What is an agreed divorce?
An agreed divorce happens when the married couple can agree on every aspect of the divorce including who gets what stuff and what the possession (visitation) schedule for the kids will be. They get together and decide all this and then get a lawyer to draft an agreed decree. The husband and wife both sign it. The lawyer and the client go to court one morning and prove up the divorce. The client and lawyer go before a family court judge and the lawyer asks the client a standard list of questions regarding the marriage, the kids and the agreed decree. If all is in order, which it should be, the judge will sign the decree granting the divorce right then and there.
How long does it take to get divorced?
There is a sixty-day waiting period from the date the divorce suit is filed with the county clerk until a court will grant the divorce. Of course, if the parties are not in agreement on the terms of the divorce, it probably will take longer to get the divorce accomplished.
Does Texas have a legal separation?
No. You can't file for a separation, only for a divorce. If you file for divorce, you should be able to get temporary orders from the court soon after filing to cover issues like who gets to live in the house, what the visitation schedule with the kids will be, and how much temporary child support and spousal support will be paid. The temporary order remains in effect until changed by the court or superseded by the final divorce decree. Sometimes temporary orders remain in effect for a year or more when the couple has difficulty agreeing to the terms of the divorce.
Is it okay to date during the time between filing for divorce and the rendering of the divorce (that is, during the pendency of the divorce)?
No. Don't do it. It will complicate the divorce and may anger your spouse so much that he or she will not be as easy to deal with as they might have been prior to your dating. In addition, the spouse may assert that you are committing adultery and may bring that up in your divorce case. That could lessen the amount of money and assets you recover in the divorce. Besides, it is very confusing for the children for you to start dating that soon after separating.
Will the court to require my spouse to pay my legal fees?
Not usually. In agreed divorces, most couples agree that each will pay their own attorney. The courts also seem prone to require the parties to pay their own attorneys' fees. Of course, you can sometimes get the court to dip into the community property to pay the fees to your attorney during the pendency of the divorce. The court may also equalize the fees between the attorneys so that your spouse will also be able to draw out community funds to pay his or her attorney.
How much child support will I have to pay (or will my spouse have to pay)?
Child support is determined almost entirely by a chart and formula that the Texas legislature has established. Generally, if you have two children for whom you are paying support, you will have to pay 25% of your net resources (that is gross income less some deductions for taxes and for union dues or health insurance costs for the children) for child support.
What is wage withholding?
In any proceeding in which child support payments are ordered, the court must order that income be withheld from the disposable earnings (out of their paychecks) of the person who is obliged to pay child support. That means that the employer of the person who pays, is ordered to withhold the amount necessary to pay the monthly child support from each paycheck or whatever paycheck and withholding schedule is set up.
What will the visitation schedule be like?
The legislature has established what is called the "Standard Possession Order." It is set forth in the Texas Family Code, and provides for the person who does not have the children living with him or her to have possession of the children on the 1st, 3rd and 5th weekends of each month, plus Thursday evenings during the school year alternating holidays and a month in the summer. The extended possession adds pickup at school when school gets out before the weekend, and an overnight on Sunday and Thursday nights during the school year. A couple can also agree to a different schedule such as every other weekend.
May I receive alimony?
Texas has court-ordered maintenance, which is defined in the divorce context as court-awarded periodic payments from the future income of one spouse for the support of the other spouse. It doesn't get awarded very often. The court determines the nature, amount, duration and manner of payment by considering relevant factors including those listed in the Family Code: financial resources of the spouse seeking maintenance, education and employment skills, duration of the marriage, age, earning ability, and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance, ability of the spouse who is asked to pay to meet his or her own needs, excessive or abnormal expenditures by either spouse of community property, comparative financial resources of the spouses, property brought in to the marriage, contribution of the spouse as a homemaker, marital misconduct of the spouse seeking maintenance and the efforts of the spouse seeking maintenance to find employment. The Family Code provides that a court may not order support more than the lesser of $5,000.00 or 20 percent of the spouse's average monthly income. The family code was amended in 2011 to allow courts to award maintenance for periods longer than three years. Now the court may award maintenance payments for a period of up to five years for marriages of ten to twenty years, a period of up to seven years for marriages of twenty to thirty years, and a period of up ten years for marriages of thirty years or more. Even if a spouse does not qualify to be considered for court-ordered maintenance, the parties in a divorce may agree for one party to pay the other contractual alimony after the divorce. Contractual alimony payments are not subject to the Family Codes limits on the amount and duration of the payments.