Do you do initial consultations by telephone?
We typically do not conduct initial consultations over the phone. Retaining an attorney is an important decision for you and a personal meeting is a critical part of the process in helping you determine that our firm (or any firm) is the right fit for you.
Why do you charge for initial consultations?
Some attorneys provide free initial consultations. But those meetings are typically 30 minutes or less. That is simply not enough time for you and the attorney to determine whether you are a good fit for one another. We want to take the time to truly understand your needs. And you should have the time to decide whether we are a good fit for you too.
How much are your fees?
Every case is different. For example, the total cost of a divorce depends on the complexity of the case, the process you choose, and your willingness to reach agreements. However, instead of large up-front retainers, we use an incremental replenishment system that allows you to pay smaller retainer amounts over time.
Are my conversations with you and your staff confidential?
As a client, or even potential client, your conversations with us are strictly confidential. The attorney-client privilege applies equally to attorneys and staff, so you should feel comfortable sharing information with any employee in our office. Limited exceptions do require us to report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect, elder abuse or neglect, and information to prevent criminal or fraudulent acts, despite the privilege.
COLLABORATIVE LAW PROCESS
What if I want to use the collaborative divorce process but my spouse does not?
The collaborative divorce process requires the agreement of both parties. You cannot force your spouse to proceed collaboratively if he or she does not want to. But maybe your spouse does not understand the process. If you want to suggest a collaborative divorce to your spouse, we can provide you with information sources to share.
What if my spouse wants to divorce using the collaborative process but his/her lawyer is not trained in collaborative law?
By Texas statute, any client in a family law matter has the right to pursue collaborative law as a process option. If your spouse’s attorney is not trained in collaborative law, we can help direct them to statewide resources for information and/or training.
How is property divided in divorce?
Texas recognizes “community property” laws. Community property is property that you and your spouse have acquired during the course of your marriage. Regardless of who purchased it or who earned the income, community property law states that it is presumptively owned equally by both of you unless and until proven otherwise. Texas law presumes that community property will be divided equally unless one can show legally that he or she is entitled to a disproportionate share.
What is separate property?
Separate property is owned by an individual and not considered part of the community property to be divided in divorce. Separate property includes property that was owned before the marriage and/or property that either of you received as a gift or inheritance during the marriage. A court cannot take separate property away from you to award to the other spouse. However, some spouses do make gifts of separate property to the other in the final divorce decree.
What is a “no-fault” divorce?
For many years, Texas required that a spouse seeking divorce have specific grounds for doing so. But today, Texas law recognizes the right of a spouse to divorce for “conflict or discord that destroys the legitimate ends of the marriage relationship,” commonly known as a “no-fault” divorce. In other words, a spouse can divorce without having to blame the other.
How long does the divorce process last?
In most cases, the parties in a divorce must wait 60 days from the day the initial petition is filed before a judge will sign the final decree. Beyond that minimum period, the time to resolve a divorce depends on the parties, the process they choose, and the issues that need to be addressed. Most cases resolve in 6 to 18 months.
What if my spouse and I have agreed on everything and just need one lawyer to draft all the documents?
One lawyer cannot represent both parties in a divorce, even if it is only to draft documents. One attorney can draft the documents, but only as the retained attorney for one of the parties. In that event, the attorney can only provide legal advice to the party he or she represents. The non-represented spouse is encouraged to hire his or her own counsel to review the documents and provide independent legal advice to him or her.
What happens when one spouse does not want the divorce?
Because Texas does not require a specific cause as grounds for divorce, the court will grant a divorce even if only one spouse wants it.
How long do I have to live in Texas before I can file for divorce?
One spouse must live in Texas for 6 months and in the county of filing for 90 days before filing a petition for divorce.
Is it true that Texas law does not allow for alimony payments?
Texas law currently does not allow for court-ordered alimony, but courts can and do approve contractual alimony agreements made by divorcing spouses. Also, under some circumstances, courts can award spousal maintenance, which is similar to alimony but creates no taxable event under federal tax laws. The spouse seeking maintenance must meet certain minimum eligibility requirements. In addition, the law imposes caps on the duration and amount of maintenance payments with limited exceptions.
How is child support calculated?
Interestingly, there is not one mathematical formula used across the country to calculate child support. Different states use different equations. In Texas, the formula used is commonly referred to as “guideline” child support. First, the net income of the paying parent is determined, based on salary and other income-generating sources minus certain statutory deductions. Once net income is determined and after considering the statutory cap, if applicable, child support is calculated as a percentage of that net income, based on the number of children: 20% for one child, 25% for two children, 30% for three children, 35% for four children, and 40% for five children. Additional considerations are also made for health insurance premiums paid, whether the paying parent has children in more than one household, and whether the child has special needs.
Can child support payments be made directly between parents or do they have to be paid through the state?
Texas law requires that child support be paid through the Texas Child Support Disbursement Unit (TCSDU), a unit of the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). Once the courts enter an order for child support, the OAG is notified and establishes a child support payment account with the TCSDU. The TCSDU accepts multiple forms of payment, and also provides different disbursement options for the parent receiving the child support. You can find detailed information on the payment and disbursement process at www.info.txcsdu.com and www.oag.state.tx.us/cs/index.shtml.