Divorce Lawyers in Texas

Divorce Lawyers in Texas

Divorce is one of the most emotional and challenging times people face. Your assets, relationship with your children and your plans for the future all feel like they become question marks. Not knowing your next step and the answers to these questions can leave you feeling lost and alone. An experienced family law attorney can help answer these questions and help you navigate these uncharted waters. 

Divorces in Texas can range from simple, uncontested divorces to extremely complicated cases with high net worth assets and children with special needs. Your divorce lawyer will take time to get to know the issues in your cases, the questions you have and how the divorce is affecting you. 

The basics of a Texas divorce

At its core a divorce in Texas is a lawsuit filed under the Texas Family Code. Many of the steps involved in your divorce mirror other types of civil lawsuits in Texas, such as filing a petition with the courts and discovery. Family law cases are often different from other civil lawsuits because the goal is not just to decide how much money somebody should get for something bad happening to them. 

Residency for a divorce

Before you can file a Texas divorce you or your spouse must establish residency in the county where your divorce lawyer will file. You must reside anywhere in Texas for six months prior to filing and at least ninety days in the county where your lawyer will file for divorce. 

People sometimes ask whether it matters where a divorce is filed. It certainly can. The courts in one county may be more experienced with dealing with particular types of assets than others. If you have children it can be very important because that court will have continuing jurisdiction over any future custody modification or child support enforcement

People also often ask if they need to hire an attorney who regularly practices in the county where the divorce will be filed. Generally yes, you should. All judges have their preferences in divorces and knowing the landscape can have an important impact on the outcome of your case. 

Filing a petition for divorce

Like other Texas lawsuits, your divorce begins when your divorce lawyer files a petition with the court for divorce. You must pay a filing fee to the court and your spouse must be served. (Or sign a waiver of service.) 

After filing for the divorce the legal process of addressing the property division, spousal support, child custody and child support issues begins. Your divorce lawyer may ask the court for temporary orders regarding these issues until the divorce is finalized. Your lawyer also may conduct discovery to obtain information about finances, the children and other important issues. 

Often after discovery the parties will attempt divorce mediation to reach an agreement on the terms of divorce. If mediation is successful, then the parties will create a settlement agreement and prepare to finalize the divorce. If mediation fails, then it may be necessary to have a trial.

Finalizing a divorce in Texas

In Texas two conditions must exist before you and your lawyer can finalize your divorce:

  1. At least sixty days have passed since filing for divorce; and
  2. The contested issues in your divorce are resolved by agreement or trial.

At this time the parties will prepare a final decree of divorce, sign it and ask the judge to sign it. Once the judge signs the final decree of divorce, the divorce is final. 

Can I get a simple divorce in Texas?

Yes. Not every divorce requires months of litigation work or hostile arguing, let alone a trial. Most divorces reach an agreement long before a trial. If the two spouse have an agreement on all the important issues in the divorce, then your divorce might be considered an uncontested divorce. In between complex, expensive divorces and uncontested divorces are many cases where the parties reach an agreement after the divorce lawyers do some work to fully advise clients of their rights. 

Often people start off in a divorce with a lot of negative emotions about their spouse and the process. It is reasonable to feel that way. In many cases as time goes on and people start focusing on their futures, it becomes easier to reach an agreement on concluding the marriage.

Complex divorce cases

Not all divorces are easy. Issues in the divorce can require more work on the part of the divorce lawyers and may require more work to find a resolution. Although this can be the case where the spouses are too focused on the struggles of the past, complex divorce cases often involve complex factual issues in dividing property or dealing with the children. Some examples of divorces that may require divorce lawyers to deal with more complex issues:

  • Divorces requiring spousal support or alimony;
  • Cases involving prenuptial agreements;
  • Children with special physical, emotional, or psychological needs;
  • Divorces with business ownership and trusts;
  • High net worth divorces;
  • Military divorces;
  • Common law marriage divorces;
  • Divorces involving family wealth prior to the marriage;
  • Substantial disagreement about the education, health care, or religious upbringing of the children;
  • Divorces involving domestic violence and protective orders.

Complex factual issues in a divorce does not mean the divorce has to be a bitter fight, but it often takes an experienced divorce lawyer to know how to investigate and propose effective solutions to these issues. 

High net worth divorces

High net worth divorces include divorces with a large amount of assets, usually that require a significant amount of accounting work to understand and address. In these divorces you want a divorce lawyer experienced in dealing with these types of cases and the assets involved in your case. These assets can include:

  • Multiple real estate properties including multiple residences and investment properties;
  • Large retirement plan benefits and executive compensation structures;
  • Stock options, stock grants, restricted stock and other atypical compensation;
  • Business ownership interests, partnerships and LLCs;
  • Trusts created before and during the marriage.

High net worth divorces generally require financial experts, such as forensic accountants, business valuation experts and financial planners, to understand the full picture of the assets involved in the divorce. Many of these types of assets have timing issues, ownership restrictions and associated plans to consider. Failing to consider the bigger picture can be financially disastrous for both spouses.

Compounding these challenges in a high net worth divorce are the state’s community property rules. In Texas assets owned before marriage are the separate property of the spouse who owned them, unless a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement changed that status. The income earned and type of income earned during the marriage on those assets may be community property. Tracing property status through the marriage is a complicated task but essential in high net worth divorces. 

Hiring a divorce lawyer experienced with high net worth divorces will help make your divorce smoother and ensure your financial interests are protected.

Military divorces

Military divorces in Texas follow the same family law as everybody else; however, due to special issues such as deployments, military retirement benefits, military pay and living options, the factual issues in these divorces are often very different from civilians. Servicemembers nee to count on their divorce lawyers to represent their interests with the knowledge of these issues and experience advocating for their needs. 

Undoubtedly the biggest issues in a military divorce involve issues with child custody and child support. Servicemembers have to worry about deployments and relocations far from the other parent and their kids. Due to the structure of military pay, the amount of child support awarded is often at issue. Your Texas divorce lawyer must consider these issues even when dealing with a non-servicemember spouse. 

Servicemembers sometimes try to divorce without hiring a family law attorney, thinking they will get support from JAG or better treatment in court. JAG does not involve itself in divorces and no matter how much respect the judge has for your service, the judge cannot change the law in your favor. A non-servicemember spouse has good arguments to make about the stability of their home and you need an advocate to argue for your side. 

Divorce lawyers are important advocates in divorces with children

Every divorce involving children is also a child custody case. A divorce with children must address all of the same issues in a child custody case including:

  • Parental rights and duties
  • Where the children will live and who decides
  • Possession schedules and visitation
  • Child support
  • Medical support
You can read more about issues in child custody cases and child support orders. 
Custody issues in a divorce with children is often the most difficult emotional aspect of your case. You want to protect your right to be a parent and spend time with your children. You and your spouse may have different ideas about joint or sole custody, child support amounts and other important questions that must be answered before you can finalize your divorce. Your divorce lawyer will fight for you and your relationship before your divorce reaches its conclusion.
Custody and support issues in a divorce with children will either be resolved by a settlement agreement or a trial. If your divorce with children leads to a trial, then the judge or jury will decide these issues on the best interests of your children. What they think is in your child’s best interests may not be what you, your spouse, or both of you, think is best for your children. Mediation often helps reach an agreed outcome where the parents own the custody arrangement; but sometimes taking your case to trial is inevitable. 
Your divorce lawyer plays an important role not only as an advocate but also to advise you on your rights and how the Texas Family Code addresses issues of conservatorship. Sometimes seemingly easy proposals like 50/50 custody require considering other practical and legal issues, such as how to award child support in that type of possession schedule. 

How much will my divorce cost?

Every person who hires a Texas divorce lawyer wants to know what their case will cost. Wanting an affordable divorce lawyer in Texas is reasonable. Most people don’t want to spend a lot of money on a divorce. 

There are a lot of divorce lawyers in Texas and there are different ways law firms approach billing on cases. Some law firms focus on attorneys handling more of the work while others allow paralegals to handle more tasks. Paralegals cost less for work but you may want your attorney spending more time on your case. 

Ultimately the primary driver of expense in a divorce is what it takes to reach a resolution on the property and custody issues. A divorce that goes to trial will typically be far more expensive than a divorce that reaches a settlement in mediation. For most people, there is a balance between spending a small fortune on your divorce and compromising on an outcome. 

The cost of a Texas divorce can vary widely. One study stated the average Texas divorce cost $15,600 without children and $23,500 for a divorce with children. That is combined, so each party can expect to spend on average $7,800 without children and $11,750 with children. Many divorces cost less than these figures but if you and your spouse have a lot of disagreement then you should expect to spend more money. 

Here are some other related questions to how much will your divorce cost in Texas.

Much of the cost of a Texas divorce involves fees for professionals involved in the case. Your attorneys, mediators, child care and financial experts. Before you can really know how to reach a resolution in your divorce you first need to know what is on the table and what options are available. 

Free consultations are not common in family law. Generally you will pay a consultation fee to speak with a divorce lawyer. Typically in a paid family law consultation your attorney will need to spend time reviewing your case and providing legal advise. There are attorneys who offer free consultations for family law cases; however, they are often just sales pitches to get you to give them your business.

Law firms request different amounts for retainers but for a typical case you will likely need to provide $3000-5000 up front.

A retainer secures the attorney’s fees on your case and makes sure the attorney has enough in trust to start work on your case. Much of the work on your case occurs early so it is easy to conduct enough work to exhaust that retainer in as little as a few weeks. When a retainer runs out the law firm may stop working on the case until you replenish the retainer and you do not want the law firm to stop working during a crucial step in your case.

Law firms that charge very little in a retainer often ask for so little to get your business and then constantly need to ask for more money. You may find you talk to them more about paying them than issues in your case.

This is a common question. Often people use credit cards or ask family members for loans to cover the cost of their divorce. Unfortunately not everybody has the credit or family to loan them money. Sometimes people take out 401k loans or tap other sources for funds. In some cases the court will order your spouse to pay your attorney’s fees and costs.

Yes, an uncontested divorce will be cheaper because you don’t have to spend money fighting over issues in the divorce. Whether it makes sense to conduct some discovery to make sure the agreement is fair is up to you, the facts of your divorce and your budget. Also see 10 issues that will make your Texas divorce more expensive.

is a Texas divorce lawyer right for me?

Should I get a divorce?

Whether a divorce is right for your situation is a question only you can answer. Your divorce attorney is here to help you move forward with a divorce but cannot tell you if a divorce is the right decision. Whether it is time to start a new chapter in your life is not an easy decision to make and not a decision to make lightly. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is there still love in the marriage or do you feel more like two roommates?
  • Are you angry about something that could be fixed?
  • Have you tried counseling or other routes to repair the marriage?
  • Have you thought about what life will be like after a divorce?
  • Are you prepared for the children to spend part of their time living in another home?
  • Do you have plans to support yourself financially in a home with one income?
Once you satisfy the residence requirements there is no urgency under the law to obtain a divorce. Unless domestic violence or other issues require you to act quickly for your own safety, you should take time to fully consider your decision and plan for your future.

Schedule a consultation with a Texas divorce lawyer

Once you make the decision that you want to move on from your marriage, then it is time to schedule a consultation with a divorce lawyer in your area. Your divorce lawyer will obtain information to begin investigating your case and planning how to best move forward with your divorce. At that time the law firm can discuss fees and retainer. You may find it helpful to schedule a consultation with more than one divorce lawyer in your area. Not every lawyer is a great fit for every client. You may want to consider you options before signing a fee agreement. 

Additional Texas divorce resources

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