Galveston Divorce Attorney
Preparing for a Separation? Contact Our Galveston, TX Divorce Attorneys for Help
Ending a marriage is never an easy decision. Before you can finalize a divorce in Texas, there are several complex legal and logistical issues that must be resolved. This comes on top of the emotional burden. You do not have to go through the divorce process alone. If you are contemplating filing for divorce in Texas—or your spouse has already served you with papers—it is important to get impartial legal advice before proceeding any further.
At The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates, our Galveston divorce attorneys are experienced, trustworthy advocates for clients. We have assisted many residents of Galveston County with completing the divorce process. Whether your goal is mediated, no-fault divorce, or a contested proceeding, our legal team will work to achieve the most favorable outcome for your and your family. To schedule a completely confidential consultation with a top-rated Texas divorce lawyer, please call our Galveston office at (409) 765-5614 or send us a message directly online.
Grounds for Divorce in Texas: Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce
Historically, American law made it difficult to end a marriage. One spouse had to allege and prove misconduct on the part of the other spouse. But in recent decades, Texas has come to recognize “no-fault” divorces, although fault-based grounds remain on the books. Under current state law, you can file for either a ‘fault divorce’ or a ‘no-fault divorce’. The principal grounds for fault-based divorce include:
- Cruel treatment;
- One spouse is convicted of a felony and confined to jail for at least 1 year;
- One spouse abandons the other and “remains away” for at least 1 year; and
- One spouse has been confined to a mental hospital for at least 3 years and suffers from an incurable disorder.
In contrast, a no-fault divorce only requires one spouse to allege the marriage is “insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities.” As it is a simplified process, the overwhelming majority of Texas couples opt to separate on no-fault grounds. In effect, this means that the judge can then award a divorce without finding either spouse at fault. Neither spouse is required to prove that their ex did anything wrong to justify the divorce. Instead, the marriage can end due to irreconcilable differences and the parties can focus on resolving the practical issues.
Our Family Law Firm Handles Contested and Uncontested Divorce Cases
Uncontested Divorce in Galveston, TX
Divorce does not always mean discord—or at the very least, it does not always mean a nasty, drawn-out fight in a Texas courtroom. Quite the contrary, many spouses split amicably. When a settlement is reached, it is referred to as an ‘uncontested divorce’. Simply defined, an uncontested divorce is one in which the parties are able to resolve all outstanding issues on their own. Through the use of mediation and collaborative law, they can resolve key areas of potential conflicts—such as division of property, child custody, and spousal maintenance—without the need for a formal trial. Our Galveston family lawyers have extensive experience helping clients reach favorable settlements in uncontested divorce cases.
Contested Divorce in Galveston, TX
Although most divorce cases are settled outside of the litigation, there are some exceptions. A contested divorce occurs when a court is needed to step in and resolve one or more key issues related to the separation. At The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates, our Galveston family lawyers are more than ready to represent your interests in court should a settlement ultimately prove unworkable. With experience in family law trials, our Texas contested divorce attorneys will protect your rights. Though, it is worth emphasizing that even if your case starts out on the path towards litigation, it is still possible that a settlement can be reached before a trial starts.
We Help Clients With the Full Range of Family & Divorce Issues
Your marital separation can only be finalized when all material issues are resolved. Whether you are working towards an uncontested divorce settlement or you are preparing for a contentious trial, it is crucial that you have a full understanding of the issues that are at stake. At The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates, our Galveston divorce attorneys have the experience and know-how to help you with the full spectrum of family & divorce issues, including:
Property Division: Property division is generally one of the most contentious issues in any divorce. Texas is one of nine states that operate under community property rules. In Texas, all marital property is considered to be a jointly-owned asset. In contrast, separate property remains an individual asset. Dividing up marital property and marital debts can be difficult—especially if you are part of a high net worth couple or if you own complicated assets. No matter your circumstances, we are here to protect your rights and help you find the right solution. Call our Galveston property division attorneys for a confidential, comprehensive review of your case.
Child Custody & Visitation: For parents of young children, going through a divorce brings an additional set of challenges. In any divorce proceeding, child custody and child visitation issues must be addressed. Officially, Texas courts use the terms “conservatorship” and “possession” to refer to the concepts of “custody” and “visitation” respectively. Under state law (Texas Family Code § 263.307), many different factors can be considered in determining the best interests of the child. If you have any questions about your parental rights, contact our Galveston child custody lawyers for immediate help.
Child Support & Spousal Support: Depending on the nature of the divorce, the parties may have ongoing obligations. Specifically, one party may be required to pay child support or spousal support (alimony) to their former partner. We are prepared to help you deal with alimony, child support, or any related financial matters in your divorce. If you have any questions about your legal rights or financial obligations, contact our Galveston child support & spousal support attorneys today.
High Net Worth Divorce Process: We help you protect and retain assets such as inheritance, 401(k) accounts, pensions, and retirement benefits as you go through the divorce process. We handle fault and no-fault divorce, focusing on asset protection as negotiation, mediation or litigation ensues.
How Long Do I Have to Live in Texas Before Filing for Divorce?
One of the common questions we get regarding divorce is whether both spouses have to live in Texas. Indeed, some people think you have to get divorced in the same state that you were married in or lived together as spouses before separating. This is actually now how the law works.
Residency Requirements for a Texas Divorce
Before you can file any type of lawsuit, including divorce, you need to establish proper jurisdiction and venue. Jurisdiction refers to a court’s legal authority to hear the lawsuit. Venue means the proper location, i.e. the specific county where the case should be heard.
The Texas Family Code states that no suit for divorce can be maintained in the state unless both of the following conditions are met:
- One or both spouses was a resident of Texas for the six-month period prior to the divorce filing; and
- Either spouse has been a resident of the county where the lawsuit was filed for at least the previous 90 days.
These requirements are not optional. And when filing for a divorce, a spouse’s petition must clearly state the residency requirement has been met. Failure to do so can result in the dismissal of the case, which can unnecessarily extend the time it takes to achieve a final divorce.
For example, a Texas appeals court recently rejected a divorce petition for the second time because of failure to comply with the residency rules. In this case, the husband lives in Oklahoma. The wife moved to Johnson County, Texas, and filed for divorce there. The problem was that while she resided in Texas for 91 days before the date of her court hearing, that was not the same as 90 days before the petition was filed, which is what the law requires.
The appeals court said the wife had to file an amended petition only after she satisfied the 90-day residency rule. The trial court had no authority to ignore this rule, the appeals court said, because, under Texas law, a person’s right to sue is conditioned on establishing one spouse’s residency.
How Do I File for Divorce If My Spouse Lives Outside the U.S.?
And as with any lawsuit, the spouse filing for divorce must legally serve the other spouse. This usually is not too difficult to accomplish if both spouses live in the same area. But what about a situation where, say, you live in Galveston and your estranged spouse has moved to a foreign country following your separation? You can still file for divorce here in Galveston, but how do you serve your spouse abroad, particularly if you don’t know his or her exact address?
The short answer is that you publish a notice in the newspaper. This is known in Texas law as “citation by publication.” Basically, you file an affidavit with the court explaining that you conducted a diligent search to find your spouse and failed. You may need a court order before actually proceeding with citation by publication.
If the other spouse responds to the notice–or you subsequently locate and serve them the divorce lawsuit–then the case proceeds like any other. But if the other spouse fails to respond, Texas civil court rules require the court to “appoint an attorney to defend the suit” on their behalf. This is known as an “attorney ad litem.” The attorney ad litem will then represent your spouse in the divorce case as if they had been hired by them directly.
A divorce is a major life-altering event. Divorce is not an informal process that is just between the spouses. Divorce is a legal proceeding—one spouse is suing the other for a judgment—and it is therefore important for each party to get all of their ducks in a row before heading to court. Here is a brief checklist of some of the critical items and issues you need to consider in preparation for divorce, whether you are the spouse seeking a divorce or the spouse who has been served with papers.
Texas Divorce Checklist
Step 1 – Personal Information
There are some basic personal documents that you should assemble in anticipation of separation. This includes birth certificates for you, your spouse, and any minor children who are living with you. You should also make sure you have your marriage license. If you have had any prior marriages, you should gather any documents related to those relationships, including divorce papers or records of the prior spouse’s death.
Step 2 – Do You Have a Prenuptial Agreement?
Many couples choose to sign a contract that addresses each spouse’s property rights in the event of a divorce. These contracts are generally known as prenuptial or antenuptial agreements. You should make sure to have a signed copy of any such agreement.
Step 3 – Taking Inventory of Your Assets
After child custody, disputes over assets are the most common subject of litigation in a divorce case. You will need to provide the court with a complete picture of your financial situation. This means that you will need to gather, at a minimum, the following documents:
- All tax returns and supporting schedules (e.g., W-2 and 1099 forms) for at least the past three years;
- Bank statements for all accounts, whether held in your own name or jointly with your spouse;
- Statements for any brokerage and retirement accounts;
- Documents related to any mortgages, loans, and other debts (i.e., credit cards) owed by you or your spouse;
- Deeds to real property and any documents establishing title to tangible property, such as cars or boats;
- A list of any valuable items kept in your home or in a secure location, such as a safe-deposit box; and
- Any records related to a business that you or your spouse own or co-own, including any legal agreements governing the business and all current financial data.
Step 4 – Determining Who Is “At Fault” (If Anyone)
While many divorces in Texas are “no-fault,” there are cases where one spouse has alleged misconduct, such as adultery, on the part of the other spouse warranting a judgment in the complaining spouse’s favor. It is therefore important to gather any evidence that might prove the complaining spouse’s allegations—or conversely, exonerate the defendant spouse.
Step 5 – Speak With a Galveston Divorce Attorney
A divorce is not something that you can handle by yourself. An experienced Galveston family law attorney can assist you at all stages of the divorce process and help ensure that your interests are protected. Contact the divorce lawyers at the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates if you are contemplating divorce and require immediate legal assistance.
Divorce, Informal Marriage, and the Legal Status of Same-Sex Couples Under Texas Law
Texas is one of a minority of states that continues to recognize common-law marriage. The Texas Family Code actually refers to these unions as informal marriages. These are marriages that enjoy legal recognition in Texas despite the fact the couple never obtained a marriage license. Under the Family Code, there are two ways to establish the existence of an informal marriage:
- The couple signed a written “declaration of their marriage”; or
- The couple–still defined in the statute as a “man and woman”–agreed to be married and, pursuant to that agreement, lived together and “represented to others that they were married.”
If an informal marriage exists, it still must be dissolved via divorce. This is important because divorce is necessary to resolve certain issues like property division, child custody, and spousal support. Of course, a couple that merely lived together–or even had children together–may not be legally married if they do not otherwise meet the requirements for informal marriage described above.
Identifying and Locating Hidden Assets
During divorce proceedings, marital property, assets, and debts are identified and divided according to Texas law. Community property undergoes an equitable distribution. For many people, the divorce process is a time of mistrust. One spouse may accuse the other spouse of hiding assets. The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Galveston works with financial specialists, accountants, and other experts to identify and locate hidden assets.
How Are Marital Assets Hidden?
Our attorney, Tad Nelson, engages experts such as financial specialists, accountants, and tax experts to sort out complex divorce and separation issues. With help from these experts, we are able to identify and locate any hidden marital assets. Common methods for hiding assets can include:
- Spouse denies the assets exist
- Spouse transfers money to a third party
- Spouse claims to have lost the asset or investment
- Spouse creates false debt
How can hidden assets be located?
At Tad Nelson & Associates, we protect our clients’ best interests and work for equitable outcomes regarding even the most complicated matters. We work to resolve all of your property division issues. When marital assets have been hidden or not yet taken into consideration, we focus on locating and identifying those assets. The following items are reviewed in the process:
- Personal income tax returns
- Corporate income tax returns
- Financial statements
- Savings account books
- Security or commodity account statements
- Children’s bank accounts
In addition to impacting property division, hidden assets can play a role in child support determinations. Child support is calculated using the non-custodial parent’s net income. When the parent’s real net income is known, it is possible to ensure an accurate calculation for the support amount.
Social Media: A Leading Cause in Divorce?
While Facebook and similar services like Twitter and WhatsApp are great for staying in constant contact with the rest of the world, social media use may also contribute to an increase in the most anti-social actions of all–divorce.
Divorce Lawyers See Increase in Social Media “Evidence”
It may sound preposterous to suggest that Facebook and Twitter are leading couples into divorce court, but that is exactly what many experienced divorce lawyers have seen in the past few years. In 2010, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers said that a survey revealed that “81% of the nation’s top divorce attorneys say they have seen an increase in the number of cases using social networking evidence during the past five years.” Two-thirds of survey participants cited Facebook as the “primary source” of social media evidence in divorce cases, followed by MySpace and Twitter.
More recently, an April 2015 report published by a law firm in the United Kingdom said 1 out of 7 people surveyed “said they had contemplated divorce” over their partner’s social media activities. The survey said about 25 percent of recipients said they had “at least one argument a week” due to social media, and in many cases there were daily arguments over something a partner posted on Facebook, Twitter, et al.
Why Is Social Media a Problem for Marriages?
The British survey found that 14 percent of respondents looked at their spouse’s social media feeds to “identify evidence of infidelity.” Even if there is no actual infidelity, social media use may still raise suspicions. For example, if a spouse posts pictures of herself with a former partner on Facebook, that may give her current partner the wrong idea.
Spouses may also fight over the amount of time spent on social media, as well as whether certain accounts (or login information) is kept private. If one spouse discovers the other has a “secret” Facebook account, for instance, that can lead to an argument even if the other partner is not using the account for any illicit purpose. Conversely, the spouse with the secret account may feel that their partner is “spying” on them and therefore needs a more “private” place online.
Keep It Offline and Out of Court
The problem is that nothing you post online is ever truly private. A good rule of thumb is to never post something on your Facebook or Twitter account that you do not want your spouse–or a judge–to see. Remember, anything that you do post may be used against you in court in Galveston.
You Can Rely On Our Texas Divorce Law Attorneys
Going through a divorce is complicated. If you are currently feeling stressed, confused, or overwhelmed, you are certainly not alone. You need a skilled professional on your side. At The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates, our family law firm combines big-city legal experience with small-town values. We will protect your rights and help you find the best path forward. Tad A. Nelson and Amber R. Spurlock are skilled, reliable family lawyers. When you contact our Galveston law office, you will have an opportunity to speak to a Texas divorce attorney who will:
- Hear your story, answer your questions, and explain your rights;
- Gather, organize, and prepare all documents and paperwork;
- Represent you in divorce negotiations, including mediation;
- Assist you with any related family law matters, including custody and visitation issues; and
- Take all appropriate measures to protect your best interests.
You deserve personalized representation from a family law attorney who is fully invested in doing what is best for you and your family. Our Galveston divorce lawyers strive to help clients find amicable, low conflict family law solutions. At the same time, we will fight aggressively to protect your rights whenever necessary. Whatever your situation, our primary goal is to help you through the legal process of divorce. We can identify realistic goals and explain all of your options in a friendly and professional manner.
Call Our Galveston, TX Divorce Lawyer for Immediate Help
At The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates, our Texas divorce attorneys are compassionate, experienced, and solutions-driven advocates for our clients. If you are preparing for divorce in Southeast Texas, we are here to help. Call our Galveston law office at (409) 765-5614 or send us a message online for a strictly confidential initial consultation. We provide family law services in Galveston and throughout the wider region, including in League City, Friendswood, Dickinson, Hitchcock, Texas City, La Marque, Santa Fe, and Bacliff.