A divorce is often a traumatic experience for both parties (and their children). Aside from the emotional aspect, divorce is also a legal proceeding. And as with any matter involving the courts, it is important to understand your rights under the law.
You Have the Right to Contest the Divorce
In Texas, either spouse may file a “suit for dissolution of marriage.” Like any lawsuit, the spouse who files for divorce must notify the other spouse. The court will then afford the served spouse an opportunity to respond. While many divorce cases are uncontested, you are under no legal obligation to accept the other spouse’s allegations as true. This may be especially important if your spouse has alleged fault on your part—such as adultery or domestic violence—as grounds for the divorce. You have the right to a hearing in court on all such allegations.
You Have the Right to Keep Your Separate Property
Texas is what is known as a “community property” state. This means that most property acquired by a couple during their marriage is considered theirs equally. In a contested divorce, the court will determine an equitable division of the community property, taking into account factors like each spouse’s relative earning power and any fault on the part of one spouse.
However, if you acquired any property prior to your marriage, that remains yours and is not subject to distribution as part of the divorce case. Some property acquired during marriage is also considered separate property, including any gifts or inheritances you receive and the proceeds from a personal injury lawsuit. You have the right to retain ownership of this separate property, although you may need to demonstrate to the court that it is, in fact, not community property.
You Have the Right to a Fair Distribution of Community Property
As for community property, once a divorce suit is filed, the court has the authority to enjoin both spouses from disposing of any marital assets without prior approval. In other words, your spouse cannot simply empty your joint checking accounts and lock you out of the house. The judge may authorize both spouses to pay their respective living expenses while preventing either party from making any major decisions—i.e., selling the house—until the divorce is final.
You Have the Right to Seek Joint Custody of Your Children
Children are often the most contested issue in a divorce. Texas law refers to a “conservatorship” when dealing with children rather that “custody.” In the event of a divorce, the parents are generally presumed to be “joint managing conservators” of their children. This means the parents share decision making power, although one parent may still be given the authority to determine the child’s “primary residence.” If for some reason the court determines one parent is not fit to be a managing conservator, he or she can still be designated as a “possessory conservator,” which still affords visitation and access rights.
You Have the Right to Seek Legal Advice in League City
Even under the best of circumstances, divorce is a complex legal process. You should never attempt to deal with a divorce on your own. An experienced Galveston divorce lawyer can assist you with any type of divorce or child custody matter. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates if you need to speak with an attorney in Galveston today.