An uncontested divorce is the quickest and the least expensive way to get divorced in Texas.  In this type of divorce both parties must be able to remove the emotional side of divorce and treat the process as a business transaction without the need of extensive litigation.

To quality for an uncontested divorce both parties must be in agreement with all of the following terms:

  • Agree to be divorced
  • Have a solid agreement on all issues
    • Child custody, Visitation and Access
    • Child support
    • Division of community assets
    • Division of retirement funds
    • Agree to use one attorney
    • Voluntarily sign all legal documents without service on any party

Simply put, a Contested Divorce situation exists when one or more requirements listed above are absent.  Furthermore, an uncontested divorce can be finalized on the 61st day after filing the original petition for divorce.   This time includes the required 60 day cooling off period required by the state of Texas.

In most cases, the uncontested divorce process is completed at a fraction of the cost of a contested case.  To read more about our uncontested divorce process visit our agreed divorce page:

Uncontested Divorce

Disclaimer: The material obtained from this site is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult an attorney for advice regarding your own legal situation.

PULL YOUR CREDIT REPORT

Pull your credit report before the divorce so that anything in dispute can be resolved before the divorce is final. There are three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Be sure to get a copy of your report from each of them. You can view all the reports one time per year at no charge.  A website to request your credit reports is www.annualcreditreport.com. The reports are the quickest and easiest way to get an overview of the outstanding loan balances, mortgages and credit card debt that you and your spouse will eventually divy up.

OPEN INDIVIDUAL BANK, CREDIT CARD AND BROKERAGE ACCOUNTS

You also need to do this before the breakup is official. It will be easier to get a credit card and bank account in your own name while you are still married and share joint assets and debt on credit cards, mortgages and loans. This is especially important for a woman who has never established credit in her own name.

CLOSE ALL JOINT ACCOUNTS

A divorce can take time. To avoid acquiring additional joint debt (or suddenly losing shared bank assets) during the legal process, close your joint credit card and bank accounts. You will, however, still be jointly responsible for paying off the balances of the closed accounts. Cancel the accounts in writing and be sure to request that they report each account as “closed by customer” to the credit bureaus.

KEEP SEPARATE PROPERTY SEPARATE

Assets you brought to the marriage separately such as real estate, vehicles, inheritance, gifts, and money you acquired before marriage are yours to take away from the marriage. If you put any separate assets into a joint account, they may be considered joint property.  If you’re going to take separate money and give it to the marriage, then either decide to kiss it goodbye or do some loan documentation, because if you don’t, you’re going to lose it.  Separate debt also travels with you. For example, if you brought a student loan into the marriage, you carry it out with you, even if your spouse was helping to pay it off.

CONSIDER SELLING THE HOUSE

Traditionally, women tend to keep the family home at all cost. Unfortunately, it’s often an emotional decision that makes poor financial sense.  It is one of the biggest mistakes women make if careful financial consideration has not been used in determining whether or not she can really afford such a huge investment on her own.  Seriously consider selling the house, even though it’s hard. It’s an emotional tie that ends up strangling the woman.  Sell the house and take what you make and put it into something where you know that you’re able to pay your expenses and have a cushion, especially in an economy where we have no clue what’s going to happen.

CHANGE THOSE BENEFICIARIES

Despite what your divorce decree says, if you don’t change the beneficiaries on your will, trusts, IRAs, pension plans and life insurances, your ex could wind up with an unexpected windfall in the event of your untimely demise. As long as you’re at it, this is a good time to review your various policies to make sure they fit with your new circumstances. And don’t forget to delete your ex-spouse from these documents and policies and change your marital status where applicable.

RECLAIM YOUR NAME

For some women, divorce adds another task: reclaiming your name. If you’re reverting to your maiden name, you may be required to produce the divorce decree or document signed by your ex-husband that acknowledges your new name in order to obtain a new driver’s license, social security card, passport or other identification. Use your new name to announce your new marital status to your circle of contacts: your doctors, employer, human resources department, children’s teachers, landlord, pharmacist, mail person, health insurer and clergy.  Don’t forget to register your name change (and adjust your withholding if needed) on your W-4 and other tax forms and with the Social Security Administration. A mix-up could cause you to lose valuable Social Security credits for your work, and you may have to show proof of both names when applying for benefits.  On the other hand, if you have small children, some women choose not to change their name because of the children.  If this is your choice, remember, it is your choice as no one can force you to change your name, including your soon to be ex-spouse.

CHECK YOUR RETIREMENT

Speaking of Social Security, if divorce finds you within chipping distance of retirement, you will want to contact the social security administration.  If you are 62, were married for at least 10 years, have been divorced more than two years and have not remarried, you may receive benefits based on your ex-spouse’s Social Security record, even if he or she has not applied for benefits. If you are raising a child younger than 16 years old from the marriage, you may receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s record even if you were married for less than 10 years. In most cases, you can expect the same amount you would have gotten if you had remained married, and possibly all of it if your ex-spouse dies. The benefits you draw do not affect amounts due to your ex’s current spouse.

GUARD YOUR HEALTH COVERAGE

Divorce often forces one party to sacrifice health care coverage. Don’t let this happen to you. One uncovered medical emergency can cripple your finances. Under the COBRA program, you may be eligible for up to 36 months of health coverage although the rates may be expensive.  If you have no other avenue for affordable coverage, keep the COBRA plan in place until you find one.

DUST YOURSELF OFF AND START LIVING

You’ve survived the emotional and financial train wreck that used to be your life. If you accomplished most of these steps, you are more aware than you’ve ever been of your true financial picture and what you need to do about it.  If you receive a lump-sum payout, don’t splurge for revenge or because you feel you deserve it. There is a wealth of financial planning help online. When you’re ready, consider hiring a financial planner to help you sort out your newly single money situation.

TYPICAL POST-DIVORCE SCENARIO:

After my divorce, my ex was responsible for paying on several credit cards. The credit card companies refused to remove me from the accounts, so the judge ordered my ex to pay them in a timely way to avoid credit problems for me. He did not pay them in a timely way and it took three months for the creditors to contact me and ask me to pay since he didn’t. I have begun making payments and filed a contempt order with the court. But each credit card company and their collection agencies (for those who sold the debt) reported delinquencies and collections on my credit report. Is there any way to dispute this on my credit?

It is much harder to divorce your joint financial obligations than it is your spouse. As you have found, joint credit card accounts remain joint accounts until the account is paid off and closed. The reason for this is that when you opened the joint accounts you entered into a legal contractual agreement with your creditors, in essence giving them your word that they would be paid back according to the agreement. A divorce decree issued by the court does not change that. You gave your word and they are holding you to it.

Your attorney should have brought to your attention that spouses who are assigned certain accounts to pay in a divorce decree do not always follow through on those assignments. Some fail to pay because they truly cannot afford to; others don’t pay because they don’t manage their finances well, and some don’t pay out of spite. You get the picture. In any event, counting on an ex-spouse can be a high-risk venture!

So how do you protect your credit rating and not end up paying everything for which your ex-spouse was responsible?  To not end up paying everything, communicate with your ex and determine if he plans to meet his obligations and when. I realize that communicating with an ex-spouse can be unpleasant. However, the more information you have, the better off you will be to make decisions concerning your current situation. If things are really bad between you, communicate in writing or through a lawyer.

The reality is: If he doesn’t make the payments, you should. It’s your credit on the line, but regardless of how the conversation with your ex goes, you should follow through on the court action. One way to assure that your credit is not damaged any further is to have your spouse transfer the balances of the delinquent accounts to a credit card in his name only. At this point, he may not qualify for a card in his own name, but the court may decide that’s his problem!

Ideally, when a person divorces, all joint accounts should be dissolved. Home mortgages should be refinanced in one person’s name or the house sold. Car loans should be refinanced or the car sold. Credit card accounts should be closed and the balances transferred to separate credit card accounts in each spouse’s name.

Although you cannot completely be shielded from your ex’s actions, here are a few steps you can follow to start building your credit worthiness again:

OPEN CHECKING AND SAVINGS ACCOUNTS:

Having these bank accounts establishes you as part of the financial mainstream. Lenders want to know you have a checking account available to pay bills, and a savings account indicates you’re putting aside something for the future. Having bank accounts, though, gets you started on the right path and gives you practice in managing your money.

GET A COPY OF YOUR CREDIT REPORT

Next, you need to find out how lenders view you. Most base their decisions on credit reports, which are compiled by for-profit companies known as credit bureaus. You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major bureaus each year.

Typically, a credit report includes identifying information about you, such as your name, address, Social Security number and birth date. The report may also list any credit accounts or loans opened in your name, along with your payment history, account limits and any balances you owe.    One website you may use to access your reports is www.annualcreditreport.com .

If you’ve had credit problems, your report will list them.

FIX ANY ERRORS OR OMMISSIONS

Some credit reports include errors — accounts that don’t belong to you or that include out-of-date or misleading information. You should read through each of your three reports and note anything that’s incorrect, especially after you have finalized your divorce process.  Negative information, such as late payments, delinquencies, liens, and judgments against you, should be dropped after seven years. Bankruptcies can stay on your report for up to 10 years.  Once you have a list of problems, ask the bureaus to investigate errors listed on their reports. You can use the form that came with your report if you received it by mail, or use the Web link if you accessed your report on the Internet.

ADD POSITIVE INFORMATION TO YOUR REPORT

The more information you can provide about yourself, the more comfortable lenders may feel extending credit to you. In addition, certain information — such as having the same job or address for a few years — can make you appear to be more stable in lenders’ eyes. While this information isn’t used in creating your credit score, it’s often used by lenders in addition to credit scores to make lending decisions. You may also find that your report doesn’t include credit accounts or other information that it should.  Also, submit a 100-word statement to each of the bureaus explaining your situation. It will not change what is reported, but many lenders will pay more attention to your positive information and disregard the negative if there is a logical explanation. In the future, when you apply for credit or a loan, disarm the situation in advance by explaining the situation before they check your credit. Having a copy of the divorce decree assigning the accounts to him is also a good idea.

HERE’S A LIST OF ITEMS TO CONSIDER:

  • Are your employer and your job title listed? If you’ve had the job less than two years, your previous employer and job title should be listed as well.
  • Is your address listed and correct? If you’ve been there less than two years, is your previous address listed as well?
  • Is your Social Security number listed and correct? This is the way most lenders will identify you.
  • Is your telephone number listed and correct? Many lenders may not extend credit if they can’t call you to verify information.
  • Does your report include all the accounts you’ve paid on time? Some lenders don’t report regularly to credit bureaus, and some report to only one or two, rather than all three. You can ask the creditor to report the account to a bureau that doesn’t list it. If the creditor refuses or doesn’t respond, you can send a letter to the bureau with a copy of your latest statement and canceled checks to prove you’re paying on time.

THERE ARE THREE COMMON ROUTES FOR ESTABLISHING NEW CREDIT:

  • Apply for department store and gasoline cards. These are usually easier to get than major bank credit cards such as Visa or MasterCard.
  • Consider taking out a small personal loan from your local bank or credit union and paying the money back over time. The bank may require you to put up some collateral — such as the same amount you’re borrowing, deposited into a savings account. But the loan, if reported to the credit bureaus, can still help build your credit history. Make sure that it will be reported before you borrow the money.
  • Apply for a secured credit card. These work something like the loan described above: You deposit a certain amount at a bank, and in return you’re given a Visa or MasterCard with a credit limit about equal to the amount you deposited.  Avoid any card that charges a big upfront fee for processing your application or a high annual fee.

ONCE YOU’VE GOT CREDIT, USE IT RIGHT.

  • Charge small amounts on each card — but never more than you can pay off each month. You need to use credit regularly to establish your credit history, but there’s usually no advantage to paying interest on those charges.
  • Once you’ve been approved for one card or loan, don’t rush out and apply for several more. Applying for too much credit will hurt, rather than help, your score. Most people need only one or two bank cards, a gasoline card and a department store card, acquired over a year or more, to start a solid credit history.
  • Pay your bills on time, all the time. This includes household bills such as utilities and telephone as well as your credit card bills and loans. Late payments on any of these accounts can wind up in your credit report, and can really hurt your credit score, the three-digit number widely used by lenders to evaluate your creditworthiness.
  • Don’t max out your credit cards. In fact, don’t even come close. Try to avoid using more than 30% or so of the credit you have available to you — even less, if you can. Your credit score measures the difference between the credit available to you and what you’re actually using. The smaller that gap, the more it hurts your score. Lenders will worry that you’re becoming overextended and won’t be able to pay your bills if you charge too much.  If you’ve charged up to 80% or more on your credit card, this can have a negative effect on your credit score.

DO’S:

DO CONSULT WITH A LAWYER.

It’s a good idea, especially if you have children or assets. Experts say when looking for an attorney, you should ask people you trust for recommendations, and don’t cut corners when it comes to good, solid legal help. If you intend to hire a lawyer, start putting aside money for your legal costs, so you can pay the upfront retainer fee often required. The lawyer’s hourly rate is billed against the retainer.

DO MAKE COPIES.

Photocopy every important, relevant document from the last three years of your marriage. This includes tax returns, mortgage payments, bank statements, pay stubs, stock certificates and bonds – to supply your lawyer or mediator.  This will help create a snapshot of your finances as the process begins, incase documents begins to disappear.

DO STEER CLEAR OF DAMAGING CREDIT PROBLEMS.

Cancel joint credit cards. Experts say if your credit card accounts are in both you and your spouse’s names, and they remain open, you are still responsible for any charges made by your spouse. If charges go unpaid, they can end up on your credit report. Get credit cards and accounts in your own name to build your own credit.

DO MAKE SURE YOU’RE COVERED.

Medical insurance coverage can end in divorce. If you are on your spouse’s insurance plan, you should be able to continue coverage for up to 36 months under the Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act (COBRA). Under this plan you pay the premiums, which may be expensive, but it’s better than no coverage at all untill you are able to shop around and find reasonable coverage for yourself.

DO TAKE A HOME AND ASSET INVENTORY.

This will better clarify what exactly needs to be divided.  Write down everything you know about your assets and debts, and record the persons who can be witnesses. It’s good for people to compile lists. You can’t bring your lawyer too much information.  Also consider taking pictures or videos of your home and contents and making copies of family photographs you want to keep.  Digital pictures are the easiest and most economical to compile and can easily be emailed to your attorney.

DO THINK ABOUT TAX CONSEQUENCES.

For instance, if a stock is valued at $3,000, it may only be worth $2,600 in cash after capital gains taxes are paid. Thus, it would not be the same as receiving $3,000 cash in a divorce settlement. Consider the costs of converting assets into fast cash for the parties in dividing assets equitably.  If one party will have to pay taxes, request enough of the asset to cover the tax as well.

DO CHOOSE YOUR ASSETS CAREFULLY.

when staking a claim in assets, remember that choosing the wrong assets may end up costing you money, instead of making you money. If you want to keep the house, for instance, first educate yourself about the fair market value of your home. You can also look up the county appraisal amount listed for your home.  This should not be considered your fair market amount if considering a sell, but it will atleast give you an idea of it’s value.  As an example, in Harris county texas, you can look up your property at www.hcad.org by address or name.   Remember that you’ll have to make the mortgage payments and pay taxes, interest, insurance, utilities and maintenance extras. Selling it won’t be a picnic, either: The brokerage costs and taxes from the sale will be solely your responsibility.

DO LINE UP YOUR OWN EMOTIONAL SUPPORT.

Choose friends or family members you can trust, because you never know who may end up turning on you or even testifying against you later. Consulting with a counselor can keep you thinking clearly in order to focus on your divorce plan. If you anticipate a child custody fight, you may want to take your child to a therapist before it starts. Randy Rolfe, author of “The Seven Secrets of Successful Parents,” states that when you have counseling, you’ll be less likely to give up and give over things in the divorce.

Experts also recommend that you remain practical — legally and emotionally — when planning your divorce.

There some things you should never do:

DON’T:

  • Don’t skimp on legal help.
  • Don’t just move out of your home, unless you fear physical harm.  Talk to your lawyer to discuss your options before you make your move.
  • Don’t try to do it all. Some cases do need experts like accountants, appraisers, etc. Thinking you can do these things on your own can be counterproductive.
  • Don’t share a lawyer with your spouse. This scenario presents a huge conflict of interest. Most lawyers won’t do it, and it could borderline on malpractice.
  • Don’t make revenge the goal of the divorce.
  • Don’t compare your divorce to another divorce. Each case has its own set of facts, with its own personality.
  • Don’t bad-mouth your spouse to your children. It can backfire on you in ways you don’t expect.
  • Don’t just think about your actions, but also consider the impact they can have in a case. For example, don’t write a letter you would mind being read in a courtroom.

A divorce will affect you legally, financially and emotionally. Although deciding to divorce isn’t easy, taking the time to incorporate these do’s and don’ts can make the process — and its financial and emotional consequences — as uncomplicated as possible.

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