Dedicated Allies Through Your Texas Divorce
The skilled Texas divorce lawyers at the Law Office of J. Barrett Wilson, PLLC, understand that divorce is one of the most stressful and traumatic life events anyone can experience. In addition to the emotional difficulties, there is a court system you have to navigate. The good news is, you don’t have to travel that path alone. Our attorneys at the Law Office of J. Barrett Wilson, PLLC, are here for you and fully prepared to guide you through the divorce process, regardless of whether it is contested or uncontested.
If you are going through a divorce, our divorce lawyer will guide you through this emotional time with empathy and strength. We will negotiate a fair and just division of your marital property and help you bring your marriage to an end. If your safety is at risk, we will fight to keep you safe by obtaining a protective order. And if you have children, we will endeavor to make you a managing conservator while always keeping your children’s best interests in mind.
Things To Know Before Your Divorce
At the Law Office of J. Barrett Wilson, PLLC, we are dedicated to ensuring you understand every step of the divorce process. We want you to be able to make informed decisions about your future and family.
To learn more, schedule a consultation with the Law Office of J. Barrett Wilson, PLLC. We also regularly update our resource center, Justice In Sight, with helpful articles that can help you understand the divorce process.
Community Property States
Any divorce lawyer will tell you Texas is a community property state, and courts presume marital property belongs to each spouse equally. Courts divide community property in a just and right manner. Separate property, on the other hand, cannot be divided by courts. Characterization is the process by which Texas divorce law determines whether property is community or separate. Our divorce lawyers make sure our clients keep their separate property and emerge from their divorce with their fair share of the community estate based on the circumstances of their marriage.
Temporary Restraining Order
When a person files a petition for divorce, the divorce lawyer can include an ex parte motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO). The TRO commands your spouse to not engage in the listed forms of conduct and goes into effect when your spouse is served notice of the divorce petition. Temporary restraining orders last for 14 days or until the court holds a hearing. If your spouse violates a provision of the TRO, the court can hold your spouse in contempt, which means possible jail time, fine, or a combination of the jail and fine. At the Law Office of J. Barrett Wilson, PLLC, we can file for a TRO, or assist you in reversing a TRO if you believe you have been unjustly prevented from contacting your spouse.
Family Attorney And Custody Lawyer
Texas custody law uses the term “conservator” rather than child custody. When people think joint custody, Texas courts appoint the parents as joint managing conservators. When people think sole custody, Texas law names one parent the sole managing conservator and the other parent a possessory conservator. Courts focus on the best interests of the child when appointing parents as managing or possessory conservators. Possessory conservators have visitation but fewer legal rights than managing conservators. Our divorce lawyers will fight for your parental rights and status as joint managing conservator.
Getting A Divorce In Texas
There are several ways to obtain a divorce in Texas. Your relationship with your spouse and your goals can determine what type of divorce may be best for you. Our attorneys are also prepared to evaluate your situation and help you determine how to best proceed.
The Law Office of J. Barrett Wilson, PLLC, represents clients in uncontested divorces, contested divorces and mediation. Our divorce lawyers combine extensive trial experience with a passion for interest-based negotiation so they can move comfortably and confidently between uncontested and contested legal matters.
While most courts order parties to a divorce to attend mediation before going to trial, you do not need a court order to mediate your divorce. The mediation process involves a professional mediator who helps the parties reach an agreed settlement regarding property and child custody issues. In a mediation, each party and his or her divorce lawyer sit in a room separate from the other party and his or her divorce lawyer. The mediator goes back and forth between rooms working to negotiate a mediated settlement agreement. A signed mediated settlement agreement is binding. Both of our attorneys at the Law Office of J. Barrett Wilson, PLLC, are certified mediators in the state of Texas.
It’s wise to have a divorce lawyer advise you during mediation, even before a divorce is filed, because mediators cannot provide legal advice during the mediation. Also, if a mediated settlement agreement is formally signed, the settlement becomes binding and enforceable immediately. A court cannot order a couple to mediation when one party makes allegations of family violence.
Technically speaking, a suit for divorce deals with the legal matters of dissolving a marriage and dividing marital assets and debts. Courts and divorce lawyers address child custody matters in a legal process known as a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR). For married couples with children, courts will join the divorce and SAPCR lawsuits in one legal matter. When couples and co-parents agree on most issues and stand likely to resolve their few differences amicably, a divorce lawyer can assist them with an uncontested divorce. Uncontested divorces and SAPCRs cost the parties less, both financially and emotionally. These kinds of divorces open opportunities for the divorce lawyers to negotiate a settlement out of court or through a short mediation. Uncontested divorces also open the door to a process known as collaborative law.
“ADR” stands for Alternative Dispute Resolution. The Texas Family Code provides numerous pathways for couples and co-parents to resolve their disagreements outside of the courtroom. These alternative options to resolve disputes include informal settlement conferences with the divorce lawyer, mediation before a suit is filed, arbitration, and the collaborative law process. Informal settlement conferences, mediation before a divorce is filed, and the collaborative law process seek to help couples and co-parents engage in interest-based negotiations. Our divorce lawyers can help the parties find creative ways to resolve their disputes where their personal and family interests are met without the adversarial nature of a contested divorce. Arbitration provides couples and co-parents a way to present their case to an impartial panel that will apply an agreed upon jurisdiction’s laws to resolve the dispute. Settlement agreements and binding arbitration can be enforceable in court if the parties do not live up to their agreements.
Texas Family Code Chapter 15 governs the collaborative law process for divorces and SAPCRs. Collaborative law works like it sounds. The parties and their divorce lawyer collaborate to dissolve a marriage and construct a parenting plan collaboratively. They may consult shared experts for financial and child custody issues. One unique thing about collaborative divorce is that the divorce lawyers must withdraw if the parties become adversarial. The collaborative law process is designed to guide the parties through their divorce or SAPCR in a peaceful way. That doesn’t mean the parties will never disagree. The collaborative divorce lawyers are there to help the parties cooperate as they resolve their differences. But if the parties get to a point where they cannot agree and need a judge to step in, the divorce lawyers and their firms must withdraw. The parties must hire new attorneys and proceed through a court-based adversarial process.
Agreement Incident To Divorce
A couple or co-parents may have filed a divorce lawsuit in the court system, but that does not mean they can’t reach an agreed settlement outside the formalities of the courtroom or court-ordered mediation. A divorce lawyer merely has to pick up the phone to call opposing divorce lawyer and begin negotiating. Texas Family Code § 7.006 authorizes agreements incident to a divorce. Agreements incident to divorce are limited in scope to property division and spousal maintenance. Courts will review the terms of the agreement to ensure the terms are just and right. If the terms are just and right, the agreement incident to divorce will be binding.
Understanding Contested Divorce
When people think of divorce lawyers arguing in court and bitter custody battles, they are thinking of a contested divorce. While trying to dissolve a marriage amicably in a spirit of cooperation limits the emotional trauma on spouses and children, sometimes the other side simply will not be agreeable. In those instances, our divorce lawyers at the Law Office of J. Barrett Wilson, PLLC, fight hard for our clients, using every legal means available to protect your child’s best interests and ensure a just and right division of property. The following topics provide a general outline of the steps involved in a contested divorce. If you find yourself anticipating a contested divorce, contact the Law Office of J. Barrett Wilson, PLLC, today.
Filing For Divorce In Texas
Every divorce in Texas begins with a divorce lawyer filing an original petition on behalf of a spouse. The petition for divorce identifies the parties, declares that a valid marriage exists, names any children born of the marriage, states the grounds for divorce, and requests relief from the court. Relief is simply the legal term for the requests you want the judge to grant in your favor.
A divorce lawyer will also typically include an ex parte motion for a temporary restraining order. This motion, known as a TRO, asks the judge to restrain the other party in the divorce from engaging in certain behaviors from the moment he or she is served divorce papers until the court can hold a proper hearing, usually 14 days later. Once served with a copy of the petition and TRO, your spouse must abide by the temporary restraining order. Failure to do so can result in the judge holding him or her in contempt and punishment in the form of a fine or jail time.
Discovery is another word for evidence, and Rules 190 – 215 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure govern the discovery process in Texas divorce cases. Once the responding spouse’s divorce lawyer files his or her response, Rule 194 triggers a 30-day deadline for both sides to exchange initial disclosures. The rules require the parties to make several initial disclosures. In divorce cases, the rules require the following additional initial disclosures:
- In a divorce suit, parties must provide the following for the past two years or since the date of marriage, whichever is less:
- All deed and lien information on any real property owned and all lease information on any real property leased;
- All statements for any pension plan, retirement plan, profit-sharing plan, employee benefit plan and IRA
- All statements or policies for each current life, casualty, liability, and health insurance policy; and
- All statements pertaining to any account at a financial institution, including banks, savings and loans institutions, credit unions, and brokerage firms
If child support or spousal maintenance is at issue, then the parties must make the following additional disclosures as well:
- Information regarding all policies, statements, and the summary description of benefits for any medical and health insurance coverage that is or would be available for the child or the spouse;
- The party’s income tax returns for the previous two years or, if no return has been filed, the party’s Form W-2, Form 1099, and Schedule K-1 for the previous two years; and
- The party’s two most recent payroll check stubs
The discovery process can quickly become complicated, time-consuming and costly. Therefore, divorce lawyers often file agreements with the court to exchange sworn inventories and income tax information in order to save clients’ money while still gathering enough discovery to conduct the temporary orders hearing.
Temporary Orders Hearing
The temporary orders hearing sets the rules by which both parties will abide until the divorce suit comes to an official end. For parties who dissolve their marriage without a trial, the temporary orders hearing may be the only time they step inside a courtroom with their divorce lawyer. At temporary orders hearings, both sides will present evidence to the judge. The judge will determine whether any temporary restraining orders will become temporary injunctions, and the judge will issue orders relating to child support, spousal maintenance, exclusive use of property, and temporary child custody. It is important for your divorce lawyer to make the most of the temporary orders hearing since the outcome can significantly impact your bargaining position as your divorce lawyer works to negotiate a settlement before trial.
Every divorce lawyer will tell you that most divorce cases, even the contested ones, end with some sort of agreed settlement because with a trial, you never know exactly how the judge or jury will rule. Of the divorce cases that go to trial, the majority of them are tried exclusively to the judge and do not involve juries. That’s because juries are more expensive and a divorce lawyer knows that juries are unpredictable.
Regardless whether your case is tried to a judge or jury, the rulings will be binding. Both parties will likely testify and endure cross-examination from the opposing divorce lawyer. If there is disagreement regarding complex financial issues or child custody, expert witnesses may testify as well.
After divorce lawyers present all the evidence, they will make closing arguments, and the judge and/or jury will make their rulings. If things don’t go your way, you and your divorce lawyer have the right to appeal.
Final Divorce Decree
The final divorce decree is the document that officially brings a marriage to an end. It will contain all the rules the parties must follow regarding the division of assets and debts, possession and support of children, and spousal maintenance if so ordered. It is incredibly important that your divorce lawyer draft the final decree with clear language that specifies the actions the parties are supposed to take and what actions constitute a violation of the decree.
Once the decree is signed by the judge, both parties will hopefully be able to move on in a happy and healthy manner. Sometimes life circumstances change significantly. If so, it may become necessary for a divorce lawyer to file a motion to modify the decree. At other times, one party fails to follow the provisions of the decree, at which time a divorce lawyer can file a motion for enforcement. Modification and enforcement actions trigger additional hearings and may also be resolved by agreement.
Rely On Our Experienced Guidance
Going to court for any family law case can be an intimidating process. That’s why we at the Law Office of J. Barrett Wilson, PLLC, work hard to simplify the legal system – giving you confidence and peace of mind as you move forward with your life.
To schedule your consultation with the Law Office of J. Barrett Wilson, PLLC, call 469-565-1221, or contact us online. We can discuss the details of your divorce or child custody matter. We’ll talk about your rights and how to protect them. You will leave our office with a plan and an understanding of what lies ahead. And most importantly, you’ll know you are not going through this challenging time alone. We look forward to meeting you and fighting on your behalf.