Preparing yourself for divorce isn’t like studying for a test. Unlike that college calculus midterm, this is one test of merit that won’t have a “right” answer for everything. In fact, a lot of the time, it won’t even be about choosing a good option at all but finding the lesser in a string of bad ones.
On the bright side, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a study guide.
While we might not be able to predict every twist and turn your divorce will take, decades of helping couples through this process has revealed a few patterns—patterns that we’ve compiled to help you find the most likely route to success.
Here are the top three things to look out for during divorce in Texas, and what the North Texas Family Lawyers team can help you successfully navigate all the unknowns of this important journey.
1. Look Out for Bad Advice
We’ll start with this one, because it’ll come up a lot during your adventure, and it’s one we can’t stress enough: While getting a divorce in Texas, do yourself a favor, and look out for bad advice.
We’ve certainly all had bad advice in our lives, so we all know it’s a thing. But when you’re in the thick of a divorce, it can sometimes be a little tricky to tell the bad from the good.
Hence, as a general rule, we recommend thinking twice before making decisions based on advice you get from:
- Your BFF down the street;
- Your parents;
- Your neighbor’s friend’s cousin;
- Your friendly, online clairvoyant;
- Your ex-significant other;
- Your adulterous lover; and yes, even,
- Hollywood. (Shocking, we know.)
Unless one of these people is telling you to seek help from an expert, it’s probably not a good idea to make any major life decisions on their word, alone.
It is completely normal to seek comfort and support during this process—not just normal, it’s actually a good thing, because divorce is hard, and you’ll need that support. However, when seeking divorce advice, it’s important to make sure you’re getting it from the right sources. People like:
- A licensed social worker;
- A psychologist or therapist;
- Educational, financial, or medical specialists; and especially,
- Your experienced family law attorney.
While telling you to get an attorney might sound self-serving (seeings how we are, in fact, divorce attorneys), we mean it with the best of intentions. Divorce law is complicated and nuanced, and it’s too easy to make expensive—sometimes irreversible—mistakes on your own.
If the cost of an attorney is too much, then there are alternatives to traditional litigation that can help lessen the expense, without putting yourself at risk.
2. Look Out for Compromise
Next, forget everything you think you know about “winning” a divorce case because there are no winners in divorce.
We hate to be the bearer of bad news and shatter of dreams and all that, but it’s true. No one wins in a divorce, because winning—by definition—means victory. It means that you come out in front of someone else. That you beat your spouse. It is a measurement of success that simply does not exist in divorce for one simple reason:
Divorce is about compromise.
Above all else, marriage is a contract. It’s an agreement that you made when you tied the knot, one that ties your legal interests together until you get divorced. This means that until you get divorced, you and your spouse share an equal interest in:
- Income, paychecks, and bank accounts;
- Business and other financial interests;
- Retirement and savings accounts;
- Real and actual property;
- Debt obligations;
- Lines of inheritance; and, of course,
- The parental rights and obligations of any biological or adopted children you have while married.
Your spouse has just as much of an interest in these things as you do, which is why we can say (with an almost 100% certainty) that you will not be the “sole winner” of all of it. Some of it, yes. But not all.
Instead, your shared ownerships and obligation will need to be divided between you according to the rules of community property, and child custody (as laid out in the Texas Family Code). Which is why it’s a really good idea to look out for ways you can compromise.
3. Look Out for Alternatives
Since you already know you won’t be walking away with everything (ahem, see above for a refresher on “compromise”), we recommend looking for alternatives to divorce litigation.
Contrary to what Hollywood would have you believe, the inside of a courtroom is not glamorous. Most of the time it has more in common with a run-down college lecture hall than anything you might see on Law & Order (complete with drab seating and dim, fluorescent lighting).
If that’s not enough to convince you it’s not worth it, consider that traditional litigation is much more expensive, and takes a lot longer to settle. Not only that, but because it involves so much back and forth, tempers typically run hotter, creating an emotionally toxic environment for everyone involved (especially in fault-based divorces).
Hence, rather than putting yourself through the stress of all that, we recommend one of these handy, litigation alternatives, instead.
An uncontested divorce (also known as an “agreed divorce”) functions exactly the way it sounds. In this type of divorce, couples agree on all the major issues of their divorce, so there is no reason to fight in court about anything.
This D.I.Y. divorce is the fastest, cheapest way to get a divorce in Texas, and typically works best for shorter marriages, as well as those with little property and no children.
If you don’t agree on everything—but still want to avoid court—mediation is a great way to go. In this type of divorce, couples sit down with a licensed, third-party mediator to try and negotiate the terms of their agreement without judicial involvement.
Mediation can be done with or without an attorney, and everything you say will be confidential. Which means if you can’t reach an agreement, nothing can be used against you in court, later on.
A third alternative to court is collaborative divorce.
Collaborative divorce is similar to mediation, except with more structure. Here, each side must have an attorney present, and if an agreement cannot be reached, both spouses must enter litigation with completely new representation.
While it is more expensive than an uncontested divorce, or divorce mediation, collaborative divorce still offers considerably more flexibility than a court trial and is also less expensive in time and money, as well.
Do You Need Help with a Divorce in Texas?
Divorce is a stressful, unpredictable process that will likely impact your life for many years to come. And while it’s impossible to anticipate all of its twists and turns, there are certain things to look out for which can help your journey go a little bit easier.
For more questions about divorce in Texas—including what pitfalls you should be on the lookout for—we want to hear from you. Call the North Texas Family Lawyers team today at (972) 402-6367, or schedule a consultation online, and together, we can help your divorce journey go as smoothly as possible.