As an alternative to a contentious trial against a divorcing spouse, divorce courts recognize and encourage divorce settlement agreements in Texas.
If you’re in the process of getting a divorce in Texas, the chances are great that you will end up settling with your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Only a very small percentage of divorces in Texas go to trial.
What Is a Settlement Agreement in a Divorce?
Divorce litigation is a costly process both financially and emotionally. While not always possible, divorcing spouses can significantly reduce these costs by agreeing on all aspects of the divorce in a signed and written divorce settlement agreement.
Texas law requires the settlement agreement to resolve all issues related to asset division, alimony, and if the parties have minor children, all matters related to custody and child support.
If the parties can agree on all these issues, a court will typically review the divorce settlement agreement. Texas law requires the terms to be fair and just and not the product of fraud or duress. If the court finds no problems on review, it will approve the agreement and incorporate it into the final divorce decree.
Note that parties have wide discretion in fashioning a settlement agreement. If the agreement doesn’t violate public policy, the parties may agree on terms that are different from what is contemplated under Texas divorce laws.
Additional Benefits of a Divorce Settlement Agreement in Texas
A valid marital settlement agreement in Texas allows divorcing spouses to avoid the expense, time commitment, and grief that comes with a traditional adversarial divorce. In addition, a well-crafted divorce agreement can help facilitate a healthy transition to your new life post-marriage.
The divorce agreement process offers several additional benefits:
- Avoids a stranger (a judge) from deciding your life for you,
- Improves parental cooperation and communication after divorce, and
- Minimizes the risk of future conflict.
In addition, it’s important to remember that your divorce is a matter of public record. If you decide to proceed with litigation and go to trial, know that sensitive and potentially embarrassing details of your marriage will be accessible to employers, snoopers, and the media.
Settlement Agreements Are Not for Everyone
Settlement agreements are certainly the least combative means of sorting out the details associated with getting divorced. However, they may not be a viable solution for everyone. Settlement agreements may not be appropriate where:
- One spouse lacks the mental capacity to manage their own affairs,
- Domestic violence is an issue in the divorce, or
- One party is likely to hide assets or otherwise conceal information.
In addition, spouses without an open mind and willingness to prioritize cooperation over personal interests can make poor candidates for a settlement agreement.
Basic Provisions in a Divorce Settlement
All divorce decrees resolve issues pertaining to asset division, alimony, and if the parties have minor children, custody, and child support. Similarly, a private divorce settlement agreement must address these issues.
What’s Included in a Texas Divorce Property Settlement Agreement?
In the absence of a settlement agreement, Texas divorce courts divide marital assets and debts pursuant to community property laws. This typically means a 50/50 split of everything acquired during the marriage except for each spouse’s separate property. Separate property not subject to division in divorce includes:
- Property acquired through gift or inheritance,
- Property acquired before marriage,
- Property acquired from the proceeds of separate property, and
- Certain damages awards from personal injury lawsuits.
In contrast, parties may generally divide their property and debts any way they see fit in a divorce settlement agreement. Matters resolvable in a settlement agreement include:
- Proper valuation of community assets,
- Whether a particular asset should be designated community property or the separate property of one spouse,
- How community property should be divided and distributed, and
- Proper allocation of community debts.
Note that while divorcing spouses have wide latitude to draft their settlement agreement as they see fit, Texas courts must still approve it. In the event a court deems the agreement to be unconscionable, it will likely send the document back to the parties for revision.
What Is Spousal Support in a Texas Divorce Settlement Agreement?
Divorcing spouses can elect to include provisions for spousal support. Parties commonly use spousal support to help an economically dependent spouse get on their feet and become self-sufficient after marriage.
Conservatorships, Possession, and Child Support
Texas law refers to legal custody and child visitation as conservatorships and possession. Divorcing spouses with minor children must provide for both in their marital settlement agreement. Like property settlements, Texas courts will scrutinize the terms of custody agreements to ensure fairness.
A Texas court will reject the proposed agreement if the terms are not in the best interests of the child. Note that parties may not agree to limit a parent’s child support obligation if the amount in question is less than required under Texas law.
Your Divorce Is Our Top Priority
If you’re in the process of divorce—or simply contemplating divorce—and are interested in learning more about divorce settlements in Texas, contact the experienced family law attorneys at The Larson Law Office for a free consultation.
We can guide you through the divorce settlement process, ensure that you understand each and every term, and draft an agreement for both you and your spouse to maximize the chances that it will be upheld in court. Don’t go it alone. Even an agreed divorce can be overwhelming. We will be with you every step of the way.