Articles Posted in Divorce

When a marriage reaches an irreconcilable point, couples have legal options to end their union. Divorce and annulment are two distinct approaches, each with its own implications. At Guest & Gray, we have extensive experience helping our clients end their marriages through both divorce and annulment. We can help explain the difference, the benefits and potential drawbacks of each, and help you effectively pursue your desired outcome.

In this blog post, we will explore the differences between divorce and annulment, shedding light on the grounds, legal consequences, and procedural aspects of each process.

Definition and Purpose

Divorce is a legal termination of a valid marriage, while annulment declares a marriage null and void, as if it never occurred. Divorce acknowledges that a valid marriage existed but has irretrievably broken down, providing a legal dissolution of the marital relationship. Annulment, on the other hand, treats the marriage as if it were invalid from the beginning, essentially erasing it from a legal standpoint.

Grounds for Divorce

Divorce is typically based on “no-fault” or “fault” grounds. “No-fault” divorce grounds, such as irreconcilable differences or insupportability, do not require proving any wrongdoing by either spouse. “Fault” grounds, such as adultery, abandonment, or cruelty, involve proving misconduct by one spouse, which may impact property division, spousal support, and child custody determinations.

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At our Forney divorce law firm, we understand the complexities of divorce and the emotional weight it can bear on those involved. We’ve seen clients walk into our office, sometimes making crucial mistakes that could complicate their divorce proceedings and affect their future. We want to take this opportunity to address some common errors and help you navigate your way toward a smoother transition.

The first, and perhaps most common mistake is rushing to file without fully understanding the consequences. Divorce is more than a dissolution of marriage; it encompasses various aspects like property division, child custody, alimony, and more. It’s essential to educate yourself on these matters before taking the plunge. Understanding the process and potential outcomes will allow you to prepare adequately and manage your expectations.

A closely related error is neglecting to gather essential financial documents. Accurate and detailed documentation is vital in divorce proceedings. Inadequate financial information can lead to unfair settlements. You should have a clear picture of your financial situation, including income, assets, debts, and expenses, to ensure a fair distribution of assets and debts.

Divorce can be an emotionally draining and contentious process. However, it doesn’t always have to be a battleground. At the Dallas County divorce law firm of Guest & Gray, we often recommend divorce mediation as a viable alternative to traditional divorce litigation. This blog post will shed light on what divorce mediation is and when it might be an appropriate choice for your situation.

What is Divorce Mediation?

Divorce mediation is a process where a neutral third party, known as a mediator, assists the divorcing couple in negotiating and reaching an agreement on various aspects of their divorce. These may include child custody and visitation, property and debt division, alimony, and child support. The goal of mediation is to foster cooperation and compromise, resulting in a mutually agreeable settlement that meets the needs of both parties.

Advantages of Divorce Mediation

One of the key advantages of mediation is the control it offers to the parties involved. Instead of decisions being made by a judge, the couple has the opportunity to actively shape the terms of their divorce agreement. Mediation can also be less adversarial and stressful than traditional divorce proceedings, providing a safe space to discuss sensitive issues with respect and understanding.

Furthermore, mediation tends to be more time-efficient and cost-effective than litigation, which can often become drawn-out and expensive. Mediated settlements can usually be reached more quickly, reducing the emotional toll and financial burden on both parties.

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In a June 2023 case before the Texas Supreme Court, a mother appealed the trial court’s decision that allowed her children’s father to have the exclusive authority to decide where their four children should live. According to the mother, the judge had unfairly denied her request to have her 13-year-old child interviewed in the judge’s chambers, which ultimately resulted in an incorrect verdict. Looking at the record of the case, the higher court agreed with the mother and remanded part of the case in accordance with her request.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the father, in this case, filed for divorce, and he asked the court to make a custody decision for the couple’s four children. In Texas, Section 153.009(a) of the Family Code allows parents to request that judges interview their children privately in chambers to take their wishes into account when making a cursory decision. If a parent requests this interview, however, he or she waives the right to a jury trial and is only able to proceed under a non-jury or a bench trial.

Early on in this case, the mother requested an interview between the judge and her 13-year-old child. By conducting the interview, said the mother, the judge would be able to understand that her children preferred to reside with her. To request the interview, the mother emailed the court, called the court 20 times, made an oral request on the record during the hearing, and filed two briefs after trial. The court, however, did not interview the child, and it also failed to offer the mother a jury trial in the absence of granting her request.

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Texas law permits family courts to order one party to a marriage to pay spousal support, also known as alimony, to the other party under certain circumstances. In Texas, there is a statutory presumption to deny requests for spousal support, however, a divorcing spouse may be able to demonstrate that they are entitled to spousal support if certain conditions are met. The Texas Court of Appeal recently reversed a family court ruling that had awarded a woman the sum of $5000 per month in spousal support.

The parties in the recently decided appeal had been married for over 20 years when the husband filed for divorce in 2018. As part of the divorce proceeding, the wife requested that the family court grant her spousal support in order to help her support herself and the extensive bills that were owed to support the standard of living that was enjoyed during the marriage. In addition to the needs-based request, the wife argued that she was entitled to spousal support because the husband was unfaithful leading up to the parties’ divorce.

At trial, the family court judge accepted testimony that the wife had approximately $11,000 in monthly expenses and found that an award of $5000 per month in spousal support was appropriate considering the circumstances. The trial court considered the husband’s infidelity in issuing the spousal support award. The husband appealed this ruling to the Court of Appeal, arguing that the wife needed to demonstrate that she needed the funds to support her minimum reasonable needs and that she was capable of supporting those needs without the spousal support award.

In the event of a divorce, it is extremely common for each of the parties to have differing income-earning abilities during and after the divorce process. Often, one of the divorcing parents had stopped working full time during a marriage in order to care for children or otherwise maintain a household. In order to compensate for the value of the labor that a stay-at-home spouse has contributed to marriage and household, Texas courts regularly award spousal maintenance (commonly referred to as alimony) in order to equalize the parties’ standards of living and income-earning abilities. The Court of Appeals of Texas recently affirmed a family court’s ruling that granted alimony to the ex-wife while rejecting the ex-husband’s arguments that the alimony award was improper.

The parties from the recently decided case were married in 2007 and separated in 2020. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the husband had at least 2 affairs and fathered a child with another woman during the marriage to his wife. As part of her divorce claim, the woman requested both temporary spousal support to help her while the divorce moved along, as well as a spousal maintenance award to assist her with supporting herself and developing employment skills which she had put on hold during the marriage. In order to award long-term spousal support, Texas law requires parties to have been married for at least 10 years and also requires a finding that the beneficiary spouse lacked adequate property and income-earning ability to provide for their basic needs.

At trial, the court accepted the evidence as to the parties earning abilities and assets and divided the marital estate equitably. In addition to the division of property, the court awarded the woman spousal support in the amount of $250 per month for a period of eighteen months. Although the woman testified that she was able to pay her bills without the support, the court found that this admission was made only because the woman was on federal food stamp assistance and needed to borrow money from her family several times to make ends meet. Based on the woman’s testimony that she was able to pay her bills, the man appealed the trial court’s alimony award, arguing that she had adequate property and income-earning ability to survive without the support.

In a recent case before an appeals court in Texas, the plaintiff in a divorce case asked for a new decision regarding the credit card debt that the lower court directed him to pay. Originally, the lower court issued an order divorcing the plaintiff and defendant, and part of that decision decided that both parties were responsible for the debt accrued during the marriage. On appeal, the plaintiff took issue with this ruling, but the higher court ultimately kept the lower court’s decision in place.

Facts of the Case

According to the decision, the plaintiff and defendant in this case separated in early 2020, and the husband filed for divorce about a month later. While working out the issues in their divorce, the parties were able to agree over certain matters, such as custody of their three kids. They were unable to agree, however, on how to divide the credit card debt that they had accrued during their marriage. They thus took the case to trial and asked the court to decide who was responsible for paying off this debt.

After trial, the court decided that the husband, the plaintiff, would be responsible for 60% of the debt, while the defendant, the wife, would be responsible for the other 40%. Disagreeing with the court’s ruling, the plaintiff appealed.

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In a recent memorandum opinion issued by a district court in Texas, the court dismissed one party’s claim because it decided there were no longer any issues to litigate in the state. Originally, a couple trying to get divorced filed claims in both Texas and Virginia and there was some confusion over where the divorce case should be heard. By the time the court of appeals issued its opinion, however, the couple had resolved all of the necessary issues about jurisdiction, and the Texas court dismissed the husband’s appeal.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the wife involved in this case first filed for divorce from her husband in Virginia in 2018. Later, she dropped the suit entirely, only for the husband to re-file for divorce three years later in Texas. At that point, it was unclear whether the divorce proceedings should take place in Virginia or Texas.

In the husband’s petition for divorce, he stated that he had been a resident of Texas for six months prior to filing for divorce. This was relevant for the court to know since a Texas divorce case can be filed in the county court where one of the parties has lived for the last 90 days as long as that party has also lived in Texas for at least six months.

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In a recent case involving a final decree of divorce between the appellant, Tomecia L. Wright, and the appellee, De Joran R. Wright, the appellate court affirmed the trial court decision. The parties married in December 2012 and have one daughter.

Facts of the Case

The couple resided in Dalhart, where De Joran was a coach and teacher for the school district. Four years later, they separated. Tomecia, who was unemployed at the time, left and took their child to Houston, ostensibly for vacation. De Joran contacted her seeking to help her find employment, at which point she refused to return to Dalhart, and he initiated divorce proceedings. She avoided service for several months, preventing De Joran from visiting his daughter for approximately six months, eventually filing a counterpetition for divorce. Shortly thereafter, the trial court held a hearing and issued temporary orders and a writ of attachment for the child to be returned to De Joran.

Texas Couples who live together for a significant amount of time often share a relationship that functions and appears like an official marriage. This is especially true when the couple has been raising children together. Texas law, like many U.S. jurisdictions, allows for an informal marriage (colloquially known as a “common-law” marriage) to be entered into for a couple to enjoy the privileges, obligations, and protections of marriage. The application of Texas’s informal marriage statute is not completely clear with regard to same-sex couples seeking spousal benefits, divorce, or custody determination by a state court. One member of a same-sex couple was recently denied an appeal for her divorce petition against her former partner, as the Texas court ruled that the requirements for an informal marriage were not met in this case.

The plaintiff in the recently decided case is a woman who was in a relationship with the defendant for approximately 8 years. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the defendant gave birth to two children throughout the parties’ relationship, and the couple raised the children together as a family unit. After the couple broke up, the plaintiff sued the defendant for divorce, alleging the parties had a valid informal marriage and seeking a division of property, as well as shared custody of the children. The district judge dismissed the plaintiff’s petition, finding that the parties were not married and she had no standing to sue the defendant.

Texas law allows for a valid informal marriage under two sets of circumstances. First, a couple can file a declaration with the county clerk of the county of their residence, stating that they intend to enter into an informal marriage. Second, an informal marriage can be established if (1) the couple agreed to be married; (2) after the agreement, they lived together in Texas as husband and wife; and (3) in Texas, they represented to others that they were married. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that there was evidence to support all three of the second set of factors for establishing an informal marriage.

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