By Brad Nance, Attorney At LawHow will our property and debts

How will our property and debts be divided? 

Texas is a community property state. Community property includes almost all property acquired during the marriage: income, wages, savings, bank accounts, retirement, vehicles, land, houses, dishes, furniture, tools, electronics, and some business and partnership assets.  It does not matter which spouse purchased the property or whose name is on the account.  In most cases, property purchased or acquired during the marriage is community property.  Separate property is property owned before the marriage, or acquired by one spouse during the marriage by gift, inheritance, or, sometimes, as part of a personal injury settlement.

The law does NOT require property to be divided equally in a divorce. The court is required to divide the property in a just and right manner. The court can order the sale of property, divide retirement benefits, and decide who gets which vehicle. If you are awarded a car or house, you are usually responsible for making payments after the divorce is final.

Debt is also divided in a divorce. Debt includes the balance on car notes, credit cards, personal loans, student loans, hospital bills, regardless of who created the debt. The court will make a “just and right” division (not an equal division) of debt.  The court can order each party to pay certain debts, but cannot order a creditor to remove your name from the debt or loan, even if your spouse was ordered to pay it. A divorce will not fix your credit report.

Does Texas have alimony? 

In Texas alimony is called spousal maintenance.The court can order temporary spousal support while the divorce is pending. In some cases, a judge can order spousal maintenance after a divorce where there is a family violence conviction or the marriage lasted at least 10 years. The court will order spousal support for the shortest amount of time necessary for the spouse receiving support have enough income to provide for their own minimum reasonable needs. If you are disabled or care for a disabled child of the marriage, spousal maintenance can last for longer than five years.

Can I change my name? 

When the judge grants the divorce you can change your name to a name previously used, but you can’t change it to a new name. That requires a separate lawsuit.

Does my spouse have to agree to the divorce?

No. Texas has no fault divorce, which means that a divorce can be granted even if your spouse doesn’t agree to it. For a “no fault” divorce, your divorce lawsuit must allege that there is a conflict of personalities and that you do not expect to get back together. You do not need to go into any details of the breakup. Texas also has fault grounds for divorce, such as cruelty and adultery, but proving fault is not a legal requirement for getting a divorce.

Where do I file for divorce?

To file for divorce, the husband or wife must have lived in Texas for a minimum of 6 months and for at least 90 days in the county where the divorce is filed.

How long does a divorce take? 

Except in cases involving domestic violence, you must wait a minimum of 60 days before the divorce can be granted.  Most divorces take much longer than 60 days.  While the divorce is pending, the court can enter Temporary Orders for child support, custody, use of property, payment of attorney’s fees and other issues.  Temporary orders end when the divorce is final.

Are children included in the divorce? 

If children were born during the marriage, they must be included in the divorce. If the parents can’t agree on issues of custody, child support and visitation, the court will decide these issues.

Can I get child support without filing for divorce? 

Yes. If you are separated, you can apply for child support through the Office of Attorney General, Child Support Division first before filing for divorce.