Many divorcing Texans may not fully understand the role of fault, the availability of post-divorce modifications and the benefits of legal representation.
Most people who are preparing to get divorced appreciate the complexity of this legal process and the laws that govern it. Unfortunately, many of these spouses may still suffer from common misconceptions about the state’s divorce laws and the process in general. To avoid damaging missteps, divorcing spouses should make sure to understand and move past the following common myths.
1. Modifying the decree is simple
In Texas, a divorce decree can be formally modified after the divorce proceedings are over. However, many spouses misunderstand the availability of these modifications. Certain aspects of a divorce decree cannot be modified, regardless of a spouse’s reason for requesting modifications. State law only allows the modification of the following aspects of a divorce settlement:
- Spousal support
- Child support
- Child custody
Furthermore, legal modifications are generally only an option if spouses meet specific criteria. For instance, spouses must document a significant change in financial circumstances, such as loss of income, to request child or spousal support modifications. Parents seeking child custody modifications must show that their living circumstances or the child’s living circumstances have changed markedly. Even if spouses can meet these criteria, court approval of requested modifications is never guaranteed.
2. Fault never matters
The Texas Family Code allows spouses the option of seeking a “no-fault” divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. However, the availability of this option does not prohibit spouses from seeking a “fault” divorce. Spouses may pursue this type of divorce on various grounds, including cruelty, abandonment, adultery, confinement in a mental institution and conviction of a felony.
If a spouse can successfully establish that the other spouse was at fault in the divorce, this may affect various aspects of the settlement. Family law judges in Texas may directly take marital misconduct, such as adultery, into account when determining spousal maintenance awards. Certain types of misconduct may also affect child custody decisions. For instance, if cruelty takes the form of abuse, the court might consider this behavior when awarding child custody and visitation.
3. Legal representation isn’t necessary
Spouses in Texas have the option of completing a divorce without the assistance of an attorney. Unfortunately, though, many spouses may not fully understand their rights or the criteria that family law judges will use to decide key elements of the settlement. As a result, forgoing representation may increase the risk of mistakes and other adverse outcomes. An attorney may be able to help a spouse understand the relevant laws and express his or her needs and desires clearly in court.
Handling the divorce process alone can be costly, especially since some aspects of a Texas divorce decree cannot be changed later. Consequently, divorcing spouses should consider at least consulting with an attorney to better understand their options and protect their legal rights.