Q: What can I expect during the divorce litigation process?
A: The actual legal process for getting a divorce varies by state. However, most marital termination proceedings usually include a series of standard steps. The divorce litigation process in Texas begins with a petition for divorce that is filed with the court and then personally served on the other spouse. The other spouse then has 20 days to respond to the petition. Litigation then continues with the discovery process, during which each party can seek relevant information from the other. A hearing is sometimes scheduled to determine temporary orders, such as who will take care of the children while the divorce is pending, and who will reside in the marital residence during the pendency of the case. If the issues of the divorce cannot be negotiated during this process, the couple will proceed to trial, where a judge will decide the issues.
Q: How long will my divorce take and how much will it cost?
A: We understand that these questions are at the top of your list when contemplating divorce. Before answering, however, we would need to understand the specific facts of your case. In Texas, there is a mandatory 60-day waiting period before a divorce can be finalized. Our experience indicates, however, that most divorces will take several months. The timeframe and cost of a divorce case depend largely on the contested issues, the behaviors of the parties, and on your attorney's ability to negotiate successful resolutions.
Q: How much child support will I have to pay?
A: The answer to this question depends on your income, how many children you have and the custody arrangements. Texas uses guidelines to calculate the amount of support owed by the noncustodial parent. The guidelines are based on a number of factors, but the amount of support can range from approximately 20 percent of your net income to a higher percentage, depending on your circumstances and the number of children involved. Health insurance costs for your children are also taken into consideration.
Q: Will I have to pay alimony?
A: In Texas, permanent spousal support (alimony) can be part of a divorce decree under very specific and limited circumstances. Temporary support may also be appropriate while a divorce is pending. Otherwise, alimony is not standard in Texas.
Q: Can I keep my retirement funds?
A: Texas is a community property state, meaning that a property acquired during the marriage is subject to a “fair and equitable division” upon divorce. Determining how spouses’ retirement funds are divided can become very complex. In most cases, a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) will be required to transfer shares from a spouse who is participating in a retirement plan to the other spouse.
Q: Can I prevent my spouse from seeing my child if he (or she) is not paying court-ordered child support?
A: Child support and visitation rights are separate issues. You and the child’s other parent must obey all court orders related to both of these issues. In other words, a parent cannot refuse to pay child support because the other parent is refusing visitation, and the custodial parent may not deny visitation to a non-custodial parent who fails to pay child support. This is illegal.
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