When pleading for a divorce in Texas, you have to consider—aside from the emotional aspect—why exactly you are getting a divorce. Did your spouse cheat on you? Did your spouse abandon you and what does abandonment mean? Or, do you and your spouse argue often and have you grown into separate people rather than being the one person united on the date of your marriage? To answer this question, it is important to discuss your options and what could be included in your pleadings. Reason being, Texas has two separate statutory grounds for divorce—fault or no-fault.
Fault grounds of divorce are specifically outlined in Texas Family Code Chapter 6, Subchapter A. They are listed as follows: cruelty (you are a victim of cruel treatment at the hands of your spouse and you cannot continue to live with him/her); adultery; conviction of a felony (and they have been imprisoned for at least a year and not pardoned); abandonment (your spouse left you and has remained away for at least a year without an intent to return); living apart (you and your spouse have not lived together for at least three years); confinement in a mental hospital (spouse has been confined to a mental hospital for at least three years and their mental state is so severe that a relapse is probable). Therefore, the Texas legislature has carved out why you could ask for a fault divorce and what exactly those faults entail. As you can see, the grounds are very specific and most are uncommon. Most often, we see cases under the fault grounds of cruelty or adultery.
So, now you are wondering why, if you qualify under any of these grounds, would you plead a “fault” ground—what would be the benefit? Basically, pleading for a fault ground leads to a request for a disproportionate share of the community estate. The court can consider one of the spouse’s “fault” when deciding how to divide community property between the two parties. The Texas Family Code mandates that the court make a “just and right division” of the community estate. Most people believe that this means an outright 50/50 split, but that is incorrect. The judge has a lot of determination and leeway in determining which spouse gets what property and/or debt. So, if you would like for the court to consider giving you more than what would be given absent the fault it is important to discuss this with your attorney and consider your options.