Divorce is never an easy process. Even when spouses agree the marriage is over and can reach an agreement on certain key issues, a legal process still needs to be followed. And even a relatively low-drama divorce may still have certain disagreements that must be resolved through mediation or litigation.
A qualified San Antonio divorce attorney can offer compassionate guidance through this process. Attorney David J. Rodriguez has been handling divorce cases in Texas for 30 years. He understands this is a difficult time for you and your family. He will work hard to get a fair shake.
What Are the Residency Requirements for a Texas Divorce?
To file for divorce in Texas, you must meet residency requirements. First, you must have been a resident of Texas for at least six months before the date you file for divorce. Second, you must have been a resident of the Texas county where you file for divorce.
What Are the Grounds for Seeking a Divorce in Texas?
Historically, divorce could only be granted in Texas based on the “fault” of one spouse. In other words, one spouse had to accuse and prove the other spouse engaged in behavior that led to the marriage breakdown. Fault-based marriage is still available in Texas on several grounds, including:
- Cruelty: One spouse is guilty of cruel treatment towards the other spouse that rendered the marriage unsustainable.
- Adultery: One spouse engaged in sexual relations with a third party outside of the marriage.
- Felony Conviction: A spouse can seek a divorce if the other spouse has been convicted of a felony, imprisoned for at least one year, and not pardoned for their crime. However, this ground does not apply if the incarcerated spouse was convicted on the testimony of the other spouse at their criminal trial.
- Abandonment: One spouse left the other spouse intending to abandon them and remained away for at least one year.
- Living Apart: The spouses have lived apart without cohabitation for at least three years.
- Confinement: One spouse is confined in a state mental hospital or private mental health facility for at least three years and is unlikely to be cured.
It is also possible to seek a “no-fault” divorce in Texas. Indeed, most divorces are now granted on no-fault grounds. The specific language used in the Texas Family Code states a court may grant a divorce without regard to a fault “if the marriage has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marital relationship and prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.” This is often abbreviated in common parlance to “irreconcilable differences.”
Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce in Texas
Not all divorces mean a lengthy court fight. On the contrary, uncontested divorces are fairly common in Texas. Such “agreed divorces” are often used in no-fault cases where the parties want to end the marriage as quickly as possible and move on with their lives.
An uncontested divorce means you and your spouse have resolved all the critical legal issues before filing paperwork with the court. This includes the following subjects:
- how to divide any real estate and personal property acquired during or through the marriage;
- how to divide any outstanding debts acquired during or through the marriage;
- if one spouse will pay maintenance (alimony) to the other spouse, and if so, the amount, duration, and frequency of such payments; and
- if the spouses have common minor children, a parenting plan to allocate conservatorship (custody) and visitation rights, as well as the non-custodial parent’s child support obligations.
A judge must decide on any of these issues. Even the terms of an uncontested divorce agreement must be reviewed by the court for compliance with certain laws. A set of state-mandated guidelines governs child support. The judge must approve deviations from those guidelines. Similarly, the court must be satisfied that the custody and visitation arrangements are in the child’s best interests.
If a divorce is contested, the parties will proceed like any other civil lawsuit in Texas. There is a period of discovery where each spouse will be allowed to gather evidence from the other spouse and expert witnesses. Each side may need to file many pretrial motions with the court to establish temporary financial support for one spouse or the couple’s children. The judge will then hold a trial and decide on any outstanding issues. Either party can then appeal that decision if they are dissatisfied.
Is Divorce Mediation an Option in Texas?
At any stage of the divorce process, the parties can agree to seek mediation. Divorce mediation involves working with a neutral third party specially trained in helping spouses resolve any outstanding issues, such as child custody or property division. A Texas judge may even refer a divorce case to mediation and appoint a mediator if the parties cannot agree on someone.
Divorce mediation is not arbitration. The mediator cannot compel the parties to reach an agreement. Nor will the mediator decide “who is right” in a dispute. The mediator’s role is to facilitate face-to-face negotiation between the parties. If the process is successful, the divorce mediator can help prepare a draft of a written agreement that can be submitted to the court for final approval. But the parties are always free to walk away from mediation and pursue litigation in court.
Mediation is not appropriate in every divorce case. The parties are unlikely to benefit from mediation if there is a history of domestic violence or other illegal or improper conduct in the marriage. But mediation can often provide significant time and cost savings for parties seeking an amicable resolution to their marriage.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce in Texas?
In a contested divorce, the process can take several months and even well over a year, depending on the complexity of the legal and financial issues involved. With an uncontested divorce, the process will be much quicker. The State of Texas imposes a mandatory 60-day waiting period between filing a divorce petition and a judge issuing a final decree dissolving the marriage. (There are exceptions for cases involving domestic violence.)
Do You Need a San Antonio Divorce Lawyer?
Even in relatively straightforward uncontested divorce cases, a substantial amount of legal paperwork and procedure must be addressed. Divorce is not what you would call a “do it yourself” job. Remember that even if you and your spouse agree on most issues at the outset, if a disagreement on any specific point arises during the process, you will need competent legal advice on what steps to take next.
So if you are contemplating divorce–or your spouse has already served you with legal papers–it is best to speak with an experienced San Antonio divorce attorney as soon as possible. Contact the Law Office of David J. Rodriguez, PLLC, today at (210) 716-0726 to schedule an initial consultation.