San Antonio Divorce Lawyer
Getting a divorce is one of the most difficult decisions a person has to make. After years of building a life together, possibly acquiring property or having children together, it can be difficult to decide that the marriage must end. However, it is often the best choice for the good of everyone involved. Making the decision to get divorced is just the first step in what can be a long and difficult process. It is our job at Salmon Haas Law to make that process as smooth as possible and to make sure you achieve an outcome that is best for you and your family.
Custody, Visitation and Child Support
A lot of things have to be decided in the course of a divorce proceeding. If you have children together who are not yet grown, important questions must be answered about what to do with those children.
First is the issue of custody. A parent could be a sole managing conservator, a joint managing conservator, or a possessory conservator. These designations are important when it comes to deciding where the child will live, where the child will go to school, who will make medical decisions for the child, child support, and many other important matters.
Once custody is established, there will be the matter of which parent will primarily raise the child and what the visitation schedule will be for the other parent. Some parents agree to a 50-50 visitation schedule where each parent has equal time with the child. More common is for one parent to be designated the primary conservator, and the other parent to have a visitation schedule.
A standard visitation schedule, called a standard possession order, would give the non-custodial parent every other weekend with the child, as well as Thursday nights, 30 days in the summer, and half of the holidays. Parents can also devise custom schedules that meet their unique circumstances.
Another important issue is child support. Typically, the non-custodial parent will be ordered to pay child support to the primary parent. Texas issues guidelines for what the amount of child support should be based on the non-custodial parent’s income and the number of children involved. A child support calculator can be found here.
However, the parties can agree or a judge can order that child support be set at an amount above or below what the guidelines say. The non-custodial parent can also be ordered to provide medical and dental support for the child, or to reimburse the primary parent for the cost of insurance if the primary parent provides that coverage.
Property, Debts and Alimony
Another important issue to be decided is how to divide the property and debts the parties accumulated over the course of the marriage. As an initial matter, all of the property and debts would have to categorized into separate and community property.
Your separate property belongs only to you, and consists of things like property you acquired before the marriage, gifts and inheritances, and property you can trace to these sources. Community property is property that belongs to both spouses and typically consists of property bought during the marriage with money earned during the marriage. It is very important to understand which property is your separate property, which is your spouse’s separate property, and which is community property.
Then the parties have to decide how to divide the community property. The general rule is that community property should be split evenly between the parties, but there are many exceptions to this rule. You or your spouse could ask for an unequal share of the community property for a variety of reasons — for example, if you have a greater need for support than your spouse, if your spouse committed wrongdoing in the dissolution of the marriage, if your spouse has been hiding or taking community assets, or if you have more expenses than your spouse.
Property that needs to be divided can include a house, vehicles, bank accounts, retirement accounts, furniture and other personal possession, as well as debts accumulated during the marriage.
You can also ask for spousal maintenance, or alimony, under certain conditions. To make this request, you would have to show that you do not have enough property to provide for your basic needs. In addition, you would have to show one of the following: that you have been married for at least 10 years and do not have enough income to support yourself, that you are disabled and do not have enough income to support yourself, that you are caring for a disabled child of the marriage and cannot earn enough money to support yourself, or that your spouse was convicted of domestic violence.
The amount of the award is based on need but there is also a cap of $5000 per month or 20% of the payer’s monthly gross income. The length of the award can also be capped at a certain number of years or can continue indefinitely depending on a number of factors.
Texas Divorce Process
The first step to getting divorced in Texas is to file a petition for divorce. You have to have lived in Texas for the last 6 months and in the county for at least 90 days before filing. You file at the courthouse in the county where you or your spouse live. Information about filing in Bexar County can be found at the website of the District Clerk.
Once you have filed your petition, you must serve that petition on your spouse, typically with the use of a professional process server. After the other party has been served, they have a certain amount of time to file a response. In some emergency situations, the filing party can go to court even before serving their spouse, such as in cases of domestic violence or child abuse.
At that point, a number of different things can happen. Often, the first step is to establish Temporary Orders. These are orders that address issues of child custody, support and visitation, and possibly other issues like attorneys’ fees, while the case is pending. These orders are important because they can often influence what eventually happens at Final Orders.
If the divorce is uncontested, the parties can often enter agreed orders. The parties may also choose to enter mediation, in which a professional mediator helps the parties try to negotiate an agreement.
Depending on your particular situation, there may be other issues that need to be addressed. Sometimes there may be a question as to whether there is a common law marriage or whether paternity has been established. The marriage could be void, which would require an annulment rather than a divorce.
There may be unique issues that apply to military divorces, same sex divorces, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements or divorce involving immigrants. Each case is different because everyone’s life is different, but whatever your situation, we can help you navigate the process and get the result you want.
Contact Our San Antonio Divorce Attorney
Divorce can be a complicated and challenging process with a lot at stake. You do not want to go into this alone. At Salmon Haas Law, we have years of experience representing clients and can help you move on to the next phase of your life quickly, efficiently and professionally. At the same time, we strive to make our services affordable for all our clients. If you’re ready to discuss your legal options, let’s get started by scheduling a free consultation.