Nothing will put you in a better position for a successful divorce than going into the process with your eyes wide open. It will save you time, save you money, and minimize your frustration. Here is your five point pre-divorce reality check.
- Clear-cut goals are critical to success. Identify them. Discuss them with your lawyer. Clear-cut goals will focus your legal strategy, inform the decision-making process, and guide your lawyer in achieving them. They are also the standard for measuring your success.
- Your finances will change. No one’s finances improve as the result of a divorce. Don’t expect the same lifestyle after the divorce that you enjoyed during your marriage. Before filing, save money in your own separate bank account, so you’ll have cash to pay bills. You will have to disclose these funds, but at least you’ll have immediate access to them. Decide which assets you want to keep and which ones you’re willing to give up. Apply for credit in your own name, so you can start building an individual credit history. In other words, be financially proactive.
- Fairness does not always mean an equal distribution of assets. Texas is a community property state. If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement, the court will divide your community property. Texas law does not require community property to be divided 50/50. Rather, Texas law requires “a just and right division,” taking into account a number of factors—such as fault in the breakup of the marriage, health and education of the spouses, present and future earning capacity, the spouse raising the minor children, any existing or future separate property, and the debts of the parties.
- Child support will be paid. It’s statutory. One spouse will pay it and the other will receive it. Two important points. First, the judge has little discretion in setting the amount—it is based on income and number of children per the Texas Family Code. Second, don’t hold your child support hostage. Pay it—even if your ex-spouse withholds visitation. If you don’t, you could go to jail. Likewise, the spouse receiving child support may not withhold visitation even if the paying spouse is not current on child support payments.
- Choosing the right lawyer is your first important strategic decision. A local lawyer who only practices family law will always secure the best result. Local family lawyers know the tendencies of the judges and other lawyers, and are in the best position to predict what they will do in a given situation. Board certified family lawyers are at the top of the list because they have mastered the complexities of the Texas Family Code. Seasoned trial skills and a strong work ethic are critical; cases get resolved when lawyers prepare as if they are going to trial.
Sonya B. Coffman is a Board Certified divorce, custody, and family lawyer in Beaumont, Texas. She also is a Certified Public Accountant. Ms. Coffman only practices divorce and family law in Jefferson County, Texas. She regularly tries jury and non-jury divorce, custody, and property cases—including those involving businesses and complex financial situations. She also handles appeals. Ms. Coffman has been a trial and appellate lawyer for over 27 years.