There are probably all sorts of thoughts going through your mind at this moment if you are considering whether to file for divorce. There are the logistics of the divorce to concern yourself with, the potential financial implications both short term and long term, and questions about how to break the news to your family and discuss changes with your children. To feel like you are overwhelmed with this decision-making would not be uncommon or unjustified. Going through a divorce is a lot to process for anyone. We consider that you very likely have additional responsibilities on your plates, such as family life, work, and things of that nature. We can see that your responsibilities extend well beyond merely deciding whether to file a divorce case.
From my experience, there are two schools of thought when filing a divorce. The first school is our folks who are incredibly hesitant to file a divorce. It will seemingly take forever and a day to finally file their case. This may be where you are. There are certainly reasons why you may not want to get a divorce. Divorce impacts your children and your finances. For most people, these are the two most important areas of focus regarding potentially filing for a divorce. As a result, you may vacate between filing the case and staying put in your marriage to see if things can improve.
On the other hand, you may be chomping at the bit in terms of your desire to file for divorce. In that case, you may not have thought through many of the issues that could impact your life in a divorce scenario. I have been guilty of wanting to get something done so quickly that I didn’t properly think through all of the different issues that may be relevant to your case. Not only did these relevant issues impact your life during a divorce, but they may be things that may cause you to consider delaying a divorce filing. However, these considerations need to be made when you are not thinking clearly and could lead to negative results for you and your family.
Whatever position you find yourself in, you can rest assured that there are resources available for you when deciding for yourself. You do not need to go into this process without information and guidance. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are equipped to assist you with answering questions and providing information in free of charge consultations. Whether you are far along in your decision-making process about your divorce or are just starting, our attorneys can walk you through what you need to know about your specific divorce.
Who filed first?
Many people in your shoes assume that there must be some advantage when filing for divorce before your spouse can do so. For the most part, however, there is no clear advantage under the law in Texas when it comes to beating your spouse to the punch and filing your divorce before they can get an opportunity to do so. Whether you are the petition in the divorce- the person who filed the divorce, or the respondent- the person who will respond to the petition, the law treats you the same as the other spouse.
However, some advantages may exist when filing first for divorce from a planning and logistical perspective. Filing first for divorce allows you to know that change is coming to your life. This can help you organize the information you need to prepare for your divorce case. For example, at the beginning of a divorce case, it is common for you to inventory and appraises your property subject to division in the divorce. You can be working on doing this as quickly before the divorce as during.
Many people do that I have worked with is to take their cell phone camera into each room of their home and take photographs of the contents of each room. That way, if anything should happen to grow legs and walk away, as my mother would say, then you have proof that the item was inside your home at one point in time. From there, you should walk into closets, open desks, dresser drawers, and even open safes to document what property existed within your home at the beginning of the divorce.
Next, you can write down those items on a legal pad or type them out on a word processing document. I would recommend that you next take some time to estimate the value of these assets. This does not have to be an exact number by any means, but thinking about the importance of these assets can be helpful in the sense that you can begin to craft a strategy and develop goals for yourself when it comes to community property division.
You may also need to line up some money to pay for the divorce. It’s no secret that divorces cost money. It’s not that a divorce has to be the most expensive thing that you ever do in your life, but the reality is that a divorce will cost you money. There are court costs, costs associated with serving your spouse, attorney’s fees, and even disruptions to your schedule that are possible, which may reduce your wages. A divorce will not be inexpensive, but practical ways to reduce those costs. However, it would help if you planned to figure out how you would pay for your case in advance.
In extreme situations, you may need to plan into place due to your spouse being abusive towards you or your children. In that case, you may need to find a new place to stay after you file for divorce. Are there shelters or women’s resource centers in your area? Do you have family or friends who are willing to shelter you and the kids for a period? Even if you do, it will probably take a few phone calls for you to line that up and get everything in order as far as getting yourself and your necessary belongings out of the home. Even developing a safety plan for yourself and the kids may be required. Is there a “safe place” for you to go with the kids if things turn nasty with your spouse? Do your kids know to avoid the kitchen due to sharp objectives being present?
Filing first for divorce may also allow you to get a protective order simultaneously. A protective order can be sought in Harris County from a different court than your divorce was filed in. A protective order allows law enforcement to get involved in the situation if your spouse becomes violent or violates some portion of the protective order. Most of the time, a protective order bars your spouse from coming within a certain distance of you or your children. You need to follow steps to accomplish this; however, the time before a divorce is an excellent opportunity to get all of this inline.
Another advantage that you may be able to seize from your divorce if you can file your case first is choosing where your divorce case will be held. Imagine a situation where you and your spouse are still married but have lived physically separate from one another for several years. Years. During that time, your spouse has moved to Dallas, and you still live in Houston. You all have not been in contact for some time, and your concern is that your spouse may end up filing for divorce from you in Dallas before you can file for divorce from him in Houston.
If you have lived here for at least the prior six months and in your county for at least the previous 90 days, Texas is a state where you can file for divorce here. If you and your spouse have been separated for some time and live in those different counties, then either of you may very well be able to file for divorce. This could put you in a bind as far as your work and home life are concerned. Imagine having to take off work for a day or two to attend a hearing in Dallas. Wouldn’t it be easier for you to file your divorce here in Harris County so that you can listen to matters here in your backyard?
This is an immediate benefit of filing for divorce. If your spouse files for divorce in Dallas on the day after you had already filed for divorce in Houston, it is likely that the Dallas court would tell your spouse that since the case had already been filed in Houston, there is no need to consider having an issue in Dallas. There may be circumstances outside of this hypothetical example that we need to believe, but for the most part, what I am saying here will apply to 99% of divorces. If you file your case before your spouse can, you get to have a home-field advantage. At least as far as travel is concerned.
The above hypothetical example can be taken even further if we consider a situation where your spouse not only no longer lives in Houston but no longer lives in Texas at all. If he left the state and now lives in Oklahoma or Arkansas, this can have an even more significant impact on your life during a divorce. Not only do the distances between you and a potential new court location increase dramatically, but you also would have to contend with a whole new set of family laws. While I’m sure that some family laws in Texas look like the family laws of another state, there are likely to be some significant differences that can have a dramatic impact on your divorce.
For example, suppose that you have a 13-year-old who very much wants to live with you on a full-time basis. In Texas, he would have the right to speak to a judge directly to express that desire. This does not necessarily mean that the judge will listen only to your child when it comes to deciding on this issue, but if I were in your shoes, I would prefer for your child to have a say in this matter than not have one. If your spouse files for divorce first in Arkansas, there may not be an opportunity for your child to voice their opinion in the same way. You run this risk when you do not file for divorce first.
What do you need to do to prepare to file for divorce?
Otherwise, there aren’t that many advantages to filing first for divorce. A divorce won’t blindside you, and you will have an opportunity to prepare your case more diligently before the case gets going. So, if you are convinced that you need to go ahead and file for divorce, what are some of the best ways for you to prepare to do so?
For one, I would recommend that you speak with an experienced family law attorney before moving forward with a divorce. Even if you ultimately decide to file for divorce on your own, it is potentially a big mistake to forego the advice of an attorney. An attorney can help you identify potential problem areas in your case and help you determine if you need to hire a lawyer. You may not “need” to hire a lawyer, but in the grand scheme of things, it may be for the best that you have a lawyer at your disposal.
Next, I would consider what your family needs to do to figure out how to pay for the divorce. In different families, this can mean different things. It may mean pulling money out of investments and getting it ready to spend on a lawyer and court costs. Others reading this blog post may need to take out a loan, spend some of their money in savings or access various lines of credit. This is not a discussion that you should enter lightly. It is one that you should consider after a great deal of thought.
There is nothing wrong with taking out a loan or trying to get your case done now when you don’t necessarily have the cash to do so. You can speak to one of our financial ambassadors here at our office who can work with you on figuring out if there’s a type of financing that we can make available to help you further your divorce cause. It is not easy to drop everything and pay for a divorce all on your own without much notice. By thinking long and hard about Your plan for getting a divorce, you can be better situated from a financial standpoint when getting the divorce you need. So much of this depends upon paying for an attorney who can provide you with quality representation.
Different attorneys cater to other people based on their specific circumstances, as with anything else in the economy. As you begin your search for a lawyer, assuredly, you will find that there are attorneys at all different price points depending on where you look. Depending upon What part of town and what your needs are as a client, you will almost indeed find an attorney who fits your budget period; however, if you are not able to take the time to find the lawyer who suits you and your needs, then you may end up spending more money for an attorney that is not right for you.
To that end, I would recommend that you take whatever opportunity you have to interview multiple attorneys so that you can gain an understanding of what the issues are in your case and how they may impact your family. The last thing you will want to do is rush out at the last minute and hire the first attorney you talked to. Instead, it would be advisable for you to take whatever opportunity you get and sit down with an attorney, preferably face to face, to learn more about the legal process and how it applies to your life.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are an excellent way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law, as well as to learn how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.