temporary orders and file that with the court. This way you can cover all your bases and make sure that there are no issues with continuing to negotiate your way through a reconciliation while your divorce is ongoing simultaneously. 

Another consideration, and probably the most important one to think about, is what will the reconciliation do for your children. Most of your children may be overjoyed to find out that their parents are trying to stay together in the marriage. Kids thrive on consistency and stability. This means that if you and your spouse can remain married that their level of consistency and stability would increase dramatically. 

However, this can also mean that your children could be disappointed in a big way if you all are not able to work out a solution to your marital problems. Consider their reaction if you told your kids that you and your spouse were going to try and work out the problems in your marriage, only to tell them a few weeks later that you couldn’t do it and the divorce was going to proceed. This could be a real gut punch to your children and may come completely out of the blue. 

Remaining in a failing marriage only for the sake of your children may be a noble goal but it may not be something that you are comfortable with. You may be able to argue that you and your co-parent will be able to parent more effectively if you get a divorce. Whatever your circumstances are you should consider the children when attempting to go in any one direction. Do not assume that your children will be able to handle any changes that come their way. Rather, your children may be impacted by this decision more profoundly than you give them credit for. The chaos of trying to reconcile during a divorce may only add to the general chaos of the divorce. If your children are already struggling with this you may expect them to continue to struggle moving forward. 

Reconciliation and equitable distribution

Reconciliation in your relationship may also have an impact on how property is ultimately divided in a community property circumstance. Specifically, we need to consider how your separate and community property is valued in terms of the date that your divorce was filed as well as the date that you and your spouse attempted to reconcile your marriage. Whereas property may have been valued at a certain figure during the time of your divorce, that number may change if you attempt to reconcile with your spouse.

For example, let's say that you and your spouse are heavily invested in the stock market. In that case, the date of your divorce beginning may have your stocks and mutual funds valued at a certain figure that is much different than if you all attempted to reconcile and then utilize that date to determine the value of your community property assets. A sudden increase or decrease in the value of your investments could impact how community property is divided. 

This can be a complicated and extremely important subject to discuss about your divorce. Certainly, you cannot put a dollar value on the ability to reconcile and save your marriage. Rather, you should also think about what could happen if you are not able to reconcile. Re-filing your divorce at a later date after having your case dismissed because you assumed that reconciliation will be possible can dramatically shift how your community property division occurs. While this probably will not be the most important factor for you and your spouse to consider it is important, nonetheless.

What about fault grounds for divorce?

Another interesting topic to discuss about reconciliation and divorce is what a reconciliation may do to allegations of adultery, cruel treatment, or other fault grounds for divorce. For example, we can consider a situation where you filed an original petition for divorce against your spouse and listed adultery as a fault ground. This fall ground for divorce may have been based on your spouse has cheated on you repeatedly and having utilized community resources to help purchase gifts for their significant other.

In a typical divorce, this type of situation may have led to a disproportionate share of your community property being awarded to you in the divorce. However, because you and your spouse attempted to reconcile your marriage that may have some impact on a judge’s ability to agree that adultery was a valid fault ground to assess for your case. In that case, you may have waived your right to establish fault grounds based on adultery by attempting to reconcile. This is an important consideration for you to make for your case. If you are asserting fault grounds in your petition for divorce, then you should think long and hard about what a reconciliation attempt may do in terms of the ability to move forward with those fault grounds in your case. 

Final thoughts on reconciliation and divorce in Texas

As with anything else in the world of Texas family law, your specific circumstances matter a great deal we were talking about how your family and your case may be impacted by a reconciliation. Family law cases are incredibly fact specific. This means that you should not assume that what matters to your friend’s divorce will matter to yours. You need to look at the specific circumstances that you are dealing with and then project how the Texas Family Code will impact those circumstances.

The best way to be able to make these kinds of educated guesses is to work with an experienced family law attorney. An experienced family law attorney will be able to help you by guiding you through the difficult decision-making process that oftentimes comes with a divorce. If you are adding a potential reconciliation to the already complicated nature of a divorce then it is best to be able to rely upon an experienced family law attorney to help guide your family into, and possibly out of, a divorce.

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 circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.

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