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When you’re facing the end of your marriage, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, anxious, and uncertain about the future. Divorce is a life-changing decision that affects every aspect of your life, from your finances and property to your relationships with your children and loved ones.

You may be wondering how to get through this while protecting your rights and laying a solid foundation for your new chapter in life.

At Dodson Law Firm, PLLC, our Houston divorce lawyers are here to provide you with the guidance, advocacy, and experience you need to achieve the best possible outcome. Whether you’re seeking an uncontested divorce, navigating a high-conflict separation, or dealing with complicated property division and child custody issues, we’ll help you find solutions that align with your goals and values.

Understanding the Divorce Process in Texas

Couples considering a divorce should know the legal requirements and steps for filing a dissolution of marriage petition in Texas.

Residency Requirement

At least one spouse must have been a resident of Texas for a continuous six-month period and living in the county where the action is to be filed for at least 90 days.

No-Fault Grounds for Divorce

Texas allows for both no-fault and fault-based divorces. In a no-fault divorce, neither party is responsible for the fact that the marriage did not work out. The family court does not require either party to prove wrongdoing, and either spouse can dissolve the marriage based on irreconcilable differences. No-fault divorces are the most common type of divorce in Texas.

Fault-Based Grounds for Divorce

In Texas, fault-based divorces are an option for couples. In this case, the person filing for divorce will allege that their spouse has specifically done something to make the marriage no longer work. Fault-based divorce can have an impact on child custody issues as well as the “just and right division” of marital property.

Fault-based grounds for divorce in Texas include:

  • Adultery
  • Cruelty
  • Abandonment
  • Conviction of a felony
  • Living apart for at least three years
  • Confinement in a mental hospital.

When filing for a fault-based divorce in Texas, the filing spouse must prove their spouse is responsible for the end of the marriage. At-fault divorces in Texas usually take longer than no-fault divorces because there are more opportunities for disagreement during the case.

Petition Filing Requirements

The key steps in the divorce process include:

  1. Filing the petition
  2. Serving the other party
  3. Negotiation and mediation
  4. Trial (if needed)
  5. Finalizing the divorce decree

Once you file a petition, Texas has a mandatory 60-day waiting period before the court can finalize the divorce.

The divorce lawyers at the Dodson Law Firm, PLLC, will walk you through each step, ensuring your rights are protected and you have the information and support you need to make informed decisions.

Uncontested vs. Contested Divorces

Your divorce path will depend on whether you and your spouse can agree on dissolution terms, including property division, child custody, and support issues.

Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce occurs when both parties agree on all matters. Similar to no-fault divorces, this dissolution type allows the couple to create an amicable plan for resolving child custody, asset division, and other divorce matters without assigning blame to either party.

Uncontested divorces are generally faster, less expensive, and less stressful than a contested divorce because the couple works together to reach an agreement on the terms of their separation.

Contested Divorce

When the spouses cannot agree on one or more essential issues, expensive litigation becomes necessary to resolve the disputes. When you and your spouse reach a standstill, the Dodson Law Firm, PLLC, advocates for your family’s interests in court.

However, your legal counsel will always strive to resolve divorce disputes through negotiation and mediation whenever possible, as this approach often leads to more satisfactory outcomes and helps preserve meaningful family relationships.

Key Issues to Address in a Houston Divorce

Divorce involves more than just legally ending a marriage. It also requires resolving several issues impacting your and your children’s lives.

Property Division

Texas is a community property state, meaning the courts will consider all assets and debts acquired during the marriage to be owned equally by both spouses. Texas family court tries to make an “equitable” or “just and right” division when dividing marital property, taking into account factors such as:

  • Each spouse’s earning capacity
  • The health and age of both parties
  • Child custody arrangements
  • Any fault contributing to the breakdown of the marriage

Separate Property

Sometimes, you can declare separate property (such as inheritances or assets owned before the marriage). However, by “clear and convincing evidence,” you must prove that the assets are not part of the marriage estate. If unsuccessful, the courts deem the assets community property, subjecting the assets to a “just and right” division, which, most commonly, is an equal distribution.

Child Custody (Conservatorship)

Our state considers child custody a conservatorship, and its primary concern is always the child’s best interests.

There are two types of conservatorship in Texas divorce proceedings:

  • Joint managing conservatorship: Both parents share decision-making responsibilities and have equal access to the child. This is the default conservatorship by law, as Texas presumes that “fit parents” should share conservatorship rights and duties.
  • Sole managing conservatorship: One parent has the exclusive right to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, while the other parent may have visitation rights. In order to obtain sole managing conservatorship, it must be shown to the court that the presumption of joint managing conservatorship is not in the children’s best interests. This is often a difficult, arduous, and expensive process as the issues must be litigated.

Our family law attorneys work closely with clients to develop parenting plans to prioritize the child’s well-being and foster healthy relationships with both parents.

Child Support

Houston family court judges determine child support based on state guidelines, considering each parent’s income, the number of children involved, and the custody arrangement, including the possession and access schedule for each parent.

The Dodson Law Firm, PLLC, can help establish, enforce, or modify child support orders to ensure your children’s financial needs are always met.

Spousal Support (Alimony)

Sometimes, one spouse may be eligible for spousal maintenance (alimony) after a divorce. Eligibility for spousal support in Texas depends on several factors.

  • The length of the marriage
  • Each spouse’s earning capacity and education
  • Whether there is a history of domestic violence
  • The age and health of both parties

Our family law firm knows your spousal support rights and obligations under the Texas Family Code and will advocate for a fair arrangement, considering your unique circumstances.

Why Hire a Skilled Houston Divorce Attorney

Divorce proceedings are complex and involve many court deadlines and legal procedures. By hiring a skilled divorce attorney, you can benefit from:

  • In-depth knowledge of Texas family law
  • Objective advice during an emotionally challenging time
  • Experience in handling complex financial and property matters
  • Advocacy for your rights and your children’s best interests
  • Strong negotiation and litigation skills
  • 25+ years of combined family law experience

The Dodson Law Firm, PLLC, guides you through every aspect of your divorce, from the initial filing to the final decree. In every case, we take a personalized approach, ensuring we meet your unique needs and goals.

FAQs

How long does a divorce take in Texas?

The length of a Houston divorce depends on several factors, including the case’s complexity and whether it’s contested or uncontested. At a minimum, there is a 60-day waiting period from when you file the dissolution petition until the courts will finalize the divorce. Uncontested divorces are often finalized shortly after this waiting period, while contested divorces may take several months or longer to resolve.

How do judges divide property in a Texas divorce?

The courts consider all assets and debts acquired during the marriage to be owned equally by both spouses. The court divides marital property and debts based on the “just and right division” principle, considering factors such as each spouse’s earning capacity, the health and age of both parties, child custody arrangements, and any fault contributing to the marriage breakdown.

What is the difference between joint and sole custody in Texas?

In Texas, joint custody (joint managing conservatorship) generally means that both parents share decision-making responsibilities and have equal access to the child. Sole custody (sole managing conservatorship) means that one parent has the exclusive right to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, while the other parent may have visitation rights.

How do the courts calculate child support in Texas?

Family court judges base child support on a percentage of the non-custodial parent’s net income and the number of children involved.

The state’s guidelines are as follows:

  • 1 child: 20% of net income.
  • 2 children: 25% of net income.
  • 3 children: 30% of net income.
  • 4 children: 35% of net income.
  • 5+ children: 40% of net income.

Can I get spousal maintenance (alimony) in a Texas divorce?

Family courts do not automatically award spousal maintenance (alimony) in Texas divorces. Among factors to be considered in awarding spousal maintenance is whether the party seeking spousal maintenance has been employed in the past, is employable, has the education or experience to seek employment, and/or has sufficient personal assets to provide for their “minimum reasonable needs.” Additionally, a court may consider one of the following criteria:

  • The state convicted the respondent of family violence within two years of the divorce filing or during the divorce process.
  • The marriage lasted for at least five years, and the petitioning spouse lacks the ability to earn sufficient income.
  • The petitioner has a physical or mental disability that prevents him or her from earning sufficient income.
  • The petitioning spouse is the primary caregiver of a child with a physical or mental disability.

Do I need a lawyer for a Texas divorce?

While it is possible to file for divorce without an attorney, we highly recommend you seek legal guidance, especially if you have minor children, a disabled adult child, significant assets, or a complex case. A skilled divorce lawyer can protect your rights, help you deal with legal disputes, and advocate for your best interests throughout the process.

Schedule a Consultation with a Houston Divorce Lawyer

Most Houston divorces require an experienced family law attorney to become involved as early as possible. Dodson Law Firm, PLLC offers initial consultations, which are case evaluations meant to help you understand your rights, options, and the best path forward for your family’s needs.

During your case evaluation, you’ll have the opportunity to discuss your dissolution with a knowledgeable family law attorney who can provide personalized advice and answer any questions. The Dodson Law Firm, PLLC, will listen to your story, assess your needs, and develop a tailored legal strategy that prioritizes your and your children’s best interests.

Don’t take on divorce alone. Contact Dodson Law Firm, PLLC, today to get started.