When Love Fades: A Divorce After 10 Years of Marriage in Texas
A decade is a long time, and a couple who reaches this milestone may believe they’ve gotten past the most challenging parts of marriage. Things like negotiating the “right way” to load the dishwasher or raising your kids through the terrible twos but deciding to dissolve a marriage can quickly become legally and emotionally complicated.
If you’re thinking of parting ways with your spouse, an experienced divorce attorney can help you navigate the complex process and help you understand your legal options. At Mims Ballew Hollingsworth Family Law, we know the extreme stress you may be experiencing in the wake of a divorce and are prepared to do all we can to get you the most favorable outcome.
Property Division in Texas: What Happens After a Decade of Marriage?
In divorce cases, the longer a couple has been together, the more difficult it can be to divide assets. Knowing what to expect can help simplify the process and relieve some stress.
Community Property Law in Texas
When dividing property in a divorce, Texas adheres to the community property model meaning all marital assets acquired by either spouse during the marriage are considered community property. In general, the longer you’ve been married, the greater the percentage of your property will likely be community property.
Like marital assets, any debts and liabilities the couple incurred during the marriage are considered liabilities of the community estate. Assets that qualify as separate property are the only exceptions to the community property law. Separate property includes any property owned, inherited, or acquired as a gift by one spouse prior to the marriage.
Types of property for couples who have been together a decade or more that may be up for division include:
- Real estate
- Personal assets
- Specific employment benefits
- Retirement accounts and pension
- Personal businesses
Coming out of the divorce, if you and your spouse are on equal footing financially, the more likely your property will be divided fairly. However, the court may order a division of property that is not equal when there are “just and right” reasons.
To determine this, the court will thoroughly examine the specific facts as well as the potential future needs of you and your spouse. Exceptions can be made to the “just and right” division of community estate when fault grounds are proven in a divorce. For example, if adultery or cruelty by one spouse is involved, the other might walk away with a larger share of the estate.
Child Custody and Visitation: How Texas Law Handles Divorces After 10 Years of Marriage
Divorce is notoriously difficult on children, and parents try and do their best to protect them from the adverse effects of the family splitting apart. In Texas, the court divides child custody issues into two categories: conservatorship and possession and access.
What Types of Conservatorship Are There?
Conservators are the people in charge of a child. There are two types of conservators: managing and possessory conservators. Managing conservators are responsible for making major decisions about the child. Examples include decisions regarding the child’s education and primary residence. Possessory conservators have the right to spend time with the child but do not take part in making these types of significant decisions.
Managing conservators are divided into two sub-categories:
- Sole managing conservator
- Joint managing conservator
A sole managing conservator is the only parent with the legal right to make major decisions concerning the child, including decisions about the child’s education, residence, and health. In these situations, the parent who is the sole managing conservator generally receives child support from the other parent. When one parent is given sole managing conservator, the other parent is given a “possessory” designation. The possessory conservator has the right to visit the child through an ordered visitation schedule.
Parents named joint managing conservators generally share these decision-making rights and responsibilities. Even when custody is granted jointly, a judge may still decide to make one of the parents the primary joint managing conservator. The court will look at which parent has been doing things like feeding, bathing, or getting your child ready to go to school to determine which parent will be made the primary conservator.
Child Visitation and Access
In Texas, child visitation is referred to as “possession and access.” Possession of your child refers to the time you spend with them in person. Access refers to interactions with your child via phone, text message, video call, or social media. It also means you have a right to access their school and medical records.
There are two statutory possession and access schedules: standard and extended standard. A standard possession order (SPO) is a court-ordered schedule that outlines the specific days and times a non-custodial parent is entitled to spend with their child. The order also includes conditions for possession of the child during weekends, summer vacations, and certain holidays.
While an SPO provides the non-custodial parent with periods of possession that begin and end at 6 pm, an ESPO allows this to be extended. Unless it is determined not to be in the child’s best interest, Texas legislation automatically grants a parent living within a 50-mile radius of the custodial parent an ESPO.
Can You Get Spousal Support after a 10-year Marriage in Texas?
When a marriage ends, a court may order spousal maintenance to a spouse unable to provide for their minimum needs due to one of the following three reasons:
- Mental or physical disability;
- Lacking earning capacity in the current labor market;
- Having primary custody of a child who requires substantial care or personal supervision of the child.
While the likelihood of a judge ordering spousal maintenance is low, it increases for couples married for at least ten years. An exception to this rule can be made if, within two years of the divorce being filed, one spouse is found guilty of a crime involving family violence against their ex-spouse or child.
When can spousal maintenance be reduced or terminated?
Payment of spousal maintenance may be terminated before the award period ends under certain circumstances. The process of changing an alimony agreement is called “maintenance award modification” and can only be carried out through the court system.
The three instances when spousal support can be reduced or terminated in Texas are:
Substantial changes in life circumstances
A spousal support obligation may be reduced or terminated if your financial circumstances change significantly or you are diagnosed with a medical condition that prevents you from working. If either spouse wishes to modify or terminate a maintenance order, they must file a motion with the county clerk and present evidence at the court hearing.
Remarriage or cohabitation
The paying spouse’s obligation to pay support can be terminated when the receiving party begins cohabitating with a romantic partner or remarries. Immediately upon remarriage, the paying spouse is allowed to stop sending alimony payments. However, the paying spouse must continue their obligation to a remarried ex-spouse if they owe back alimony payments.
Death of either spouse
Spousal support obligations end upon the death of either former spouse. The purpose of this court-ordered arrangement is to provide the receiving spouse with support and is not intended to be inherited by any children or heirs to the former spouse unless agreed to in writing otherwise.
As deemed by the original maintenance order, the spouse required to make alimony payments must continue to make those payments until a court officially rules to change or terminate the order. If the paying spouse fails to keep up with alimony payments, they may face varying degrees of consequences, including bank liens or jail time. Consulting with an experienced divorce lawyer can help you determine whether pursuing modification or the termination of an alimony agreement may be reasonable.
Challenges of Divorcing After a Decade: Tips for a Smooth Separation in Texas
Marriage is a commitment couples don’t often choose to enter based on impulse, and walking away from a decade of living life together is a difficult decision. If you are facing divorce, the process may not be as simple and painless as you are hoping, and knowing the most common pitfalls of divorce can help protect your rights and allow the divorce to proceed as smoothly as possible. While you are not required to work with a divorce attorney, having someone who can educate you through the process will help prevent costly and time-consuming mistakes.
Additionally, while people are often not at their best during a divorce for your sake or the sake of your children, you should do your best not to let emotions control you. Succumbing to emotions like anger can have a negative impact on the outcome of your divorce, which will have a significant impact on your future. For a smooth transition, it is crucial to approach every decision with reason and purpose. A knowledgeable divorce attorney can assist you in making well-considered decisions and make you feel more comfortable with the process.
Here is an outline of what to expect in the Texas divorce process:
Step 1: Prepare to File
Most married couples are unaware of their options to end their marriage. The most common options are an annulment or filing for a contested or uncontested divorce. In cases where the marriage does not qualify for an annulment, you may have to proceed with a contested or uncontested divorce.
In determining which type of divorce you qualify for, you should consider whether you and your spouse can agree on the following questions:
- How will assets and debts be divided?
- What type of child custody agreement will you have?
- Which parent will pay child support, and what the total amount would be?
- Will alimony be paid? If so, to who, how much, and for how long?
If you and your spouse are unable to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement on your own or through meditation, you may consider filing for a contested divorce. Conversely, if you both agree on the above, you may file for an uncontested divorce.
Document all properties, possessions, and assets
Once you’ve determined what type of divorce to file, you should document all your properties, assets, and possessions. The division of your marital property will hinge upon documenting this information, and the earlier you begin the process, the better your chances of avoiding getting cheated out of property or possession that should be yours.
As you document your belonging, you should include information about your:
- Financial portfolio
- Retirement accounts
- Home mortgage and deeds for any other owned properties
- Titles for cars, boats, and recreational vehicles
- Documentation related to anything of value, like art or jewelry
Gather and make copies of important documents
When you file your case, gathering the originals of your important documents and making several copies can save you time and money. One of the most important documents you must include in your divorce paperwork package is your marriage certificate and the Original Petition for Divorce. Additionally, be sure you have information on your spouse, such as their address, place of employment, driver’s license number, and social security number.
Step 2: File The Petition
Divorce procedures in Texas can only be initiated if the court has jurisdiction over your case, meaning you must file the documents in the county where you or your spouse resides. In order to meet a state or county’s residency requirement, you must have lived in that state for at least six months before filing. The minimum residency requirement for counties is three months or 90 days.
To start the divorce process, you should expect to find and prepare the following forms:
- Original Petition for Divorce
- Standard Possession Order
- Civil Case Information Sheet
- Information on Suit Affecting the Relationship
Once you’ve gathered these documents, you must make two copies of each and bring them to the county clerk. You may need to include additional forms depending on the circumstances of your divorce and family situation. For instance, if you’re hoping to revert to your maiden name or modify a standard custody order, there are typically separate forms you must find, gather, and fill out.
Step 3: Notifying Your Spouse
Once the Petitioner files for divorce, the other spouse or Respondent must be notified. Verbally notifying your spouse of the divorce is insufficient, and you must provide them with legal notice by serving them with a copy of each document you have filed in the initial divorce papers or by having them fill out and sign a Respondent’s Original Answer form or Waiver of Service. Signing this waiver does not mean that the Respondent agrees to any allegations made in the Original Petition for Divorce.
In Texas divorce proceedings, serving divorce papers is an essential step without which you would be unable to proceed. You can choose to personally deliver these documents to your spouse for them to review, or you can choose to have a constable, sheriff, or other person assigned by the court to serve your spouse. Another option is to use a process server in person or by certified mail. Divorce papers can be served in person, by mail, email, or social network.
As soon as the Respondent is served, they have 20 days from the date of notification to respond by filing a Respondent’s Original Answer or the Waiver form. If the Respondent wants to make their own claims against the Petitioner, they can file a Counter Petition for divorce. Once this step is complete, you must wait at least 60 days before arranging a hearing date. This waiting period may be shortened in cases involving domestic abuse or other circumstances that could harm you or your child.
When a couple is unwilling to agree on matters regarding child custody, division of marital property, and spousal support arrangements, they often have to hire lawyers and experts such as investigators, accountants, and assessors, prolonging the divorce process. If you and your divorcing spouse can agree on these issues, it will save you time and money and help mitigate some stress and tension you may be feeling during this challenging time. Although you may be trying to finalize your divorce as soon as possible, it is important to take your time to review all your options and ensure you aren’t making any hasty decisions that could
have repercussions for your future.
Step 4: The Hearing
After the state-mandated 60-day waiting period, Texas law requires that you schedule a court date where a judge will make a final decision on all issues in the divorce, such as child custody arrangements or debt distribution. What happens during the trial primarily depends on whether the parties have already agreed on all issues. If the divorce is uncontested, the final hearing will be relatively quick.
In contested divorces, each party’s lawyers will typically take the lead, present evidence, and do everything possible to reach a favorable outcome for their client. While settling out of court is possible when you file a Settlement Agreement, you will still have to be present in front of a judge at least once before the divorce is finalized.
Step 5: Finalizing the Divorce
Once all issues are decided and the judge signs the final divorce decree, the dissolution of your marriage is considered official. The final divorce decree will outline when and how the awarded property division should be facilitated and typically include a deadline by which all property awarded to one spouse must be given over by the other.
Let Us Fight for Your Rights
Divorce is a complicated process, and for couples divorcing after ten or more years of marriage, this process can become even more stressful as they face unique issues ranging from property division to alimony. With everything going on, as soon as you decide to move forward with the divorce officially, consider seeking advice and assistance from an advocate who understands what you’re going through.
Our lawyers at Mims Ballew Hollingsworth Family Law understand that you need a divorce attorney with experience handling issues unique to your case. With our help, you can rest assured that your best interests will be protected, and we will do all we can to make the process as smooth and painless as possible. Contact us today for your free, no-obligation consultation.