What is a divorce? Yes, it is the dissolution of a marriage relationship. But a divorce is more than just the legal definition. A divorce is often a painful and traumatic life event. To add to the stress of a divorce, a lawful divorce in Texas costs money and has several requirements that must be met. Having a knowledgeable lawyer to help guide you through the legal aspects of the process can be invaluable. At Youngblood Law, we understand that a divorce is likely also a child support battle. It is likely also a visitation and possession battle to determine who will keep the children, and who only gets to visit. Divorce is a time when years of property purchased together gets divided up.
But a divorce is also non-legal in nature. There are emotional effects for the spouses, as well as children and even for other relatives. Divorce can be a logistical nightmare as well. For example, there are questions about who pays for the utilities, insurance coverage, moving expenses, deposits for utilities at an apartment, etc.
What is something a divorce is not? Divorce is not something you have to go through alone. Youngblood Law, PLLC is dedicated to helping our clients through the divorce process so they can move on with their lives.
At Youngblood Law, we focus our practice on divorce and family law. But because divorce is more than just a legal matter, we are dedicated to providing support for our clients before, during and after the divorce is done. From frequent updates about the status of your case to access to our growing network of service providers who can help our clients with the non-legal aspects of divorce, Youngblood Law is there to help and serve our clients, not just to represent them in court. You will feel the difference in our approach from your first meeting.
Give us a call today if you are considering a divorce or you believe your spouse is. Also feel free to call if you are not ready, but you have questions about the divorce process or logistical aspects of the divorce. We are happy to meet with you to answer your questions so you can effectively plan ahead if a divorce is eventually needed.
The legal process of divorce is relatively complex because there are many possible paths to take to get to the desired result. A divorce starts like any other civil lawsuit: you file a petition in the appropriate court and a pay a filing fee. Next, your spouse has to be notified that he or she is being sued for divorce. There is an extra fee if your spouse has to be served. If it is an uncontested divorce, then the spouse can sign a ‘waiver of service’ and formal service is not necessary–this is the less expensive way to go. Once the petition for divorce is filed, the minimum amount of time, by law, is sixty days from the day you file. However, the 60-day waiting period can be waived if there has been family violence.
Contested cases are almost always referred to mediation by the court. Mediation is a very successful process for resolving cases. Mediation can run from $100 to $1,000 per day for each side. That is just for the mediator and does NOT include attorney fees. While this may seem like a lot of money, it can be much less than the cost of a full trial.
How Much Does a Divorce Cost?
Costs can vary dramatically from case to case. For an ‘uncontested’ case (where both spouses agree on everything), total costs of legal fees generally run from $1,000 to $1,500, unless there is extra paperwork to be done, such as; (1) specialized real estate documents or (2) qualified domestic relations orders (QDRO’s), which are necessary to divide a 401k or a retirement account. For contested matters, it could be anywhere from $2,500 to $25,000 or even higher depending on the quantity of hearings required and the amount of work needed to prepare for the hearings. Not all of these amounts are attorney fees. There are also court costs and expenses and could be mediation fees, court reporters, etc. depending on the complexity of your case. In your consultation, we will give you an idea of what costs will be involved and how different options can affect the costs.
The total cost will also depend on things that neither you nor we can control. For example, discovery, mediation, and trial will increase fees, sometimes dramatically. In some cases, they are necessary and may be worth the costs. In many cases, they are not. Discovery is the legal term used to describe the gathering of evidence, and is always advised, but you can waive it.
Each divorce case – like each person – is different. Some start out being ‘uncontested’ then turn nasty. Others start out contested and end up settling quickly. Once again, this is primarily up to the people getting divorced. Few divorces actually go to a final trial. However, much legal work could be required to get the other side to settle. Conversely, a couple can reach an agreement on the division of the marital estate, custody of the children, visitation for the children, etc. and thereby prevent excess cost of litigation.
As mentioned before, the divorce process takes a minimum of 60 days in Texas. However, it can take much longer in some cases. What happens to the children, property, etc. during that time? That is where Temporary Orders come into play. Shortly after the process begins, you can ask the court to issue temporary orders which will address these issues until the divorce is final. For example, temporary orders will often state who has temporary custody of any children – along with visitation for the other parent – child support, psychological evaluations of the parents and/or children, and who is entitled to use of the family home.
Dividing the Assests and the Debts
Texas is a community property state. This simply means that whatever property (real estate, personal property, income and other monies) comes into the possession of one of the spouses belongs to both spouses. There are a few exceptions; property that is inherited, received as a gift, or owned prior to marriage is separate property. Also money received from a personal injury lawsuit – except for funds for ‘lost of earning capacity’ – are also separate property. However, it can be converted to community property in certain situations. Property that is brought into the marriage by one spouse remains separate property, but once again can be converted to community property.
Debt is generally treated the same way as assets. However, some types of debts are more likely to be assessed to one of the spouses. For example if one spouse has cosmetic surgery during the marriage and there is a debt owed on it, a court would be likely to assign that debt to the one who had the surgery. Also, if an asset – for example the family home – is awarded to one of the spouses, then the spouse will generally also take any debt assigned to that asset – i.e. the mortgage.
One thing that often surprises people is that creditors aren’t bound by what’s in your decree. So, if the Final Decree awards a debt that is in both spouses’ names to husband, and husband does not pay, the creditor (let’s say the mortgage company) can sue both the husband and the wife and get a judgment against each one. The Final Decree does not protect the wife against the creditor. If she pays the debt, she can sue husband to recover the money, but she would have to try to collect on any judgment just like any other creditor, which can often be difficult.
If either side has retirement benefits, it can complicate a divorce. Quite often, both spouses have retirement accounts through their jobs and agree that each party keeps their own retirement. However, each spouse is entitled to a share of the other’s retirement accounts. The amount is a complicated formula and requires a “Qualified Domestic Relations Order” or QDRO. This is a complicated process and most attorneys do not draft them. I would employ an attorney who regularly drafts QDROs on your behalf. This usually adds about $600 to the cost of your divorce.
In most divorce cases, the mother gets custody of the children. This is not because of a bias in favor of the mother, but rather that the parents usually agree to this arrangement. There is nothing in the law that favors one parent over the other based on gender. In fact, courts almost always prefer to see both parents involved in the children’s lives as much as possible.
How does the court decide who gets custody? The decision is based upon what the court considers is ‘in the best interest of the child’. Some of the things the court will consider is which parent has participated in the children’s activities, a parent’s past which reflect negatively on him: mental illness, criminal convictions, alcoholism, family violence, or drug use. A custody battle can be quite expensive…a full custody battle can run from $5,000 to $25,000 or higher.
See the Child Custody Page for more detail.
Texas has a standard formula for calculating child support. Basically it is 20% of net resources if there is one child. (25% for two, and increasing percentages for more children). “Net resources” is NOT what you bring home. Generally, it is your total income from all sources, minus federal income taxes, social security taxes, and what you pay for health insurance on the child. There are other things that could affect it as well.
See our Child Support page for more information.
Non-Payment of Child Support
There was a time when little was done to enforce child support. Today, the landscape is very different. Refusing to pay child support is simply not an option. First, the court will almost always order that child support be deducted from paychecks. Eventually, a ‘motion for enforcement’ will probably be filed. Then the person who owes the child support could face jail, fines, and paying the other side’s attorney fees. There are defenses, and if you find yourself in this situation, or if you need to enforce a child support order, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible.
If you are owed child support, there are ways to enforce and collect it that are not available for any other type of debt (except taxes). Call our office and schedule an appointment to find out your options.
Visitation is generally at any time that the parents agree. However, since divorce couples rarely always agree, there is a ‘standard possession order’ that controls when the parents do not agree. This is the standard “1st, 3rd, and 5th weekend” with certain holidays and extended visitation during the summer. We can discuss the details during your consultation.