Texas Family Law FAQs

As an experienced Texas family law attorney, I get asked questions every day about the family law legal process. While every family law case is as different as the couple involved, there are some general questions that might help answer some of your pressing questions.

I invite you to read through these questions and answers, then contact my office in Fort Worth to discuss the specific circumstances of your family law case. I can be reached by phone at 817-381-9905 or by email.

How does an 'agreed divorce' work?

A married couple might decide to pursue an agreed divorce when they can agree on every aspect of the settlement, including property division and a visitation schedule, if there are kids involved. The parties decide all of these things on their own and then hire an attorney to draft the agreed-upon divorce decree.

The divorce decree is signed by both parties and presented to the court in person by the attorney and the party being represented by the attorney.

The family court judge and the lawyer ask the parties a standard list of questions about the marriage, the children and the divorce decree. The judge then signs on the decree, granting the divorce right then and there, as long as everything makes sense.

It's important to work with a family law attorney, even in the case of an agreed divorce, because the decree needs to have all of the necessary requirements in order for the judge to sign on it.

How long does the divorce process take in Texas?

The length of a divorce can vary from case to case depending on factors such as whether the parties are in agreement on all issues and whether the case involves complex property issues. However, there is a standard 60-day waiting period in all cases from the date the divorce is filed with the county clerk until a court can be set to grant the divorce.

Does Texas have legal separation?

No. There is no such thing as legal separation in Texas, which means you can only file for divorce. It is possible to ask for temporary orders (orders that are put into place before the divorce is finalized) soon after filing.

Temporary orders may involve issues such as who gets to stay in the house, what the parenting time arrangement will be, and any amount of temporary child support or spousal support that needs to be paid.

The orders are in place until they are changed by the court or superseded by the final divorce decree.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 a good idea to date or start a new relationship while the divorce is pending?

No. From a family law attorney's point of view, this is not a good idea. Oftentimes, dating complicates the situation and causes the other spouse to be more difficult to deal with than he or she would be otherwise.

Finally, it can be confusing and difficult on the children involved when a parent begins dating someone new before the divorce is final.

Will the court 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 percent 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 first, third and fifth 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 Texas 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 Texas Family Code provides that a court may not order support more than the lesser of $5,000, or 20 percent of the spouse's average monthly income. The Texas 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 10 to 20 years, a period of up to seven years for marriages of 20 to 30 years, and a period of up to 10 years for marriages of 30 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 Texas Family Code's limits on the amount and duration of the payments.

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I am ready to answer all of your Texas family law FAQs. Call me at 817-381-9905 or contact me by email to schedule an initial consultation.