Read an Excerpt
Is Divorce the Answer?
Paula glared across the living room at her husband, Robert, as he stared off in space. The couple had just wound down from their umpteenth argument in 12 years of marriage. Both were flushed from the battle. The frustration left an awful, sickening feeling. It always did, whether they were fighting about money or the kids - or what color to paint the new gameroom.
At times like these, Paula wanted to run away from her pricey North
Dallas neighborhood. Leave him, this house, their life. Take the kids and
go, chuck it all and not look back. And for Robert, there was an
ambivalence. Maybe he wanted to see her go.
Divorce: Easy Way Out Or The Only Way to Go?
For at least half the couples facing this scenario, divorce has been the preferred path over the last several decades. As everybody knows, Texas is a big state. It's also a big state for divorce. The latest ranking places Texas 13th among all the states with 5.3 divorces per thousand people, 20 percent greater than the national average. Only Florida, among the 10 most populous states, has more divorces per capita.1 Each day in Texas, there are 486 marriages. On that same day, 265 divorces are finalized.
I have no documented proof of why divorce is so prevalent in this state. I do know that plenty of really foolish decisions have been made in the heat of passion, by people who essentially love and care for each other, but who don't think quickly enough to hold back and edit what they say or do before it becomes a harsh reality in their lives.
I practice law in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, one of the nation's largest metropolitan areas. It's a place with all the pressures and temptations known to man or woman. Most of my clients are economically advantaged, highly educated individuals from the best-known families in the area. The truth is that divorce affects every socioeconomic class and ethnic group.
That's because no matter what your pedigree, we all live in an era of throwaway relationships. Everywhere we look, people are more alienated from each other, be it kids from parents, brothers from sisters - but especially married people from one another.
Staying married is one of life's great difficulties. But history
shows that getting divorced is no walk in the park.
Basic Truths of a Lone Star Divorce
I'm constantly surprised, even by people who've been divorced two or three times, how little the average person knows about divorce in Texas.
A Lone Star Divorce has its own peculiarities. You can watch the Oprah Winfrey Show or Sally Jessy Raphael for information about how to proceed. Keep in mind that those are national shows, and they may be describing a divorce that takes place in Florida or California. Divorce is a matter of state law, for the most part, and state laws differ in how they treat certain evidence and what is under the discretion of the judge in the case.
We're talking about Texas. It's your marriage and divorce with your own particular life story. These certain things will happen, without fail, in every Texas divorce.
- Truth #1: Either party in a Texas divorce, unlike in many other states, can ask for and receive a jury trial (although jury decisions that are binding on the court are limited);
- Truth #2: There will be a 60-day waiting period from the time you file the divorce until it can be final, even with an uncontested divorce;
- Truth #3: Your property will be divided in a manner that the judge deems "just and right" and the judge may look at future earning capacity, who's at fault for the divorce and other criteria in making a disproportionate division;
- Truth #4: Unless you have no significant assets or means to support yourself or you and your spouse agree to it, there will be no significant long-term alimony once the divorce is final;
- Truth #5: The spouse who does not have primary custody of the children will, in most cases, pay child support to the primary custodial parent after a divorce based on guidelines in the Texas Family Code, according to income;
- Truth #6: Joint custody is preferred in this state and you will have to consider jointly parenting with your ex. Joint custody means the sharing of parental rights and duties and does not necessarilymean equal periods of possession;
- Truth #7: Both parents will have significant access to their children after a divorce, if they have been involved parents during the marriage;
- Truth #8: Once a divorce is filed in Texas and one party wants to go through with it, you can't stop if from happening.
These are the basic elements of a Lone Star Divorce.