For a dissolution of marriage in Texas, there is a formal legal process to follow.
Separation vs. Divorce vs. Dissolution
In some states, there is a legal distinction between a separation, a divorce, and a dissolution of marriage. In Texas, however, this is not the case.
First, there is no formal legal status for a marriage “separation.” (You can enter into a private contract of separation, but this is not enforceable like a court-ordered divorce is.)
Second, there is also no distinction between dissolution and divorce, which means that those two terms are interchangeable.
What Does the Process Involve?
The steps for a dissolution of marriage in Texas are similar to those in the rest of the country:
Getting an Attorney
First, as soon as you or your partner decide you want a divorce, you should get a qualified family law attorney. Getting an attorney doesn’t necessarily mean trouble. In fact, just the opposite: The role of a family law attorney is to help guide you through this process so that it goes as smoothly as possible.
Your attorney will help you file for divorce and go through the initial steps. You and your spouse should have separate attorneys, because you need someone who will be 100 percent on your side.
The next step in your dissolution of marriage in Texas is to settle disputes. If at all possible you and your spouse should resolve any outstanding issues when it comes to the terms of the divorce. If you are able to fully agree on everything, you can opt for an uncontested divorce, which is much quicker and less expensive.
Otherwise, you will have to proceed with a contested divorce. In a contested divorce, your team and your spouse’s team will figure out what you each want in terms of dividing up your shared assets, and you will share this information with each other.
After that is a process of formal mediation. The idea here is resolve as many disputes as possible without needing the courts to intervene. Mediation often succeeds, partially or fully, making it much easier to finalize your dissolution of marriage in Texas.
If there are any remaining disputes after mediation, there will be a trial. After both sides have presented their arguments, the court will issue its ruling.
Dividing Up Property
Who gets the house and car? What happens to your bank accounts and retirement savings? What about the pets? And that clock you both like?
The first thing to understand is that you are going to have to make some concessions. You won’t get everything exactly the way you want it. Having said that, here is where it really makes a difference if you hire a less experienced attorney versus a Board Certified expert like Mary Ramos, or the many qualified lawyers working with her at Ramos Law Group. A good attorney will help you get the best deal you can.
The second thing to understand is that dividing property in a dissolution of marriage in Texas can be very difficult—not only because you and your spouse may not agree on how to split things up, but because disentangling shared property is just an incredibly difficult and complicated process. There are legal pitfalls and risks you likely aren’t even aware of. And if you overlook something by accident, it can come back to bite you.
Deciding Who Gets Custody
In marriages with children, custody is often one of the major sticking points in completing a dissolution of marriage. (In Texas, child custody is formally called “conservatorship,” but it means the same thing.) The problem, of course, is that property can be divided up, but a child can’t. Only their time can be divided.
And that’s usually what happens: joint custody. The State of Texas recognizes that, as a general rule, a child is better off if both parents are a part of his or her life. Even if one or both of the parents wants sole custody, that doesn’t usually happen. Instead, custody disputes usually end with joint custody.
For one parent to win sole custody in a dissolution of marriage in Texas, there typically has to be special circumstances. The court will always make these decisions primarily on the basis of the child’s best interests. Sole custody will not be awarded unless one parent is unable to properly or safely care for the child. Here are a few of the questions that the court will consider:
- Can one parent not afford to feed, clothe, and shelter the child?
- Is one parent physically or psychologically unable to care for the child?
- Does one parent pose a threat to the child’s safety?
Other factors, such as disruption to the child’s daily life, plus their personal wishes (if they are old enough) may also be taken into consideration.
Do Fathers Lose Out on Custody?
There is a common misconception that the courts favor mothers in child custody cases involving a dissolution of marriage. In Texas, this myth used to be true: Mothers were broadly favored for custody. Today, however—and for quite a few years, now—the courts are blind to gender in custody decisions. They look solely at each parent’s ability to serve the best interests of the child.
However, because these myths persist, if you’re a father and you’re involved in a custody dispute, you should speak with an attorney who is experienced in answering questions from others in your position. For more information, see our Divorce Lawyer for Men page.
Contact Ramos Law Group for Help
The attorneys at Ramos Law Group are highly experienced in all aspects relating to the dissolution of marriage in Texas. From answering your questions to representing you in court, we are here to help make this stressful and exhausting process as smooth as possible, while protecting your interests to the fullest extent.
Ramos Law Group serves clients throughout the greater Houston area and in the surrounding regions. Contact us today for a consultation, and take the next step in reclaiming your life and moving on to better things.