Baylor Family Law
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The dissolution of a "marriage" in Texas may be ordered for both opposite and same-sex partners. The relationship may have begun in a traditional wedding ceremony at the family church or at the local courthouse by filing a sworn Declaration of Informal Marriage. No matter how the marriage began, the Texas Family Code provides for Divorce, Annulment and declaring the marriage Void. Each category of dissolution has a list of requirements that must be met to qualify. If the relationship does not qualify to be declared Void or Annulled, the Court will use the Divorce section to dissolve the marriage.
Divorce ends the legal marriage relationship and it also divides all property and debt the parties have. Texas is a "community property" state when it comes to this division. Community property and community debt include almost all purchases, savings, retirements, businesses and debts that began or were contributed to after the date of marriage. Which spouse actually purchased the item, is listed on the title or deed, saved the money, contributed to the retirement, established the business or charged on the credit card does not matter. Only the date of the action is important. The law sets out a few exceptions to this general rule. For instance, property and debt acquired before the date of marriage, or received during the marriage by gift or inheritance, may be labelled separate property or debt.
The Texas Family Code does not require the court to divide the community estate 50-50. Rather, the court shall divide community property and debt in a just and right manner. The judge will consider all aspects of each party's past, present, and projected future to determine what is "just and right" for each couple. Fault in the break-up of the relationship, education, earning potential, and health are only a few of the factors to consider. In addition to dividing property, the court has the power to order the sale of real estate, business ventures, cars and personal property. The court may also order each spouse to pay certain debts, but it does not have the authority to order a creditor to remove either party's name from a loan or debt.
A divorce in Texas may also include spousal maintenance (similar to alimony) in limited situations. In temporary orders while the divorce is pending, the court may order spousal maintenance or simply have one spouse pay the other's living expenses. Receiving spousal maintenance after a divorce is far more difficult. The court must find that the marriage and separation meet very limited statutory requirements.
The divorce process generally takes at least 60 days to finalize based on a statutory waiting period. In some cases, the process may continue for months or even years depending on the contested issues.
At the time of divorce, a party may restore his or her name to one used prior to marriage. The court will also set out orders for child custody, visitation, and support. Those issues are discussed more fully on different pages in this site.