Getting a divorce is never easy. But with the right legal counsel in your corner, it can be a smooth and manageable process. That’s where KoonsFuller comes in. As the second largest family law firm in the country, KoonsFuller has offices in Dallas, Houston, Plano, Southlake and Denton, and retains thirty-eight lawyers who specialize exclusively in divorce.
To learn more, we spoke with KoonsFuller CEO and Managing Shareholder Ike Vanden Eykel. He’s been practicing trial law for 45 years and has worked solely on divorce for the prior 35. So, he knows his stuff. Below, Mr. Vanden Eykel shares 10 important considerations when getting a divorce in Texas.
- Texas tries divorce cases in front of juries.
In this regard, Texas is different than every other state. Though it’s not too common, either side can demand a jury to try their divorce or custody case, and the court is obligated to give it to them. For this reason, it’s especially vital to hire counsel with experience trying cases in front of juries.
- Community property accrues until the divorce is official.
Texas is a community property state, but one crucial detail many people don’t realize is that the community estate doesn’t get split when you file for divorce. Instead, it continues to accumulate until the date the divorce is officially rendered. This distinction can have a significant financial impact for both parties.
- Texas doesn’t have alimony.
But Texas does have spousal maintenance. It’s often limited in both the amount and length of time, with only a small number of people qualifying for it. If you’ve been awarded a certain amount of assets in the case, you likely won’t qualify for spousal maintenance.
- Child support will be awarded.
It’s a common misunderstanding that, if you share equal time with the kids, you don’t have to pay child support. However, child support has its own set of guidelines based on disparity of income, not time spent with the children. If one spouse makes significantly more than the other, the court will apply the child support guidelines to determine the amount owed.
- Custody doesn’t automatically go to Mom.
Back in the day, it was common for the mother to receive custody of children in a divorce, but those rules began changing in the ‘70s. These days, either parent can receive custody.
- All property at time of divorce is presumed community property.
Money, houses, cars and all other assets accrued during the marriage are considered community property. Separate property includes what you brought into the marriage, what you’ve inherited, or what’s been given solely to you. In these cases, those separate assets won’t be included in the division of the estate. However, identifying something as separate property is the burden of the person making the claim.
- Children can’t decide who they live with.
Children in Texas—anyone under age 18—cannot decide which parent they’ll live with. A child can express desires, but those desires are not binding. It’s up to the judge or jury to decide custody.
- Not all divorces are “no fault.”
Unlike some states, Texas does not treat all divorces as no-fault. There are certain grounds for declaring fault divorces, such as adultery or cruel treatment.
- The court is not required to divide the estate equally.
The jury can decide the value of property and whether something is separate or community property, but only the judge can decide exactly how the property will be divided—and it doesn’t have to be equally. The law states that division of property must follow a “just and equitable distribution,” but it’s up to the judge to decide exactly who gets what.
- Pre- and post-marital agreements are often used.
In Texas, pre- and post-marital agreements are common. They are presumed valid and are binding in court and under Texas law, which makes them a vital element of divorce law. Signing an agreement can control a myriad of property issues, but it’s not binding for children-related issues, such as custody.