Do I Need an Attorney when Divorcing in Texas?

The short answer is no. Texas is a ‘no fault’ state, meaning there is no requirement to prove grounds for divorce to dissolve your marriage. This helps simplify the process and can cut down considerably on how long it takes to finalize the agreement. However, filing uncontested and without representation rarely goes as quickly or as smoothly as couples might hope. Hiring a Texas divorce attorney will help you reach the best possible settlement. A qualified lawyer can also help you avoid many of the pitfalls and delays you might experience when self-representing.

When Should I Hire an Attorney?

Even when there are no children to consider or disputes to settle, a divorce involves far more than just a change of name and marital status. You and your spouse will need to address several subjects that can be a source of conflict in even the happiest of relationships. Depending on your situation, your settlement will include one or more of the following:

  •  Child custody and visitation rights
  •  Child support
  •  Distribution of personal property, bank accounts, stocks and other assets
  •  Division of marital liabilities
  •  Sale or possession of the marital home
  •  Spousal support and temporary support

These topics are unlikely to be any easier to discuss now than they were before you made the difficult decision to go your separate ways, especially when children are concerned. Each of these subjects also involves their own unique laws that can be difficult to understand. As a result, most people who choose to self-represent end up leaving a lot on the table. While some aspects of a divorce decree can change and grow with your family, other aspects can only be modified or appealed under very specific circumstances. A Texas divorce attorney spends years familiarizing themselves with each of these subjects. They’ll advocate for yours and the rights of your children, to make sure you get the best possible settlement right from the start.

Can we use the Same Attorney?

Some couples may try to save money by hiring a single attorney to mediate the divorce. However, in Texas a divorce attorney can only represent one spouse. They have a contractual obligation to seek the best possible settlement for their client. Fulfilling that obligation may require them to go against the best interest of the other spouse. If your spouse hires an attorney, the only way to guarantee a reasonable settlement is to hire your own attorney.

Child Custody

The primary concern of every parent when filing for divorce is how it will affect their children. Lengthy custody battles are expensive and traumatic for all involved but especially the children. This is why attorneys usually try to find solutions outside the courtroom. The structured format of mediation helps ensure all aspects of custody and support are discussed and agreed upon without the stress and strain of a lengthy trial. Mediation also ensures a predictable settlement by keeping the decisions in the hands of the parents, instead of leaving it up to the discretion of a judge.

During mediation you will establish each parent’s legal or physical custody. Legal custody refers to the right of a parent to make decisions on behalf of their child. Physical custody refers to the child’s daily care. Custody may be held jointly or a single parent may be awarded primary custody. For example, a parent may have primary physical custody, meaning the child lives primarily with them. However, the parents may share joint legal custody, meaning they have agreed to make any legal decisions together on behalf of the child. Your attorney will help you fight for a custody agreement that best serves the needs of your children while protecting your rights as a parent.

Visitation and Child Support

Visitation rights address how the parents split their time with the children when they are not in school. The agreement should detail pick up and drop off days and times as well as how holidays, birthdays, and vacation time will be split. With parents often moving out of state or across town during or after a divorce, establishing an equitable visitation schedule may be challenging. A Texas divorce lawyer will help you understand your visitation rights and work toward the best arrangement for your situation.

Which parent will be paying child support, as well as the amount and schedule upon which that amount is to be paid will also need to be determined. Child support is typically paid from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent, but this is not always the case. This payment schedule is intended to be used to ensure the needs of the child are met.

You’ll also want your custody agreement to include how decisions related to religion, education and upbringing of the child will be decided. What these decisions entail will depend on each family’s culture and values.

Your agreement should also include a plan for how and when modifications may be made to the agreement. While it may seem excessive or unnecessary to go into such great detail, having a written custody agreement prevents future conflict and ensures your parental rights are upheld.

Dividing Marital Assets and Liabilities

The division of marital assets and liabilities varies from state to state and can be very confusing. Texas is no exception. Though Texas is a “community property” state, not all assets or liabilities acquired during the marriage are considered communal. Some assets may still meet the standard of “separate property” even if they were acquired during the marriage. Other factors, such as which spouse gets primary custody of the children, may also affect the division of assets. Hiring an attorney helps ensure that these items are fairly divided in accordance with state guidelines.

The Marital Home

The marital home is typically considered to be community property. However, as it cannot be equally split, a few different factors may determine ownership of the marital home. Staying in the marital home helps reduce how much a divorce disrupts the lives of any children that may be involved. As such ownership of the marital home is often givento the primary custodial parent. However, the ability to afford the financial responsibility of home ownership will also be taken into consideration. 

Spousal and Temporary Support

There are two types of spousal support: temporary support and spousal support. These support payments are in place to help a spouse with fewer resources to maintain a certain standard of living during and after the divorce. Spousal support payments may be for a set period of time or for life. 

With all the complexities of divorce, we strongly recommend hiring a divorce lawyer familiar with Texas divorce law. If you’re not sure where to start then call Illaraza Law today to speak with one of our qualified attorneys about your next step.

If you are facing divorce and would like to learn more about how you can protect your parental rights and assets, call Illaraza Law today at (214) 646-3253 to speak with an experienced Texas divorce attorney.