Divorces are painful emotional experiences for the spouses and their children. Divorce is often driven by emotion as opposed to logic and reason. A skilled and experienced family law practitioner knows and understands the emotional toll that a divorce takes upon his client and strives to ease the client’s angst about the judicial system and its effect on the client’s property and children of the marriage. Many times the client feels as if he or she has entered a long, dark tunnel when the divorce process begins and there are many times during the divorce when the client seeks only to escape from the tunnel regardless of the consequences of the client’s decisions. One benefit of having a skilled and experienced family law practitioner as your attorney is that the attorney knows that the tunnel is but a brief episode in your life and strives to ensure that when you emerge from the tunnel you have retained as much of your property as possible and that the best interests of your children have been addressed. Richard T. Sutherland has been practicing family law for more than 40 years and is an AV rated Preeminent attorney as rated by his fellow lawyers and the judges before whom he practices except when the responding party has been finally convicted of a or received deferred adjudication for an offense involving family violence or if the petitioner has an active protective order based on a finding of family violence against the respondent committed during the marriage.
The Divorce Procedure
A divorce in Texas is begun with the filing of a petition. The petition generally sets forth what the petitioning party is asking the court to do on the petitioner’s behalf. A divorce may involve matters of property, debt, and children. Unlike some states, Texas is required to divide the property and debt at the time of the final hearing as well as make orders affecting the children of the marriage. The Texas court cannot grant the divorce and then return at a later date to divide the property and debt and enter orders for the children. Texas is a community property state which means that the law presumes that all of the property in existence at the time of the divorce is community and thus belongs to both parties regardless of how the property is titled. Separate property is not divisible by the court on divorce. Separate property may arise in a number of ways including property owned prior to marriage, acquired during marriage by gift, inherited under another’s will (devise) or acquired through the death of another without a will (descent), and the money received from a personal injury is separate, but not the money received for lost wages or medical payments. Separate property may also arise by virtue of a premarital agreement or a post-marital partition and exchange agreement. Once the petition is filed, the parties must wait 60 days before the court has the authority to grant the divorce. This does not mean the parties are divorced on the 61st day following the filing of the petition, but rather this is the first day in which the parties could be divorced. The purpose of the 60 day waiting period is to give the parties a chance to consider reconciliation. The 60 day period cannot be waived.
The effect of a divorce upon the minor children of a marriage cannot be overstated. While it is the public policy of the State of Texas to ensure that children have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of the child and to encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their children after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage, it is the duty of a skilled family law practitioner to work with his client to ensure that these policies are met in a way which serves the best interests of the children.