Divorce is hard on everyone. Not only is your life in complete upheaval, you and your family are staring into an abyss of uncertainty. If you’ve never gone through a divorce, most people don’t know what to expect. This article is meant to take some of the uncertainty out of the process. We’ll go into greater detail of certain areas in later articles. It is all is started by one party, called the petitioner, filing for divorce. Typically, the other party, called the respondent, will get served a copy of the divorce petition (the document that starts the process) and the respondent will then file an answer. Typically, after a waiting period of at least 60 days, a divorce decree is entered that grants the divorce. Many things can happen between the filing of the petition and the signing of the decee by the judge.
The Divorce Petition
The petition is the document that starts the whole process. In it the petitioner must state:
- who the parties are
- why the divorce is getting filed in the county where it is being filed
- the grounds for the divorce
- he dates of the marriage and separation
- whether there are any children and how the Petitioner believes custody should be handled
- how the Petitioner believes the marital property should be handled
Grounds for Divorce
There are seven grounds (reasons) that a divorce may be granted:
- Felony Conviction
- Living Apart
- Mental Hospital Confinement
Insupportability is the most common reason for divorce. When people talk about “irreconcilable differences”, they are talking about insupportability.
The Divorce Decree
The decree is the document that actually grants the divorce and dissolves the marriage relationship. It is the document that actually affects the parties legal rights and determines what their rights are to each other, their property, and their children.
Texas is a community property state. This means that the law generally treats the property of one spouse belonging to both spouses regardless of who bought it, who used it, or whose name it is under. The property that the couple acquired while they were married has to be divided as part of the divorce. While it is commonly believed that a court will just split a couple’s property 50/50, this is not the case. The property division mu be just and equitable. Just and equitable is not a percentage and it is not a dollar amount. It is a guidepost for the court to determine how to divide the property based upon all of the facts.
Custody Determination, Visitation, and Support
In a divorce case where there are minor children, a completely separate issue must be dealt with – what to do about the kids. At its heart, the decree must determine conservatorship (who has custody), visitation (what schedule will the parents and children use to see each other), and support, (how much must the non-custodial parent pay to help the custodial parent raise the children). We’ll go over these issues in greater depth in a later article.