Richmond Divorce Attorney
Divorce is a term used to describe the legal separation of a married couple. The experience is, without a doubt, very challenging for both of the spouses, and also for the children. There are many issues that need to be addressed. The division of property, the support and custody of children, spousal maintenance, and many more issues warrant attention.
If you’re contemplating divorce, you’re not alone—9.4 percent of Richmond residents are divorced, and 3.9 percent are separated.
To guide you through the process at a time when you are in an emotionally vulnerable state, it is a wise decision to hire the services of a divorce attorney. Our Richmond, Texas, divorce attorney at The Vendt Law Firm, PLLC, can help you settle all the important aspects related to your divorce proceedings.
What Are the Key Issues When Seeking a Divorce?
Some of the key issues we would look into for people filing a divorce case are:
- Eligibility requirements
- Division of property
- Child custody
- Child support
- Spousal support
- Uncontested divorce
Read on below for more information regarding each of these issues.
The first consideration when planning to file for divorce in Texas is ensuring that you are eligible. In order for a divorce to take place in Texas, the following conditions must be met:
- You or your spouse must be a resident of the state for at least six months, and must live in the county where you are filing for at least 90 days.
- Your last marital residence must be within the state, and you must file a petition for divorce within two years after that residence ended.
- There must be grounds for a divorce. Texas honors both no-fault grounds as well as fault. The most common grounds for divorce is the no-fault grounds of insupportability. What this means is that a discord or conflict of personalities has destroyed the marriage and have prevented a reasonable expectation of reconciliation. Other examples of grounds for divorce include abandonment for at least one year, adultery, confinement in a mental hospital for at least a year when adjustment is unlikely, conviction of a felony, cruelty, or living apart for at least a year.
- If one of the parents is in the United States Armed Forces and is not considered a legal resident of the state, but has resided at one or more of the military installations within the state for at least six months and in the county of a Texas military installation for at least 90 days, then he or she is eligible to file for a divorce within that county.
Division of Property
When it comes to dividing marital assets in a divorce, Texas is a community property state. This means that, in most cases, the property that was acquired during the marriage belongs to both spouses and must be divided. Contrary to popular belief, this does not mean that the property will always be divided on a strict 50/50 basis. Instead, the state requires a division of property that is “just and right” in accordance with the circumstances in which the divorce is taking place. Some factors that are considered when dividing marital property include:
- Who has the children most of the time?
- What is the earning ability of each spouse?
- What is the overall health status of each spouse?
- What were the grounds for divorce?
Frequently Asked Questions About the Division of Assets
Q: If I owned assets before the marriage, must those assets also be divided in a way that is just and right?
A: No. The assets that belongs to each spouse individually before the marriage continue to belong to each individual spouse after divorce. Some examples of separate assets acquired by one spouse before the marriage include: an inheritance, a gift given to only one spouse before the marriage, and recoveries for a personal injury experienced pre-marriage by one spouse, with the exception of recoveries for future earnings that cover the time period of the marriage.
Q: Are one spouse’s pension or employment benefits considered community property in a divorce?
A: The money paid into the pension or other employee benefit plan during the marriage is considered marital property and is subject to division in the event of a divorce. The benefits from a 401(k) or other retirement plan are divided via a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), with funds disbursed within 30 to 90 days after the order is received by the employer. It should be noted that, if both spouses have their own retirement account, the funds of each account may be simply awarded to the spouse who is named on the account.
Q: What if my spouse owns a business, I own a business, or we own one together?
A: A business is also subject to the division of marital property if it has been created or developed during the marriage. The division of this asset generally requires the services of a certified public accountant and a business appraiser in order to determine the value. Once a value has been placed on the business, then a determination on an equitable division can be made.
The most emotional and long-lasting decision in a divorce is a determination of child custody, known in the state of Texas as conservatorship. The court presumes that both parents will act as joint managing conservators of their children. However, the actual determination of who the child lives with the majority of the time (known as possessory conservatorship), who makes legal decisions for the child (known as managing conservatorship), and access to the child and possession of the child (visitation) by the other parent is made in accordance with what the court considers to be in the best interest of the child. The factors that are considered when determining the child’s best interest include:
- The stability of the home environment of each parent and whether either home poses a physical or emotional danger to the child
- The extent to which each parent has been involved in raising the child
- The distance between the parents’ homes
- Each parent’s ability to serve as the child’s caretaker, taking into account the physical and emotional needs of the child
- The ability of the parents to work together to make decisions on the child’s behalf
- Each parent’s employment situation, and whether or not their employment affects their ability to take care of their child
- The child’s preference, if the child is over 12 years old
Frequently Asked Questions About Conservatorship
Q: Does the court ever prevent one parent from having visitation?
A: Yes. In the case of neglect, domestic violence, abuse, drug use or other criminal behavior, the court can limit the access that one or both parents have to the child.
Q: What legal responsibilities does a parent who is the managing conservator of the child have?
A: The child’s managing conservator makes decisions such as which school the child will attend, the child’s religious upbringing, and which medical treatment the child will have. In a joint managing conservatorship, both parents are involved in making these decisions and either parent can sign for medical treatments and has access to medical and school records.
Q: What is the usual visitation schedule for non-custodial parents?
A: Texas has a Standard Possession Order that allows non-custodial parents possession of their child on rotating weekends if the parents live less than 100 miles apart, at least 30 days during summer vacation, and divided holidays. This order can be modified to fit the needs of the child or to take into consideration a distance between the parents’ homes that is greater than 100 miles.
Q: Can my spouse and I develop our own parenting plan?
A: Yes, and developing a plan that both of you agree with is encouraged. However, be advised that—even if you’ve developed your own parenting plan—the court can revise that plan if it determines that the provisions you’ve agreed to are not in the best interest of the child.
The state of Texas believes that child support is the joint responsibility of both parents. However, when determining the amount to be paid by the non-custodial parent, the only consideration generally is the net income of that parent. The state guideline for support is as follows:
- One child: 20 percent of the non-custodial parent’s net income
- Two children: 25 percent of the non-custodial parent’s net income
- Three children: 30 percent of the non-custodial parent’s net income
- Four children: 35 percent of the non-custodial parent’s net income
- Five children: 40 percent of the non-custodial parent’s net income
In most cases, the support order follows these guidelines. However, if the court finds that following the guidelines is not in the best interest of the child, the custodial parent’s income may also be considered. The court also considers child support or alimony payments that the non-custodial parent is making due to a previous failed marriage when determining support, even if those previous payments were not court-ordered, provided there is verification that the support is being paid. When ordering payments, the court can not obligate the non-custodial parent for more than 50 to 65 percent of his or her net earnings for all support orders.
Other items that might be considered as add-ons to the support paid, deductions from the support ordered, or deviations from the standard support order include: health insurance, daycare expenses, educational or healthcare needs, the cost of traveling to visit the child, whether either parent has a car or housing supplied by his or her employer, the amount of alimony being paid or received, and any other relevant factor.
Child support is generally provided until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school—whichever happens later. If the child is disabled, the court can order that support be continued longer. Support may be discontinued earlier if the child marries, joins the military, has a child of their own, or dies.
Alimony, also known as spousal support or maintenance, is not a given. It is, instead, a decision that is designed to make the divorce equitable for both parties. Either party may be eligible for maintenance, based on the following considerations:
- What are the financial needs of each spouse?
- What are the education levels and job skills of each spouse?
- Did the marriage last at least 10 years?
- What is the emotional and physical health of each spouse?
- Was the paying spouse convicted of an act of family violence in the last two years or while the divorce was pending?
- Does the recipient spouse have the ability to meet his or her own financial needs?
- Was there any marital misconduct on the part of the spouse seeking maintenance?
The Texas Family Code prevents the court from ordering spousal support that requires the payer to pay more in a month than the lesser of $2,500 or 20 percent of his or her net earnings. The code also limits the amount of time that maintenance must be paid to three years, unless the recipient of the support is mentally or physically unable to work, or who has custody of a disabled child from the marriage.
Not all divorces are adversarial or require a lot of time and consideration to resolve. If you and your spouse do not have children under 18, do not own property, have no retirement benefits to divide, do not have an ongoing bankruptcy case, and you are in agreement that you want to end the marriage, you may be eligible for an uncontested divorce.
As simple as an uncontested divorce can be, it is still recommended that you have the counsel of an experienced divorce attorney to ensure that you qualify for this type of divorce, that your rights are protected, and that you understand the process, proceedings, and the agreements you are signing.
The Process of Divorce
A divorce is initiated in Texas when one spouse (known as the petitioner) files a petition for divorce in the county where either party lives. This petition must also be “served” to the other party (known as the respondent). The respondent then has 21 days to file an answer with the court. If he or she does not do this, then the case proceeds without his or her involvement. The petition may be served via a law enforcement officer, private process server, or by having the other spouse sign a waiver of service.
Unless the respondent in the case has been convicted of an offense involving domestic violence against the petitioner or someone in his or her household, or there is an active protection order against the respondent against the petitioner, Texas requires a 60-day “cooling off” period between when the original petition for divorce is filed and the hearing for the final divorce decree. During that time, each party should ensure that they have the financial information they need from each other. This is also the time in which, if possible, the parties work on an agreement on child custody and the division of property. If they are able to agree on all issues, then one of the spouses’ attorneys may prepare an Agreed Decree of Divorce to be signed by both parties and provided to the court at the hearing.
Before the divorce is final, it may be necessary for the judge to issue temporary orders in order to satisfy immediate needs. Some of the items that can be included in temporary orders include who has custody of the children, who can live in the marital home, and who can write checks on the marital bank accounts. If there are children involved in the divorce, both parents will also be required to complete parenting classes.
Once the hearing takes place, the judge will review all documents submitted, ask any questions he or she has of either party, and will issue the final decree that details all of the arrangements of the settlement, including child custody, property division, support and maintenance. Either party can obtain a certified copy of the final decree from the county clerk’s office. In most cases, the newly divorced parties must wait at least 30 days before they are eligible to marry someone else.
How a Richmond Divorce Attorney Can Help
Divorce cases can be both emotional and time-consuming. Even if the divorce happens with the mutual consent of both parties, having an experienced attorney can help you to ensure that all of the items that need to be considered in the divorce are brought to light and that the process is properly followed. If you are considering a divorce or a legal separation in Richmond, Texas, or anywhere in Fort Bend County, you can get in touch with us at The Vendt Law Firm, PLLC, today for a consultation. With our experienced family lawyer, you can be in a stress-free zone when it comes to your divorce case. In addition, you are absolutely welcome to share any concerns or queries related to the divorce proceedings. We will be more than happy to address your questions. Upon hiring The Vendt Law Firm, PLLC, we will work to end your case as swiftly as possible.
Contact our Richmond, Texas, divorce attorney at (832) 276-9474 or contact us here. We will try to reply to you within 24 hours.