Getting a divorce is complicated under any circumstances. However, getting a divorce in Texas with kids can be extra stressful.
Not only are you feeling complex emotions about your relationship and worried about finances, but you want to make sure that you do what is best for your children.
Here, we will discuss some of the things you need to know when getting a divorce in Texas with children.
How Do I File for Divorce If I Have Kids?
If you are googling, “how to file for divorce in Texas with children,” there are a few things that you should be aware of. The initial process for filing for divorce is still approximately the same whether or not you have kids. One spouse must file the original petition for divorce. This spouse becomes the petitioner and the other spouse becomes the respondent spouse.
A potential complication can arise in a divorce in Texas with a child if the child does not live in Texas. If the child has not lived in Texas for the last six months or the child was born in Texas but has been gone for more than six months, Texas is no longer the child’s “home state” under the UCCJEA, a federal law.
Therefore, a Texas court will likely not make custody and visitation decisions about the child. You may have to obtain a custody determination from a court in the jurisdiction where your child lives. This can get complicated, and it can be a good idea to talk to a family law attorney.
Another thing to be aware of in a divorce with children in Texas is that it may be more expensive. You may have to file additional forms that come with extra filing fees. In addition, issues like child support and custody tend to be highly contested. Contested issues in a divorce can significantly increase the cost.
Who Will Get Custody of the Kids?
In many divorce proceedings, a child’s parents are free to agree on any custody arrangement that they prefer. If you and your spouse agree on custody, you can choose where your child will live and when and how often they will see the noncustodial parent. However, parents frequently disagree about the details of their custody arrangement.
When custody is contested, both sides may try to come to an agreement through processes such as mediation. If you are trying to reach an agreement with your spouse about custody, you should hire an attorney to help you negotiate. A child custody attorney with strong knowledge of Texas family law will be able to help you achieve the best possible outcome for your child.
Sometimes, parties filing for divorce in Texas with children are unable to come to an agreement about child custody. In these situations, the court will decide how custody will be divided.
Texas courts try to award joint custody when possible. Joint custody means that the child spends some time with each parent. Although courts favor these arrangements, if one parent is abusive or neglectful, the court can award sole custody to the other parent.
What About Child Support?
Child support is another commonly contested issue in a Texas divorce with children. Child support is calculated using Texas child support guidelines. Parties can agree to a child support amount in excess of that required by the guidelines. Parties can also agree to less than guidelines child support.
The amount of child support depends on the noncustodial parent’s net resources and the number of children. Although the amount of support is set, disputes can arise regarding the amount of a parent’s net income.
If the parents dispute this amount, then the court may need to make findings and calculate child support. The court can consider certain assets as income and also impute income to someone who is unemployed or underemployed.
How to Protect Children in Divorce
There are several ways to help protect children in divorce cases from being negatively affected. A divorce will certainly affect a child in concrete ways, such as the child needing to adjust to one parent no longer living in the family home. However, much of the trauma, disruption and even guilt that children often feel during and after a divorce are avoidable, or can at least be minimized, if both parents take concrete steps to truly put the children’s emotional best interest first.
Unfortunately, even though most Texas parents truly want to protect children in divorce, the emotionality of the divorce for a parent often spills over into that parent’s relationship with the children in negative ways. Fortunately, there are concrete ways to lessen the impact of divorce on children to help them transition more smoothly.
Avoiding unnecessary hostility toward the other spouse in Houston divorce litigation can be helpful to reduce the stress and trauma often involved in a divorce. Once the divorce petition is filed, the property division process becomes somewhat like the wind-up of a business – there are assets to be divided and liabilities to be allocated between the parties.
Regarding child custody, there is a parenting plan to decide on, a visitation schedule to put into place and child support to be implemented. These things can be done with an acrimonious, vicious, take-no-prisoners attitude or they can be accomplished in a reasonable, methodical way. It should be clear which way tends to protect children in divorce, is better for the well-being of child and helps the child transition to a new normal more quickly and smoothly.
Mediation in a Texas Divorce
Mediation early in a case can help accomplish such a positive result. Mediation is a formal settlement conference where a neutral third party helps the parties to achieve a settlement of the issues in a case, including property, conservatorship (custody) and child support. Mediation can be helpful in resolving cases quickly and less expensively than through a more complicated litigation process in a Texas divorce.
For mediation to be successful, all appropriate information should be disclosed beforehand – such as the scope of marital property and marital debt for property division. Income taxes and compensation information should also be exchanged by the parties to determine child support or alimony.
By the time a divorce case reaches mediation or court, the parties should realize and accept that if one spouse wants a divorce, it is going to occur and their focus should be on steps they can take to protect children in divorce.
At this stage, parents are well-served if they recognize this fact, try to set their own feelings aside about their spouse when discussing divorce with the child, realize that both parents will keep co-parenting their children for many years to come, and focus their attention on getting through the divorce process with minimal negative impact on the children.
Is Divorce Bad for Children?
A recent Scientific American article found that divorce may be painful initially for children, but that most kids adjust well over time. Researchers have found that only a relatively small percentage of children experience serious problems in the wake of divorce or, later, as adults. The article concludes that divorce affects most children in the short run, but research suggests that kids recover rapidly. Taken together, the findings suggest that only a small percentage of young people experience divorce-related problems.
Kids Recover Rapidly
On average, the studies found only very small differences in academic achievement, emotional and behavior problems, delinquency, self-concept and social relationships between children of divorced parents and those from intact families, suggesting that the vast majority of children endure divorce well.
Researchers have consistently found that high levels of parental conflict during and after a divorce are associated with poorer adjustment in children.
Even though children of divorce generally do well, a number of factors can reduce the problems they might experience. Children fare better if parents can limit conflict associated with the divorce process or minimize the child’s exposure to it.
Further, children who live in the custody of at least one well-functioning parent do better than those whose primary parent is doing poorly.
The article further found that although divorce is hard and often extremely painful for children, long-term harm is not inevitable. Most children bounce back and get through this difficult situation with few if any battle scars.
Should I Hire a Lawyer?
You should always talk to an attorney if there are contested issues in your divorce regarding child custody and support. This is especially true if your co-parent has hired an attorney.
Family law is complicated, and no two situations are exactly alike. If you do not have an in-depth knowledge of the law, it can be easy to end up in a situation where you are not satisfied with the results of your divorce. Most importantly, a good attorney will advocate for the arrangement that is most beneficial to your child.
Call Us Today
The experienced divorce lawyers at The Larson Law Office are ready to answer your questions about divorce in Texas with kids. We are a husband and wife team with years of experience handling all different types of family law matters. If you call our office, you can rest assured that your divorce case is in capable and compassionate hands.