FAMILY LAW REMINDER
by Rob L. Wiley
As the holidays and the end of 2016 approach, experience in our family law practice tells us we’ll soon get more calls inquiring about divorce and related family problems. The real crunch usually comes after the beginning of a new year. Spouses may paper over their differences in the hope of a holiday season reconciliation. When that doesn’t happen, people begin looking into their legal options. In any event, with these important dates nearing, there’s good reason to review some of the basics of Texas family law.
- Residence – the most frequently asked questions we get concern residence. How long must I have lived in Texas to get a divorce? Where do I file? How long must I have lived there?
By and large, the answers to these questions are simple, though occasionally some complexity enters the picture. In general, a Texas court can only grant a divorce if the person seeking the divorce has lived in Texas for six months and has resided for ninety (90) days in the county where the case was filed.
- How long − A second frequently asked question concerns how long getting a divorce takes. The court won’t grant a divorce if the case hasn’t been pending at least 60 days. As a practical matter, it’s difficult to get even simple cases done in less than four or five months. Why? Because something usually happens to at least briefly slow down the process. Sometimes it takes a while to pull together all the financial and property information. Many courts we practice before require divorcing parents to take a parenting class (some judges won’t accept on-line courses). Getting those scheduled can add time to the process. The average divorce decree in a case involving a couple with minor children and a moderate amount of property (a house, cars, bank accounts) runs 35 – 38 pages. That means that once things are worked out, usually though negotiation or mediation, both spouses and their lawyers have to review the decree and pass it around to each other for approval. This happens even in cases in which the parties reach an agreement and never were really at each other’s throats. When a prompt agreement doesn’t happen, the process slows down more.
- Cost – Finally, most people want to know what a divorce costs in terms of legal fees and court costs. The answer is – it depends. The filing fees in most Texas counties are $250 – $350. Service on the opposing party usually adds $75 – $100, so we ask our clients to try to persuade their spouse to “accept service.” That means the spouse on the other side agrees to sign for the paperwork and we don’t have to pay a sheriff’s deputy or constable (or a private process server) to track down the other party to formally serve them with the legal documents. As for the legal fees, that mostly depends on how much property and how much disagreement a case involves. The more property, the greater the need for review of documents about the ownership and value of that property. The more disagreement – whether it’s over children or property or both – the more time expended on formal discovery, negotiation with the other side, hearings before the court, mediation, and drafting and revising the decree.
At Stewart & Wiley we’ve been practicing family law for almost a dozen years. We’ve handled nearly every kind of case, from the simple to the dizzyingly complex, from the quietest to the most contentious. Call us if we can help.