Frequently Asked Questions


Questions Regarding Divorce

  • How much does a divorce typically cost in Texas?

It is difficult to put an exact dollar figure on the cost of divorce, because there are so many factors that contribute to the difficulty of the case.  More complex cases, such as those involving contested custody of children, valuation or tracing of marital or separate property, substance abuse issues, mental health problems, or cases requiring an in-depth examination of financial holdings will usually be more expensive.  Simpler cases, particularly those where parties agree to all or most of the issues in the case, are less expensive.  We can help you explore various options to keep your case cost-effective, while still providing you with the legal expertise you need.

  • Do I need an attorney for my divorce?

There is no legal requirement to hire an attorney to obtain a divorce, but even if you think you may not need one, you should at least consult with an attorney prior to seeking a divorce.  It is important for you to know your legal and equitable rights in Texas in order to ensure that you and your children are protected.  Without legal counsel, you may inadvertently waive your right to property, custodial, or financial benefits that you otherwise would have received.  It is also important to make sure that you have properly drafted legal forms and documentation for your divorce.

  • Can I have an uncontested divorce?

An "uncontested" divorce means that the parties agree to all of the issues in the case relating to division of property, conservatorship of the children, visitation, and child support issues.  Under those circumstances, an attorney can draft the  necessary documents to help you obtain your divorce as quickly and efficiently as possible.  We strongly recommend that you utilize the services of an attorney, even for an uncontested divorce, rather than obtaining forms from the internet or trying to navigate the legal system on your own.  You will want to ensure that the documentation in your Final Divorce Decree accurately reflects the agreement between you and your spouse, and that it is drafted in such as way as to make it enforceable in the future.

  • How do we divide our property in a divorce?

Texas requires that property between spouses must be divided in a "just and right" manner,.  In other words, the division should be equitable between the parties.  Texas is a community property state, meaning that most of the property acquired by either spouse after the date of marriage is considered to be owned equally by both parties, and is subject to division in a divorce.  Separate property is property that either spouse owned prior to marriage, or property that was obtained by a party during marriage by gift or inheritance.  There are legal exceptions to both of these characterizations, but in general, all property is presumed to be community property unless it is proved to be separate property during the divorce process.  

When dividing community property, there are a number of factors that the Court considers in determining what is equitable.  Some of these factors can include fault in the breakup of the marriage, difference in earnings between the spouses, the health of each party, and education and future employability of the spouses.  We can examine the assets and liabilities of your community and separate property estates to help you understand and limit your financial exposure, maximizing the potential benefits you may be entitled to receive.

  • I just moved to Texas.  Can I file for divorce here?

You must be a resident of Texas for at least 6 months, and a resident of your current county for at least 90 days, in order to file here.  If your spouse is living in a different state, and you resided there together before you moved here, you may be able to file for divorce in your spouse's state if you do not yet meet the residency requirements in Texas.  Once you have met the residency requirements, you should be prepared to show proof of your Texas residency in case the Court requires it.  

  • How long does it take to obtain a divorce?

A divorce in Texas must be on file for a minimum of 60 days.  This is the shortest amount of time to obtain a divorce.  If there are contested issues, the divorce process can take several months, sometimes even a year or more, depending on the complexity of the case.  We can help you to move through the process as quickly as possible.  The more parties are able to agree on the issues in a case, the faster we can come to a final resolution.

  • Can I date while my divorce is pending?

Regardless of whether you and your spouse are separated, or how long you have been separated, until your divorce is final, you are still married.  Dating during divorce can overcomplicate the divorce process very quickly, making it more expensive, and increasing the amount of time it takes to finalize.  It may create reimbursement claims for community monies spent on a paramour.  It may also affect custody issues, since introducing a new partner to the children calls into question a parent's judgment, and whether he/she is acting in the children's best interest.  


Questions About Child Support

  • Who has to pay child support?

In most circumstances, the parent who sees the child less frequently pays child support to the parent who has the child for the majority of the time.  In some cases, the parents may agree to different arrangements, particularly in cases where parents agree to equal visitation time with the children.

  • What if my ex refuses to pay child support?

If a parent is violating a Court order for child support, there are several things that can be done to try to collect it.  The Court can enter a Wage Withholding Order, which requires the obligor (payor) parent's employer to withhold the child support from his/her earnings.  If the parent is not working or is self-employed, an enforcement action can be filed against him/her.  An enforcement action is a quasi-criminal action, which means that continued failure to pay child support could result in consequences such as seizure of property such as tax refunds, termination of licenses, or even jail time.  Courts take very seriously a parent's obligation to pay child support, since they want to make sure that children are being provided for financially.

  • Who provides health insurance?

The general presumption is that the parent paying child support will either provide health insurance for the child, or reimburse the cost of health insurance to the other parent.  If private health insurance is available to either parent, the Court will likely order that parent to provide it, rather than enroll the child in health insurance through public assistance.  Parents are usually ordered to split the cost of uninsured medical expenses, such as lab fees and co-pays, equally between them.

  • If my ex files for bankruptcy, does he/she still have to pay child support?

Yes.  Bankruptcy does not eliminate a parent's obligation to pay child support.  Bankruptcy may have an effect on property division issues in a divorce, but it does not affect the order to pay child support or spousal support.

  • Can I stop my ex from exercising visitation with our child if he/she is not paying child support?

Under the Texas Family Code, the obligation to pay child support, and the right to visitation with a child are mutually exclusive.  This means that a parent cannot withhold visitation if the other parent is not paying child support, and conversely, a parent cannot refuse to pay child support if the other parent is not allowing them visitation with the child.  It is never advisable to violate the Court order yourself in an effort to retaliate or try to teach your ex a lesson.  You will likely end up in a worse legal situation than if you had followed the orders yourself in the first place.  If a parent is not fulfilling his/her obligations under the Court order, the best course of action is to file an enforcement to have the Court address the other parent's behavior.  


Questions About Visitation and Custody

  • What is Joint Custody?  What is Primary Custody?

There is a rebuttable presumption in Texas that parents should be named "Joint Managing Conservators."  This generally refers to two components- the division of rights and duties, and actual physical possession of the child.  

With rights and duties, parents are assigned, often jointly, the right to make decisions regarding invasive medical procedures, education, psychological and/or psychiatric treatment, and other decisions of significance in the upbringing of the child.  These rights are assigned to one or both parents based on what is in the child's best interest.  For physical possession of the child, joint managing conservatorship does not mean that the parents have equal possession of the child, though it can happen if the parties are able to settle or agree upon visitation arrangements.  The Texas Family Code establishes a "standard possession order" for visitation of children.  A Texas Court can and will make a custody decision regarding rights, duties, and physical possession of a child if the parties are unable to reach an agreement.  

Most people understand joint custody to be the appointment of parents as Joint Managing Conservators, with shared rights and duties, and a possession schedule that provides for a child to have visitation with both parents, though not necessarily an equal or "50/50" schedule. Primary Custody typically means that one parent is appointed a "Sole Managing Conservator," and that parent has the exclusive right to make important decisions for the child.  The other parent is appointed as a "Possessory Conservator" of the child.  Visitation may or may not be affected by the appointment of parents as Sole and Possessory Managing Conservators, depending on the circumstances of the case.  A parent requesting Sole Managing Conservatorship of a child must be able to provide evidence to show a Court that Joint Managing Conservatorship is not in the child's best interest.

  • Can I move away with my children after my divorce?

Many Court orders restrict the residence of the child to a certain area.  Without such restriction, the parent who has the right to determine the child's primary residence is free to move anywhere.  However, most Court orders contain a geographic restriction, as Courts believe that it is in a child's best interest to have frequent, ongoing contact with both parents.  Sometimes a child's residence can be restricted to a certain county or counties, school districts, zip codes, states, or other geographic boundaries defined either by agreement of the parties, or by a Court.