San Antonio Family Law Divorce

How will a divorce affect my life?

When you get a divorce, things change. Your life changes. Your priorities change. Your financial situation changes. It seems as if your whole world has changed. The person who used to be your spouse is no longer there. Now, when you roll over in bed, there is no warmth or scent or touch of the person who used to be next to you. There is only an empty spot that is as cold as the other side of the pillow. You wonder what happened. How could you not have seen it coming? Is there anything you could have said or done? Can you go back to the way things used to be? Will you ever find someone else? Will you ever marry again?

If you are a parent, how will you explain to the children that Mommy or Daddy doesn’t live there anymore? Will they understand? When will your former spouse be able to see the children? Can you reach an agreement about child custody and visitation? Will the grandparents be able to visit with their grandchildren? What happens if you or your former spouse gets a new boy friend or girl friend? What happens if he or she remarries? How will that affect you and the children?

Divorce has financial consequences. Will you be able to afford your rent, mortgage, or car payment? Will there be enough money to buy food and clothes and to pay your credit cards and other expenses? Will you have to get another job? How will you provide for the children? Are you going to have to cut back on something? How can you balance taking care of your children and work? Who will take the children to their school events and activities? Will you be able to receive or have to pay child support, spousal support or alimony? Can you afford after-school child care or day care? What about health insurance for you and the children?

Your retirement planning changes. It may take longer to retire, if you can afford to retire at all. Can you get a part of your spouse’s retirement? Does divorce affect your social security? Will there be any tax consequences if you get divorced? You should always talk with a competent tax adviser about any possible tax consequences because of your divorce. You may need to revise your will to reflect the change in your family status.

Return to top

What is a divorce?

A suit for divorce is a legal proceeding to end a marriage. In Texas, a divorce can only be done by a court order. There is no informal or common-law divorce. Being legally separated is not a divorce.

Return to top

Do I have to live in Texas for a certain period of time?

Yes. In order to file for divorce in Texas, at the time the divorce lawsuit is filed either spouse must have been a domiciliary of Texas for the preceding six-month period and a resident of the county in which the lawsuit was filed for the preceding 90-day period. If a spouse lives outside Texas or the county of his or her residence because of service in the armed forces or other services of the United States or Texas, that time is still considered as being in Texas.

Return to top

What are the grounds for divorce?

There are seven grounds for divorce in Texas. Three of them are no-fault grounds which means one of the spouses can get a divorce without showing fault for the break-up of the marriage. Insupportability is the most common ground for a no-fault divorce. There are four faults grounds, including cruelty and adultery. Regardless of the ground for divorce, a party must plead and prove at least one ground in order to get a divorce.

Return to top

How does the divorce process work?

A divorce begins when one spouse files for divorce against the other spouse in the county of residence of either spouse. In Bexar County, Texas a “Standing Order” automatically applies. This order imposes limitations on what each party can do while the case is pending. In essence, it strives to keep the status quo between the parties until the divorce is rendered by the court.

The other spouse must be officially notified of the lawsuit by either being served by a sheriff or a private process server or by signing a waiver of citation and service. The fact that one spouse tells the other spouse that a divorce lawsuit was filed or gives him or her a copy of the lawsuit is not valid service. The other spouse may file a written response to the lawsuit within the time allowed by law.

The parties should voluntarily share information with each other about their children and their marital assets and debts. If they do not cooperate with each other, the attorneys can serve discovery requests on the parties to obtain that information. If the parties are unable to resolve all issues on their own or through mediation, the case will be set for trial. At trial either the judge or a jury will decide how the divorce will end.

Return to top

Is there a waiting period before a divorce can be granted?

Yes. There is a 60-day waiting period between the date the divorce lawsuit was filed and the date a court can render a final judgment for divorce. However, the 60-day waiting period is not required if (a) the respondent has been finally convicted of or received deferred adjudication for an offense involving family violence against the petitioner or a member of the petitioner’s household, or (b) the petitioner has an active protective order or an active magistrate’s order for emergency protection based on a finding that the respondent committed family violence during the marriage.

Return to top

What are temporary orders?

If a party requests temporary orders, either at the time the divorce lawsuit is filed or later in the lawsuit, the court may grant temporary orders. Temporary orders may be requested for the protection of a party or for the preservation of property. For example, temporary orders may (a) designate which spouse will have primary custody of the child of the marriage, establish visitation, and require the other spouse to pay child support and provide health insurance for the benefit of the child, (b) require one spouse to pay spousal support to the other spouse or to pay certain household expenses, (c) grant exclusive use of a residence, vehicle or other property to one spouse, (d) exclude a spouse from the other spouse’s residence or business, (e) require the parties to provide to each other their inventory and appraisement, (f) order the parties to attend mediation, (g) require one party to pay part of the other party’s attorney’s fees, and (h) impose other duties and requirements.

Return to top

How are the property and debts divided? 

Texas is a community property state. Community property consists of the property, other than separate property, acquired by either spouse during marriage. It is presumed that all property acquired during marriage is community property, unless a party can show by clear and convincing evidence that the property is separate property. In a divorce decree, the court must order a division of the parties’ community estate in a manner that the court deems just and right, having due regard for the rights of each party and any child of the marriage. A court cannot divide a party’s separate property, but it can confirm a party’s separate estate.

Return to top

Can I get my maiden name restored as part of my divorce?

Yes. A party may have a former name (e.g., a maiden name) restored if such a request is made in that party’s pleadings. If the court grants the request, the party can obtain a name change certificate from the court clerk. If the party wants to change his or her name after the divorce is granted, that party must file a separate lawsuit for the change of name. Many female spouses choose to keep their married name especially when there are children, so that the mother and the children will still have the same last name.

Return to top

When can I remarry?

After the divorce neither party may marry a third party before the 31st day after the date the divorce is rendered.  The former spouses may marry each other at any time.

Return to top

Is a legal separation the same as a divorce?

No.A legal separation is NOT a divorce. “Legal separation” is not recognized in Texas as a marital status. You and your spouse remain legally married even though you have chosen to live separate lives. As such, each of you remains subject to the same laws that apply to married people. If you do live separately, it is advisable for each spouse to sign a separation agreement that clearly states each spouse’s rights, duties and responsibilities and addresses such issues as division of assets and debts, conservatorship (custody) of the child, visitation, child support, health insurance for the child and spousal maintenance.

Return to top

Do I have to attend a divorce seminar?

Usually, both parties are required to attend and complete a divorce seminar when a child is involved.  The Certificate of Completion must be filed with the court clerk before a judge will grant the divorce.  Attendance at a divorce seminar is not required when no children are involved.

Return to top

Whether your case is a simple uncontested divorce or an agreed divorce, or whether it involves more complex issues such as child custody or property division, or whether you want an annulment or legal separation, call the Law Office of Kim M. Pettit at (210) 558-4572 to schedule an appointment and get your questions answered.  As an experienced divorce lawyer in San Antonio, I am here to help you through this stressful and difficult time.

Return to top