Denton Family Lawyer
The divorce process can be both difficult and chaotic time for people. Your life is changing, and you still have crucial negotiations on matters ranging from property division to child custody and visitation to spousal maintenance. An experienced divorce lawyer is there to make sure the right questions get asked, the right information is presented to the court and to fight for your best interests.
An experienced Denton family lawyer can guide you through the complexities of the settlement process. Call us at (972) 236-7798 or contact us online today.
The Basics of Property Division
Texas uses the principle of community property to guide the division of assets in a divorce settlement. This means that property that is jointly owned by both spouses needs to be divided on a reasonably equal basis.
It’s important to note that Texas is unique in this regard–41 states use the principle of equitable distribution. While these concepts are similar, a community property state like Texas provides less flexibility to judge to determine what is equitable.
So, it’s a 50/50 split then, right? Maybe. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Community property rules only apply to that which is jointly owned. Courts make a distinction between marital property and separate property.
This does not mean that your income and your spouse’s income are separate property. The distinction between marital property and separate property is not necessarily who earned the money (or acquired the asset), but when it was earned or acquired.
Assets that you or your spouse brought into the marriage are considered separate property. Anything gained or acquired after the marriage is marital property. Therefore, if your spouse got a promotion at work five years ago and has been stashing cash into their 401(k), that is still an asset that belongs equally to you. It’s your divorce lawyer’s job to make sure all assets are reviewed, and your rights are protected on each and every one.
The Basics of Child Custody
Your divorce settlement will have two different custody issues to settle. The first one is physical custody. This refers to where your children will live. Will there be one primary custodial parent, with the other parent getting visitation rights? Or will there be joint custody where the kids take turns living at each parent’s house?
There is also the matter of legal custody. Someone still has to make big decisions regarding your children’s lives. Where will they go to school? What happens if an important medical decision has to be made? Will the kids have a religious upbringing? These are the types of decisions that are grouped into the category of legal custody.
A Texas family court will have the best interests of the child as the overriding consideration in custody cases. The court will start with a presumption that those best interests are served by the parents having equal custody. But presumptions in a court of law can be challenged.
If you were the spouse who sacrificed in your career to be home with the kids, your lawyer can make the case that the best interests of the children are served by living with you full-time. Your soon-to-be ex would still have visitation rights of course, but you could get primary physical custody under circumstances like these.
Or perhaps you were the spouse that had to bring in the income and needed to be at the office when you might have preferred to be at an extracurricular activity. Now, your soon-to-be ex is leaving the area for a job. Your lawyer can make the case that the best interests of the children are served by staying in the town and school district they grew up in.
One thing to note–getting primary physical custody does not automatically lend itself to primary legal custody. Judges are often quite open to the idea of shared legal custody on big decisions, while granting primary physical custody to one parent, in the interests of stability for the children.
Every case is different, and all family relationships have a unique dynamic. It’s your attorney’s job to make sure your side of that story gets told to the court.
The Basics of Spousal Maintenance
Spousal maintenance–or alimony, as you may have heard it colloquially referred to as–is aimed at allowing both spouses to meet living expenses after the divorce, even if one of them earned a significantly higher income during the marriage.
Texas spousal maintenance orders are structured in a way that encourages both spouses to become financially independent of each other, while recognizing that the unique dynamics of the marriage may put one spouse at an economic disadvantage.
The most common example is one spouse staying home with children and putting a career on hold. A spousal maintenance agreement in situations like this will consider the job skills of the stay-at-home spouse, the current market for employment and what will be necessary for them to ramp up and earn an income that will allow them to live the lifestyle they enjoyed during the marriage. A part of this evaluation will include whether or not the spouse will still be taking care of young children after the divorce.
Texas courts will consider a range of other factors. The length of the marriage will be one consideration. There are also situations where one spouse may have helped the other with financial investments in their career. Perhaps the higher-earning spouse enjoys that advantage because they got an MBA that was paid for with marital property. The lower-earning spouse needs to be made whole in the divorce settlement.
Ultimately, spousal maintenance in Texas will typically end after ten years–at most. The only cases where the maintenance order might go longer are extraordinary situations. An example might be a spouse caring for a developmentally disabled child, with getting a career off the ground implausible under these circumstances. .
Every person is unique. So is every marriage and every family. That means no divorce settlement can be exactly the same. And that means the quality of your settlement may well depend on the quality of the attorney you work with. Burrows Law Group has been doing this for over 25 years. We won’t say we’ve seen it all, but we’ve seen a lot more than most. We know how to prepare and what to look for in a divorce case.
Reach our Denton family lawyers at (972) 236-7798 or reach out online and let us help you next.