Contested Divorce in Sugar Land, Texas
Divorce is a life-changing experience. It dismantles your world and forces you to rebuild piece-by-piece. It’s not an easy choice, but sometimes you recognize it as the only alternative. Even when you and your spouse arrive at divorce as a mutual decision, you must still work through the formal legal process. In Sugar Land, Texas, your divorce progresses through the courts as either contested or uncontested. How you file makes a big difference in the time, expense, and emotional distress involved.
Whether contested or uncontested, the divorce process is exhausting, emotionally draining, and Texas Family Codes govern every step you take. You must consider legal, financial, and family issues you previously took for granted. The process itself often clouds your judgment at a time when every decision affects your family’s economic future and sense of well being.
At The Vendt Law Firm, we help guide our clients through the divorce process while protecting their legal rights. Frank J. Vendt Jr. realizes that divorce puts families under the court’s scrutiny. We understand that you want the legal complications resolved quickly. We do whatever we can to move the process forward, but we also know that we must proceed with caution. Every agreement or concession you make affects you and your family now and into the future.
If it looks like you are in for a difficult divorce proceeding in Sugar Land or elsewhere in Texas, call the Vendt Law Firm at (832) 276-9474 or email us.
Our Firm’s Results
At The Vendt Law Firm, our Sugar Land Divorce attorneys have provided professional, effective, and confidential representation for Sugar Land residents navigating the divorce process. We’ve counseled and advised petitioning spouses as they prepared to initiate a divorce. We’ve assisted respondents after they’ve been served petitions. Our lawyers have provided the legal guidance and protection each family needed throughout the stressful divorce process.
Each divorce is different, but every divorce is difficult. Each comes with a complex set of emotional hurdles, legal challenges, and grief for the lost marriage. We’ve helped our clients work through these difficulties. When circumstances allowed reasonable give and take, we’ve strived to settle divorce cases as quickly and reasonably as possible. We’ve litigated cases when that became the only option. While we can’t promise a specific result, we have always done what’s necessary to deliver the best outcomes for our clients. We don’t share confidential case results, but we’re proud when our clients show their appreciation with positive reviews.
Filing for a Divorce in Sugar Land, Texas
A divorce is a petition for dissolution of the marriage where the initiating spouse is the petitioner and the adverse spouse it the respondent. As with many legal disputes, the parties present their issues before the court and seek a favorable decision. Texas Family Codes, Title 1, Subtitle C, Chapter 6 outline state statutes for filing a Suit for Dissolution of Marriage. The initial filing requirements are the same for a contested or uncontested divorce. You must first meet the state’s residency requirements.
- You and your spouse must reside in Texas and you must have lived in the state for six months minimum.
- If you file as a Sugar Land Texas resident, you must prove a minimum three-month residency in Fort Bend County.
- If one spouse has resided in Texas for six months, a spouse who resides in another state or country may file a divorce petition in the Texas county where the current resident lives
- Armed services personnel are Texas residents if they resided in Texas before serving outside of the state or country.
- Military personnel are Texas residents if they have relocated to the state and have served at least six months in the state and the prior 90 days in the county where they choose to file.
Once a spouse files a divorce petition, a process server delivers a copy to the named respondent at the address provided. The respondent must file a formal answer with the courts by the first Monday after 21 days from the service date. The answer must respond to allegations outlined in the petition. If the respondent has allegations of their own, they include them in a counterpetition.
Texas Contested Divorce
A divorce proceeds as contested when critical unresolved issues exist. The filing procedure is the same as with an uncontested divorce. Unfortunately, uncontested divorces become contentious as the parties usually have far more at stake. Emotional issues often get in the way, preventing meaningful discussions and productive agreements. The process moves forward slowly as couples and families work through issues related to one or more of these common situations.
- Mutual children younger than 18
- Property or retirement assets subject to division
- A demand for spousal support
- A pending bankruptcy
- One spouse doesn’t agree to the divorce
Grounds in a Contested Divorce
Grounds are often the catalyst for anger and distress throughout the process. The petitioning spouse asserts one or more grounds, alleging cruelty, adultery, conviction of a felony, abandonment, or other acts. The respondent often answers with a counterpetition and additional claims. Each spouse must eventually present evidence that proves the grounds they allege.
Before citing grounds for a divorce, a petitioner must consider the long-term effects. Before they cite adultery or cruelty as their grounds, they should consider future court appearances. For each allegation against a spouse, a petitioner must present evidence in open court to support their claims. They must also consider that a court’s findings on grounds often influence property division, child custody, and other important family issues.
Hearings and Orders
Based on petition allegations and documentation, motions, and Subtitle C, Sections 6.501 and 6.502 court guidelines, judges issue temporary orders, protective orders, or injunctions. While the courts usually schedule hearings to address these issues, a judge’s authority allows the initial orders without prior notice to the adverse party.
Temporary orders restrain a respondent from certain actions which may harm or intimidate family members or destroy, alter, or dispose of real or personal property, financial accounts, digital communications, and other items. Judges also establish temporary child support and spousal maintenance arrangements.
Texas Family Code Subtitle C, Chapter 6 Section 6.406 outlines protective and related order hearings and procedures which address child custody, child support, protective orders, and other issues.
- The initial divorce petition must include documentation of previous and existing protective orders.
- Texas statutes have mandatory joinder requirements for pending suits affecting parent-child relationships.
- Divorce courts resolve all suits related to children involved in divorce cases.
Child Custody and Support
Child divorce custody issues are a major source of emotional and financial discord. Initial hearings set temporary arrangements for custody and support. Final orders establish permanent custody and support arrangements. Final orders require one or both parents to pay support until a child is 18 or graduates from high school. Subtitle B, Section 154.01, Support of a Child explains additional support requirements for disabled children.
Judges overseeing divorce cases have a great deal of leeway in deciding child custody arrangements. Fortunately, the best interest of the child standard guides the court’s ultimate actions. In reaching a final custody determination, Texas courts rely on guidance under Title 5, Subtitle B, Chapter 153, Conservatorship, Possession, and Access. Judges also consider the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act when a custody disposition requires uniformity with all states. With these guidelines in mind, judges exercise a variety of discovery options before final custody disposition.
- Order for family counseling
- Judicial interview with children
- A joint or sole managing conservator
- An agreed parenting plan
- Parenting classes
Each action or process the judge implements affects your child’s ultimate custody outcome. It’s important that parents understand a judge’s orders, comply with the demands, and attend all hearings or court procedures when allowed.
Texas Family Code, Subtitle C, Chapter 8 discusses a spouses eligibility for maintenance. The statutes outline very narrow circumstances under which one spouse receives support from another. The spouse seeking support must lack sufficient property after the dissolution to meet minimum reasonable needs and meet additional conditions.
- The spouse from whom another spouse requests maintenance was criminally convicted for family violence during the marriage and within two years of the divorce filing or while it was pending
- The spouse seeking maintenance is unable to earn an income because of an incapacitating physical or mental disability
- The spouse seeking maintenance must care for a disabled child
- The spouse seeking maintenance is unable to earn income to meet reasonable needs and the marriage lasted 10 years or more.
When divorcing couples can’t reach an agreement on property distribution, Texas Family Courts make those decisions for them. Title 1, Subtitle C, Chapter 7 outlines state property division statutes which guide judges in dividing property in a manner that’s just and right, having due regard for the rights of each party and any children of the marriage. This allows judges a great deal of flexibility in deciding community property divisions. Property subject to division includes these broad categories.
- Residences and other real property
- Retirement accounts
- Insurance proceeds
- Business interests
- Bank and other financial accounts
- Fine art and valuable collectibles
- Personal property
Section 7.008: Consideration of Taxes requires that a presiding judge determine the taxability of any community asset. Judges must also consider community estate distribution options with values diminished due to spousal fraud.
How Do Divorcing Parties Try to Avoid Community Property Distribution and Support Orders?
Financial issues often slow down the divorce process. As Texas guidelines allow court discretion and flexibility when deciding property divisions, child custody, and spousal support, spouses often use legal and illegal means to avoid financial losses.
- Prenuptial agreements: Spouses execute agreements before a marriage to avoid asset distribution if divorced.
- Fraudulent disposition of community assets: Spouses hide or dispose of assets to avoid property division during divorce proceedings. When a judge learns of an asset fraud, they calculate the division as though the asset were still available.
- Custody battles: Some spouses use custody as a tool to retain financial resources.
- Refusal to negotiate: Spouses refuse to participate in meaningful negotiations. This forces a delay until trial.
Contested divorces are resolvable through negotiation, but only if the spouses cooperate. Mediation provides a negotiation forum for resolving contentious divorce issues prior to trial. The process works as it takes place in a neutral setting. It brings divorcing parties and their legal representatives together with no pressure to make decisions.
Mediators are neutral third parties who facilitate stalled negotiations. They accomplish this by listening to each side and encouraging information sharing and productive negotiation. A mediator has no authority to decide an issue. The process won’t necessarily resolve a divorce stalemate, but it often lays the groundwork for better communication and faster resolution.
Contested Divorce Trial
As with all litigation, the courtroom is the ultimate destination. Divorcing parties have many opportunities to resolve differences. When their issues are too complex or emotional, a trial is often the only solution. During a trial, a judge hears evidence and makes the decisions the divorcing parties couldn’t make.
Contact Our Sugar Land, Texas Divorce Attorneys
Divorce is a legal process, although sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. Emotion and anger often take center stage. They drive your actions when circumstances require conscientious decision-making. At The Vendt Law Firm, our Sugarland Divorce attorneys work to resolve complex issues and legal complications. We dedicate our time, effort, and experience to moving our clients’ divorce cases toward disposition. We strive to settle, but we prepare to litigate when necessary. Call us at (832) 276-9474, or complete our contact form at The Vendt Law Firm online to schedule your divorce consultation.