If you’re considering handling your own divorce paperwork and proceedings, you’re not alone. There are many couples who start the divorce process without representation from an attorney. While this practice is legal, it can be dangerous when people believe in several common myths about divorce before trying to start a do-it-yourself divorce in Texas.
The feasibility of getting a divorce without an attorney can change considerably depending on the details of your marriage, and the type of divorce you will need. This is generally only possible during an uncontested divorce, when both parties agree on every detail, including about how community property will be split. If there are any disagreements, however, you’re in for a contested divorce and should seek representation immediately.
Finding the right Information
You may have friends and family members who have been through a divorce, and may feel like you have a good idea of the process, but every state has their own laws and regulations concerning the requirements for issuing a final divorce decree. These laws can change over time due to new legislation and court rulings affecting Texas divorce. Do-it-yourself attempts at divorce may seem like a money saving move in the short-term, but you stand to lose more in the long-run if you have the wrong information.
If you go into your do-it-yourself divorce in Texas with the wrong information, you may make decisions that could hurt your case. That’s why it’s crucial to seek advice from an experienced divorce lawyer as your first move toward a divorce, or as soon as you are notified of your spouse’s divorce intentions. Your divorce lawyer can tell you the truth about how divorce works and debunk many of the myths surrounding it. Here are the top 10 myths about do-it-yourself divorce in Texas.
1. Divorce can be denied. In Texas, you do not have to prove fault in order to have the court grant the divorce. Therefore, even if you don't want the divorce and your spouse does, the judge will still grant the divorce. Once all the financial, custody, and visitation issues have been resolved at settlement or trial, a divorce will be granted.
2. If you commit adultery, you’ll lose everything. Some people mistakenly believe they cannot have a do-it-yourself divorce in Texas because adultery is involved. Just because someone has been unfaithful during the marriage doesn’t mean that they’ll lose their home, kids, assets, and rights during the divorce. This can still be used as an argument by the other spouse to try to gain more of community property acquired during the marriage, but this argument is not usually seen as a large factor determining the division of property. If the person who has been unfaithful wastes community assets during the course of committing adultery, that factor will likely be taken into consideration during a property division.
3. Mothers are always awarded custody of children. In the past, there was a legal bias in favor of mothers, but the law has evolved so that both fathers and mothers can have the primary right of possession. The court makes decisions about custody and visitation that are in the best interests of the child. If you’re a concerned father, we recommend speaking to an experienced divorce lawyer for men.
4. You can avoid paying child support. Child support payments in Texas are established by law. Unfortunately, some people have the mistaken impression that they can avoid paying child support in Texas divorce through a do-it-yourself divorce. If you have a minor child and you are not the custodial parent, you will have to pay child support. If you fail to comply with a child support order, both your spouse and the state of Texas can take steps to enforce those orders.
5. I can deny visitation to my ex if they don’t pay the child support we agreed upon. Access to the children and parenting time are not related to the payment of child support. There is a process for enforcing child support obligations, but threatening or denying a parent visitation is not one of them. Initiating a do-it-yourself divorce in Texas does not mean you can decide to withhold visitation from your spouse.
6. Only Women get maintenance payments. Decisions about spousal support, just like custody decisions, are no longer are based on gender. Women may be ordered to pay alimony following a divorce if they earn more than their husbands. Decisions about spousal support are based on the economic realities of the respective spouses regardless of their gender. Do-it-yourself divorces in Texas are no different. If you are considering a divorce and expect child support or alimony to be a contested issue, it’s important to schedule a consultation with a competent attorney to protect your rights.
7. Children get to decide who they live with. If a child has reached the age of 12 and has expressed a preference as to which parent they would like to live with, a judge may decide to take that fact into consideration in the determination as to custody. The judge is not required to follow a child's choice and will make their custody decisions based on what is in the best interests of the child during your Texas divorce. Do-it-yourself divorces are no different in this regard.
8. Divorce always leads to battles. Divorce can often be full of hostility, blame, and finger-pointing, but it doesn't have to be that way. Do-it-yourself divorces in Texas have the best results when all parties agree, but this is not an effective means of de-escalating the divorce process. Other methods such as collaborative divorce, mediation, and negotiation are all options if you are trying to keep the divorce from becoming highly contested. If you tell your attorney that you would rather focus on resolving conflicts as opposed to starting or escalating them, the attorney can help make your divorce a process of negotiation and agreement rather than argument.
9. Equitable distribution results in equal division. Property in Texas is divided based on what is just and right in light of the circumstances. Property can be and often is divided in an unequal manner based on the many factors that go into a judge's decisions about property division. Whether that property is divided 50/50 is not one of them.
10. You must have a lawyer. You have a right to represent yourself in your own do-it-yourself divorce in Texas, but it is not always the best option. You could make errors that harm you in the future. Once the judge signs the Final Decree of Divorce, there is nothing about the property division that can be changed. You may also make mistakes regarding your children and child support that could be difficult to change later.
If you’re thinking about getting a divorce in Texas, contact the offices of Ramos Law Group for a consultation. We’re here to help. Call us today to schedule a consultation.