Common Reasons for Divorce in Texas
Marriage is a beautiful institution, and when couples decide to take that trip down the aisle, they are probably eagerly anticipating their future together. The unfortunate reality is, however, that while married couples hope their union will flourish, suffering through hard times is not uncommon, and when a situation becomes insupportable, many couples choose divorce as the answer. There is a long list of reasons why couples split, and if you are contemplating divorce, you may be surprised to learn that the courts require couples to have a solid reason.
Before assisting you in filing for divorce, your lawyer will first try to match you to a reason for splitting with one of the seven legal grounds for divorce. At Mims Ballew Hollingsworth Family Law, our Fort Worth divorce attorneys are dedicated to helping our clients through the most challenging times by providing support and assistance to navigate the complexities of divorce.
Irreconcilable Differences: Exploring No-Fault Divorce in Texas
Before no-fault laws started appearing across the United States in the 1970s, it was the case that if you wanted a divorce, you had to specify why. Maybe your spouse was abusive against you, unfaithful, or abused illegal substances. Whatever the reason, if you and your spouse wanted a divorce, you were required to have a logical reason for ending your marriage. In the present day, however, the court recognizes that relationships falter for various reasons. When a married couple can no longer get along and live together, they may decide to file for a no-fault divorce.
In a no-fault divorce, the two ex-spouses agree they do not want to be married anymore and formally recognize that neither party is guilty of any misconduct that caused the marriage to end. Grounds for the dissolution of the marriage in no-fault divorces are commonly referred to as irreconcilable differences. When a couple cites irreconcilable differences as a ground for a no-fault divorce, they are telling the court that the marriage has reached a point where it cannot be saved, and they simply can no longer live in peace together.
Proving that the marriage has become insupportable may involve you testifying at a court hearing about why you can no longer stand to be married to your spouse.
Some examples of irreconcilable differences that are commonly cited in a divorce include:
- Discord or conflict
- Lack of intimacy
- Personality conflict
- Financial issues
- Lack of communication
- Family challenges
- Political views
Once the court determines that your marriage is insupportable, an order that officially dissolves the union without fault will be issued. If you and your spouse cannot agree on all details relating to your separation, it may be necessary to see a fault-based divorce instead.
Filing for a fault-based divorce means that the person filing alleges that their spouse has specifically done something that led to the breakdown of the marriage. For example, a betrayed spouse who was the victim of cheating could file for divorce on the grounds of adultery. The person who files for a fault divorce must prove their allegations through evidence and witnesses.
Adultery and Infidelity: Impact on Divorce in Texas
In 2020, the Texas divorce rate was 2.5 per 1,000 people, with many divorcées citing infidelity as the reason for separating. If you were the victim of infidelity and live in Texas, you may be curious about how the state law looks at adultery in the context of divorce proceedings.
How does Texas define adultery?
Under Texas family law, adultery is defined as the voluntary sexual intercourse of a married person with another person who is not a party to the marriage. While emotional affairs can feel like cheating and cause a similar level of distress, it isn’t considered adultery and won’t help you in court.
Additionally, Texas does not recognize legal separation, and until a judge issues a final divorce decree, a married couple remains married. Because of this, if either spouse engages in an extramarital relationship during a couple’s time apart, it will still count as adultery.
For Texas courts to recognize adultery, the spouse cheated on must be able to prove that the infidelity occurred during the marriage. If you can prove with sufficient evidence that an extramarital affair took place, the courts will often presume that sexual acts occurred along with it.
Some examples of evidence that provide clear and positive proof that adultery occurred include the following:
- Emails, texts, or printouts from social media showing messages between your spouse and the person they’re having an affair with
- Bank statements or receipts showing evidence of the cheating spouse spending community assets on the extramarital affair.
- Phone records
- Photos or videos
Proving adultery can seem like a big hassle, and you’re probably wondering why people choose to file for fault divorces. If you can prove adultery as the basis for your divorce, it can have a considerable impact when determining child custody, alimony, and how the community estate is divided by the court.
Adultery and property division
While most community property states aim to split marital debts and assets 50/50, Texas courts divide property according to what is “just and right.” These terms are up for interpretation and allow Texas judges to exercise a fair amount of discretion to decide whether to award equal property or award one spouse more or less than 50% of the estate.
When divorcing your spouse and citing infidelity as your grounds for divorce, you must show:
- That the affair resulted in the breakdown of the marriage or;
- That community property was wasted outside of the marriage by the cheating spouse.
Examples of evidence that community property was wasted outside of the marriage include bank statements or receipts showing that money was spent on gifts, food, transportation, dinners, and hotel rooms to fund the affair. In these cases, a judge may award a disproportionate amount of the assets to the innocent spouse to repay what the guilty spouse spent on the affair.
Adultery and spousal maintenance
Under Texas law, alimony or spousal maintenance can only be awarded under a limited set of circumstances. Essentially, all of these circumstances are related to the requesting spouse’s inability to meet his or her own “minimum reasonable needs.”
After proving that the requesting spouse is incapable of earning a living on their own, they must also prove:
- The spouse seeking alimony was the victim of domestic violence committed by the other spouse within two years of the divorce.
- The requesting spouse is unable to work because they care for a child of the marriage that has a physical or mental disability.
- The spouse seeking alimony has an incapacitating disability that arose during the marriage.
- The marriage lasted for at least ten years, and the spouse seeking alimony is unable to pay for basic expenses.
While adultery is a factor judges consider when determining whether to award spousal maintenance, it is crucial to keep in mind that no single factor is determinative. Even if one spouse cheats, the court may still award them the same alimony payments as they would have otherwise.
Adultery and child custody
A court’s decision on child custody will typically not be affected by adultery itself. When it comes to child custody and support, Texas law prioritizes the best interests of the child and judges usually consider allowing the child to have a relationship with both parents to be in their best interests.
While an affair may not impact a child custody decision, if the cheating spouse’s new partner negatively impacts the child’s relationship with their parents, this could affect the judge’s ruling. Additionally, if the court deems a spouse’s new lover to be a criminal, addict, or child abuser, the judge might award the other spouse sole custody.
Cruelty and Domestic Violence as Grounds for Divorce in Texas
Divorcing an abusive spouse can be nerve-wracking, and if you or your child are victims of family violence, the most important thing you can do is find the courage to take action. The state defines cruelty as any cruel treatment your spouse has committed that has made further living together impossible. While domestic violence is not explicitly listed as grounds for divorce in Texas, spouses can file for divorce on the grounds of mental, physical, or emotional cruelty.
What constitutes cruelty under the law is vague and often determined based on case-specific facts. The conduct often needs to be wilful and ongoing to constitute cruelty; however, there are cases where a single incident happens that is so egregious such as a severe beating, that it could still support cruelty grounds. You will need to provide proof that your spouse engaged in cruelty by taking photos of any injuries, obtaining medical records, or police reports.
If you can prove that you were the victim of cruel treatment that led to the breakdown of your marriage, it can affect several issues in your divorce, including:
- Waiting periods
- Emergency relief
- Custody and time with children
- Spousal maintenance
- Division of community property
Should your spouse become violent, you should prioritize taking the necessary steps to protect yourself and your children, including leaving the house and contacting the police. Once you are safe, only then is it time to focus on legal issues.
There is a standard 60-day waiting period for divorce; however, in cases where family violence has occurred, a judge can waive the waiting period and speed up the process.
In order for a judge to waive this waiting period, you must:
- Filed a restraining order or protective order against your spouse or;
- Show that they were convicted of domestic violence.
- Emergency relief
- If family violence has happened against you or your children, you may be able to apply for a protective order against your abuser. Several types of protection orders are available to victims of family violence and are used to protect victims of domestic violence from the perpetrator.
Temporary “ex parte” orders provide protection for up to 20 days and can be reviewed by a judge without giving the other person time to respond to the allegations. This order helps ensure that the victim does not face further abuse or harassment by preventing the abuser from contacting the victim or coming to their place of work, home, or school. The judge will request a hearing sometime before the temporary protective order expires, where both parties will explain and defend their allegations. After the hearing, a judge may issue a final protective order that lasts up to two years.
A magistrate protective order can be issued if the perpetrator has been arrested. Even if the victim has not requested one, magistrates may still issue these orders. An abuser who violates a protective order can be held liable under criminal law, and if they violate the order more than once, they can risk facing felony charges.
Cruelty and community property division
Cruelty or conviction of a felony can impact what a “just and right” division means in your divorce, and it isn’t uncommon for one spouse to obtain less than the spouse who is the victim of domestic violence or cruelty.
Cruelty and spousal maintenance
The court may grant spousal maintenance if certain statutory requirements are met; however, if an abusive spouse was convicted of or received deferred adjudication for a crime constituting family violence within two years of filing for the divorce or while the divorce is pending, the court may order them to pay spousal maintenance.
Having a lack of financial resources can keep someone stuck in an abusive marriage. An abusive spouse may limit the other spouse’s access to money or even keep them from working. If a spouse has committed or was convicted of domestic violence within two years of filing for the divorce or while the divorce is pending, the court may order them to pay spousal maintenance.
Cruelty and child custody
In child custody decisions, family violence is a significant factor taken into account by the court. It is not uncommon for family judges to strip a parent whose been abusive to their
spouse or child of various rights pertaining to child custody and visitation.
When one parent has abused the other parent or child in the past, the judge will not appoint joint managing conservators and is more likely to appoint the non-abusing parent as the sole managing conservator. In cases where supervised visits would be in the child’s best interest, the court may grant them if the abusive parent also agrees to attend a treatment program like anger management.
Substance Abuse and Addiction: Its Role in Divorce Proceedings in Texas
Millions of Americans suffer from addiction. In fact, 13.7 percent of women and 5.2 percent of men cite drinking or drug use as a reason for getting a divorce. Those who are battling addiction can cause serious problems within their marriage. If you are in a marriage where your spouse is dealing with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, you understand the ups and downs associated with your spouse’s mood and how difficult it can be for your family. Retaining a skilled divorce attorney in Fort Worth can help you navigate this process and build an appropriate strategy for negotiations and court.
When you decide to file for divorce on the grounds of substance abuse, you may not have to go through the process of obtaining your partner’s consent to a divorce, even if they refuse to respond to your requests or sign divorce papers as long as you can provide proof. In divorces caused by drug and alcohol abuse, many aspects of the divorce may be affected, including the division of marital property and child custody.
Substance abuse and property division
Substance abuse can play a significant role in the division of assets in Texas. If the spouse who is abusing drugs or alcohol spent a considerable portion of the couple’s savings on their addiction, the sober spouse may be able to receive more of the marital assets as a form of reimbursement.
Substance abuse and spousal maintenance
Similar to how substance abuse affects the division of marital property and assets in a divorce, a judge could decide to award additional alimony to the spouse of an addict if the addict wasted a substantial amount of the marital assets to fuel the addiction.
In some rare cases where addiction has led to mental illness requiring institutionalization and disability and benefits do not cover the total cost of treatment, a sober spouse may need to pay alimony to their addicted partner. Conversely, one spouse’s dissipation of assets during the marriage due to addiction won’t necessarily entitle the sober spouse to receive alimony.
Substance abuse and child custody
In divorces where substance abuse plays a role, an addicted spouse can face a number of stiff repercussions, particularly regarding child custody. Texas courts take substance abuse issues very seriously, and while moderate drinking won’t affect a custody decision, courts will strongly consider any substance abuse issue that impacts someone’s parenting ability.
Judges must award child custody and visitation with the best interests of the child in mind. If a parent suffers from substance abuse issues and a judge does not believe they can provide their child with a safe and stable environment, they may decide not to award possession.
However, the court seeks to ensure that a child will have contact with both parents and may decide to order supervised or restricted visitation. The addicted parent may also have to attend drug or alcohol treatment to gain visitation rights to their child. In cases where a parent’s substance abuse led to serious injury to the child, a court may award full custody of a child to the sober parent who petitioned for divorce and not grant visitation to the other parent.
Get Help With Your Divorce from a Fort Worth Divorce Attorney
At Mims Ballew Hollingsworth⏐Family Law, we know that each marriage and divorce is unique, and your grounds for divorce will reflect that. Whether you’re contemplating filing for divorce or have already made up your mind, it is important that you understand not only your legal rights but also the process.
Our knowledgeable team of divorce lawyers in Fort Worth believes in providing personalized service to each of our clients and putting your interests at the forefront of our legal strategies. Contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys to discuss how we can protect you and your rights.