Emotional and Financial Issues in a Harris County Divorce
The divorce rate has dipped recently, but divorce’s moral acceptability rating recently hit an all-time high. So, more people than ever see divorce as a legitimate way to end a marriage which, for whatever reason, is no longer satisfying.
If the couple has only been married for a few years and has no children, a no-fault marriage dissolution is a relatively straightforward affair. That’s especially true if, as is often the case in these situations, one spouse has abandoned the relationship.
But in most cases, a Houston divorce lawyer must help couples work through some significant emotional and financial issues. As a result, many divorce cases last several months, or even longer. Some of the major marriage dissolution issues are outlined below.
Child Custody and Visitation
Many states have abandoned these terms in favor of phrases like parenting time and division of responsibility. But that’s not true in Texas. The difference is more than just words. In the Lone Star State, there is a presumption that children should live with one parent and visit the other one. Substantial research indicates this division is in the best interests of the children, especially if they are younger.
So, the SPO (Standard Possession Order) is still the most common division of parental responsibility in Texas. Most SPOs feature an every other weekend/every other holiday division. If the parents live more than 100 miles apart, the noncustodial parent usually receives one weekend a month and every other holiday.
There are often significant variations. Most divorces settle out of court, and most Harris County judges approve these agreements. Common changes include extended midweek visitation and provisions for electronic visitation (e.g. Skype and FaceTime).
All custody and visitation provisions must be in the best interests of the children. Some factors to consider in this area include:
- Ability to Co-Parent: Many spouses hire overaggressive lawyers who fight everything. Often, this strategy backfires. Many judges assume that if a parent is intransigent during court proceedings, that uncooperative attitude will be worse when court supervision ends.
- Parenting Track Record: Some parents show little interest in school plays or athletic contests. Or, perhaps they do not enforce daily discipline very well, such as brush your teeth and do your homework. These individuals usually make poor custodial parents.
- Child’s Preference: Children over 12 may express a custodial preference in Texas. Such preferences often carry considerable weight, but the judge always has the final say in these matters.
Speaking of weight, most Harris County judges order social services investigations in child custody disputes. A social worker reviews the case, talks to the people involved, and then makes a recommendation as to custody and visitation. This recommendation is not binding, but it does carry considerable authority with most judges.
Child custody determinations also involve child support determinations. Texas is an income share state. Generally, the court bases the child support obligation on a percentage of the obligor’s income. That percentage varies depending on the number of children before the court.
Property division is another issue. Texas is a community property state. However, Texas’ community property law does not automatically mean a 50-50 division. Instead, the court must divide community property in a just and right manner, based on factors like:
- Relative age and earning capability of each spouse,
- Length of the marriage,
- Fault in the breakup of the marriage, such as adultery,
- Custody of minor children,
- Dissipation (waste) of community assets, and
- Support of adult children.
If the parties had a premarital agreement, the property division phase is usually much smoother. Most judges uphold such agreements, as long as they are not blatantly one-sided and each spouse had an independent lawyer.
Rely on an Experienced Lawyer
Most divorces involve complex emotional and financial issues. For a confidential consultation with an experienced Houston divorce lawyer, contact Lindamood & Robinson, P.C., Attorneys at Law. We routinely handle matters in Galveston County and nearby jurisdictions.