If you need a divorce the best case scenario is that all issues be resolved by a fair agreement. Contested divorce cases and trials can be expensive, exhausting, and are often unnecessary.
People sometimes wrongly assume that their divorce will be “uncontested” because neither spouse wishes to remain married. The reality is that there are usually several other issues that must be agreed to (or decided by a judge) before a divorce can be finalized. The following is a brief outline of a few areas that must be addressed in a divorce. It is not exhaustive and you should consult with a competent divorce lawyer about your particular situation.
In cases with minor children of the marriage the divorce decree must address conservatorship (sometimes described as custody) of the children and identify which party will have the exclusive right to establish the children’s residence. The Decree must also state whether the children’s residence will be restricted to a particular geographical area.
The Decree must also identify (usually in very great detail) exactly what the non-custodial parent’s visitation schedule will be. The most common visitation schedule in a divorce decree is based upon the Standard Possession Order as detailed in the Texas Family Code. However, this is not a mandatory schedule and, if it is shown to be in the best interest of the children, the Court can deviate from this schedule. People are frequently stunned at the amount of detail in the visitation portion of the Decree, but this level of detail is necessary in order to satisfy the court and to ensure that the order can be enforced in the future, if necessary.
Except in the most unusual cases, a case involving minor children will also require the non-custodial parent to pay child support to the custodial parent. In the vast majority of cases, the amount of child support is based on the payor’s income. Additionally, the non-custodial parent will usually be the person responsible for carrying health insurance on the children.
Property and Debt Issues
In a divorce case the division of any assets or liabilities of the parties must be resolved, either by agreement or trial. In a very simple case where the parties own no significant assets, owe no significant debts, and have already separated and divided their personal effects (furniture, electronics, clothing, etc.), the parties might, for example, decide that they will each keep the personal effects in their possession and the accounts and assets held in that party’s name, and each will be be responsible for the debt held in that party’s name. Generally, this type of property division will only be fair and effective in the simplest of cases. Even then, additional work may be necessary to ensure that the property is correctly titled. For example, a vehicle awarded to one spouse may need to have the title transferred solely into that spouse’s name.
For people who have assets such as a home, pensions, 401k or other retirement accounts, other financial accounts or business interests, as well as people who have significant debts, the property division can be a more complicated matter.
While most people ultimately resolve their divorce by agreement prior to trial, in nearly all cases you are well advised to consult with a competent divorce lawyer for advice on the best way to resolve your particular situation. The brief outline above is designed merely to bring some of the more significant and common issues to your attention. It is by no means exhaustive and you should consult with a divorce lawyer about your specific situation.
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