Houston Divorce Attorneys
Experienced Houston Divorce Attorneys Who Can Answer All Your Questions
The experienced Houston divorce and family law attorneys at Conner & Lindamood handle all types of divorce cases, from contested divorces involving significant estates and complex child custody issues to simple uncontested marriage dissolutions based on mutual agreement.
- Houston Asset Protection
- Houston Complex Marital Estates
- Houston Divorce Modification & Enforcement
- Houston Property Discovery and Division
- Houston Property Settlements
- Houston QDRO
- Houston Separation & Divorce Planning
- Houston Settlements
- Divorce FAQ
Contact us today to schedule a consultation with an experienced Houston divorce attorney. This is a no-pressure, no-obligation discussion designed to give you the information you need to make the right decisions for you.
Negotiate or contest: Which is the best choice for you?
There are two things most people contest in divorce: property and children. Our straightforward and rational approach allows us to help our clients resolve important disputes fairly and efficiently. We follow a stairstep process in which we help identify areas of agreement and then proceed to negotiate issues in dispute.
We are trial lawyers. Our reputation is based on our extensive litigation experience and ability. We are also reasonable people and dedicated advocates for our clients’ emotional and financial well-being.
We realize that our clients’ best interests are best served if we can negotiate a fair and rational divorce settlement without declaring all-out war. We work to save our clients the stress and heartache of a drawn-out divorce dispute, not to mention the costs involved with fighting over every detail in court.
At the same time, your goals and best interests are our number one priority. We are fully prepared to provide our highest quality trial representation to preserve your rights and help ensure that you leave your marriage in a good position to start over and build a new life.
If experience is a reliable guide, you will feel better if you just give us a call.
If you are willing to explore your options for saving time, money and stress by pursuing a reasonable approach to divorce backed by lawyers with decades of proven experience and results, contact us today. We can answer your questions and address your concerns during your initial consultation.
Please continue reading to learn more about Texas divorce and the following topics:
- Legal separation and divorce planning
- Issues of property discovery and division
- Family violence and protective orders
- Complex marital estates
- Hidden assets
- Asset protection
- Division of investment and retirement accounts in divorce
- Alimony and spousal maintenance
- Child custody, child support and visitation
- Modification of divorce decrees when circumstances change
Divorce in Texas
A divorce is a method of terminating a marriage contract between two individuals. In Texas, divorce can either be “no fault” or fault-based. No fault divorce is a marital termination proceeding where the divorce is granted without either party being required to show that the other is responsible for the breakdown of the marriage. Under no fault rules, either party may obtain a divorce, even if the other spouse does not consent to the divorce.
Texas divorces can also be fault-based, requiring one person to give a legal reason in order to get a divorce. In Texas, divorces can be granted on the grounds of (1) adultery, (2) abandonment, (3) incurable insanity, (4) imprisonment for a felony conviction or (5) cruel and inhuman treatment. Tex. Fam. Code § 6.301. Typically, a fault-based divorce is pursued if the couple cannot reach a satisfactory settlement about property division, child support or custody, and one party wants the court to consider the conduct of the other party when deciding the issue.
Contemplating divorce is always difficult. Involving a knowledgeable Texas family law attorney from Conner & Lindamood, P.C. as soon as possible in the divorce process is one of the best ways to preserve your own long-term financial and emotional health. Contact our Houston, TX, office today to schedule a consultation.
What is the legal divorce process like?
Some divorces are simple and can be handled with a minimum amount of court involvement. However, most divorces are more complex and can take many different courses. The following is a basic outline of the divorce process.
- One spouse contacts a lawyer, who prepares a complaint setting forth the reasons why for the divorce.
- The complaint is filed with the court and served on the other spouse, together with a summons that requires the spouse’s response.
- The served spouse must respond within the time limit prescribed or it will be assumed that he or she does not contest the petition, in which case the petitioner will be granted the requested relief. The response, or answer, must express the relief that the answering spouse requests.
- The parties, through their attorneys, engage in “discovery,” during which they exchange all documents and other information relevant to deciding the issues in the divorce such as property division, spousal support, child support, etc.
- The parties may attempt to reach a settlement, which can be initiated voluntarily or facilitated by the parties’ lawyers or a neutral third party, such as a mediator.
- If a settlement is reached, the agreement is submitted to the court.
- If the judge approves the agreement, he or she issues a divorce decree that includes the terms to which the parties agreed. If he or she does not approve it, or if there has been no agreement, the case will go to trial.
- At trial, the attorneys present the evidence and arguments for both sides; the judge decides the issues and grants the divorce.
- Either or both parties can appeal the judge’s decision to a higher court.
What kinds of assets are divided in a divorce?
The parties in a divorce can agree to the division of (or the judge will divide) all marital or community property owned by the parties. Marital property generally includes most of the property the couple acquired during the marriage. Examples may be the marital home, second home, furnishings and appliances, artwork, vehicles, financial assets, investments, retirement accounts and privately owned businesses.
The value of intangible property may also be divided. Examples of divisible intangible property include the value of a patent on an invention, the value of the celebrity status of a spouse’s name, the goodwill value of a business owned by one spouse and the value of a professional degree earned by one spouse. The value of these intangible assets will generally only be divided when both spouses made a substantial contribution to that value, either directly or indirectly.
It is not always easy for a spouse to identify all of the assets that may be available for valuation and division. A party’s lawyer may help with this issue through discovery, During discovery the parties’ attorneys’ trade documents that disclose each party’s income, assets and liabilities. In addition, each spouse is usually deposed by the other spouse’s attorney. At the deposition, the questioned spouse will respond, under oath, to questions designed to gather all necessary information about his or her assets and income. If necessary, additional parties may be deposed, such as employers, bankers or business partners.
What terms should be included in a separation agreement?
A separation agreement may be advisable when the parties have very different financial situations, such as when one spouse is the wage earner and the other is a homemaker. A formal separation agreement can help ensure that all family members’ needs will be met.
The terms of such separation agreements vary, but the following items are usually addressed:
- The spouses’ right to live separately
- Custody of the children
- A visitation schedule
- Child support
- Alimony or spousal support
- The children’s expenses (medical, dental, educational and recreational)
- Property and debt division
- Insurance (medical, dental and life)
- Income taxes
An Amicable Divorce
Divorce is one of the most emotional experiences a person will ever face. At Conner & Lindamood, P.C. in Houston, TX, we appreciate that the decision to end a marriage is not an easy one and it is often accompanied by anger, fear and resentment.
The negative emotions associated with divorce are responsible for more than hurt feelings; they affect the final outcome of settlement negotiations. Most important, if children are involved, they will generally suffer. This will allow you to put on your business hat, which is critical for reaching a successful settlement. It will also allow you to put on your effective parent hat, which is critical for helping your children through this difficult process.
Bill Fergusen, a nationally recognized divorce and relationship expert on divorce and healing, recommends several steps that will help you remain amicable with your spouse during divorce proceedings. Bill describes the cycle of conflict people engage in when ending a marriage. One person says something nasty, the other responds. It takes two people to create and maintain a cycle of conflict. It only takes one person to end it. To end the cycle of conflict, you need to stop fueling it. The following tips will help you end your part in the negative cycle and help you achieve an amicable divorce.
If you don’t accept someone as they are, you will end up frustrated and more likely to continue to contribute to the conflict. Face it, your spouse isn’t going to change any more than a leopard will change its spots. Feelings of hurt drive more behavior than most people will admit. Often, anger is simply an unwillingness to feel hurt. If you allow yourself to feel hurt, it will run its course more quickly and allow you to move beyond it. Remember, crying is simply a means of relieving stress. Take the time to think about yourself, not the other person. Ignore what they did or said and think about what you did and said. Were you more critical than you should have been? Did you hurt their feelings? Notice how the other person has put up his or her walls of protection and given it back to you. See how your actions have fueled the conflict.
Let Go and Forgive
In many ways not letting go is a form of denial. We hang on to avoid feeling pain, but the pain won’t go away until we actually experience it. Become willing to feel the hurt and watch the need to hang on disappear and your ability to forgive grow. Forgiveness is for you, not the other person.
An argument is an example of two people talking but no one is listening. Once someone stops to listen, the argument ends. Take the time to listen, then calmly express your opinion and again take the time to listen. You will find solutions.
There are many more tips and techniques you can use to diffuse the tension between you and your spouse. Even if you decide to pursue a divorce, you can make it more amicable. Remember, when you fight to have your side prevail, you force the other person to fight against you. If you are committed to finding solutions that work for both of you, the resistance against you dissolves. It’s hard to fight someone who’s on your side.
Before a divorce may be granted, there are certain basic issues that must be resolved. They are:
- Property division
- Child custody and visitation
- Child support
If a divorcing couple agrees on all of these issues in writing, they will be granted an uncontested divorce and avoid adversarial divorce litigation. If there is disagreement, however, the divorce is contested, which means it may end up in trial before a judge or jury, or in another form of dispute resolution. It is important to consult with a Texas divorce attorney before deciding which method is right for your situation.
Divorce litigation involves a series of document exchanges and court appearances. In some instances there are questions or situations that need to be resolved temporarily before the final divorce agreement is reached or ordered by the court. Temporary orders with respect to support, custody or other matters generally remain in effect until the final decision is made at the end of the divorce process. Ultimately, there will be a trial if a settlement hasn’t been reached. Witnesses may include friends, financial experts and psychologists, to name just a few examples. The judge’s final decision provides the court’s rulings on all the issues raised by the parties.
Maintenance, often called alimony or spousal support, is financial support paid by one spouse to another. In Texas, a court awards maintenance in certain limited circumstances. If the court finds maintenance should be awarded, the appropriate amount will be determined by the court based on the factors set forth in the Texas Family Code.
Division of property
Texas uses the “community property” system to divide marital assets upon divorce. Most property acquired by either spouse during the marriage is community property to be divided upon divorce. Under Texas law, the division of property does not have to be equal. The courts are only required to divide the community property between the parties “in a manner that the court deems just and right, having due regard for the rights of each party and any children of the marriage.” Tex. Fam. Code § 7.002. If either spouse acquired property outside of the state, a court can also divide that property using community property rules if they divorce in Texas. Each spouse may also own separate property that is treated differently under the legal rules. Because classification of property and its division can become one of the most contentious issues in a divorce, you need the advice and assistance of a family law attorney familiar with Texas family laws and procedures.
How to Move On
Recovering from a divorce is similar to the grieving process one experiences when a loved one dies. There are five stages in the process: shock and denial, anger, ambivalence, depression, and recovery. Many people expect to work through these stages one after the other, but that isn’t usually how it happens. You can expect to move in and out of each phase over time and sometimes experience more than one phase at the same time. It is a difficult process and time consuming. Family counselors advise it may take as long as two years to fully recover; working with a sympathetic attorney from Conner & Lindamood, P.C. in Houston, TX, can also help the process.
Understanding the process and the types of feelings you might experience will help you allow yourself to fully grieve. It’s important to allow yourself the time you need to recover from the traumatic experience of ending a marriage so that you can move on to the next phase of your life.
Shock and Denial
When you finally make the decision to divorce a spouse, or you finally believe your spouse is serious about filing for divorce, you may experience shock and denial. The enormity of what is happening may seem like more than you can bear. Considering the changes that will happen in your life may create feelings of anxiety and panic. A typical way to cope with the extreme emotions is to deny the reality of what is happening and to cling to familiar routines. There is comfort in the familiar and a sense of security. Denial allows you to protect yourself from the knowledge that life will change dramatically and the feelings of fear associated with that knowledge. What is important to remember is that denial is an effective coping mechanism as long as it does not last too long or create other problems in your life.
Feelings of anger characterize the next stage. You may feel angry at yourself, your spouse, your parents, your job, and perhaps everyone else around you. It can become pervasive, but it is a necessary part of the process. Unless anger is acted out in a destructive way, it can be useful. Allow yourself the time you need to move through your anger. It will help you begin to let go and put emotional distance between you and your spouse. Eventually you will begin to think of yourself as one, rather than part of a couple. Until you do this it will be difficult to focus on your own needs and begin to build a new life for yourself.
The third stage of ambivalence is what can make people break up and get back together. Ambivalence tends to be present during most of the grieving process for people who are suffering the end of a marriage. The divorce process takes people on an emotional rollercoaster ride – depressed, excited for a new life, angry, disappointed, and back again. Do not be surprised if you feel out of control and experience a great deal of uncertainty.
Depression is extremely difficult to experience but it is the part of the grieving process that will help you move beyond the past into your new life. Depression may be accompanied by a variety of emotions that seem unrelated to the divorce or the marriage. If you allow yourself to look at yourself, experience loneliness and confront your role in the relationship and the end of the relationship you will be ready to let go and move on. You will quit blaming your spouse, lose the feelings of anger and ambivalence, your self- esteem will begin to grow and you will be ready for the final stage of recovery.
Once you reach the recovery stage you are feeling better about yourself. Your self-esteem may still be shaky, but you are ready to build your new life. The first step is to rebuild your social network. You may maintain friends you shared with your spouse, but often those relationships were based on the shared interests of the married couples. It’s time to find new people whose company you enjoy and who have similar needs in terms of time and activities.
Keep in mind that recovery is part of the process and takes some time. Allow yourself this time on your own to explore new interests and to develop a social network before you enter another committed love relationship.
Eventually you will begin to feel like a single person and actually be comfortable as a single person. If you have paid attention and worked hard, you may arrive at a place where you are comfortable with being single. This is a time when you can get to know yourself and build a new identity as a single person which will guide you in making healthier, more loving choices for yourself in the future.
Speak to Our Experienced Houston Divorce Attorneys
Reaching the decision to end a marriage is enormously difficult. Once you do make the decision it is in your best interest to approach the divorce process from a rational, businesslike perspective, which is extraordinarily difficult given the emotional issues with which you must also cope. Working with a Houston divorce attorney at Conner & Lindamood, P.C. will ease your stress and help you get through the process to begin your new life.