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.
Most divorces are sought under the “no-fault grounds” in Texas Family Code Section 6.001 which is the ground of insupportability. The Texas legislature defines this ground as follows: “marriage has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marital relationship and prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.” This basically falls into the category of “my spouse and I do not get along anymore and I just cannot stay married to them” but could also be for a number of reasons. Some spouses, even though they might qualify under a “fault” ground such as adultery, just plead the “no-fault” ground. They do not want to drag out the divorce and go through all of the emotional tolls that it would entail; they just want it over.
Divorce is difficult enough on the emotional level, let alone adding in money, property, and children. It is important to discuss all of your options initially with your attorney so that the appropriate pleadings can be filed. Guest & Gray offers family law consults and we have a full family law staff that is ready to assist you in your needs. Call and schedule your consult today.