In this article, you can learn:
- The difference between contested and uncontested divorces in Texas.
- What the “Just and Right” rule is when it comes to dividing assets between divorcing couples.
- Why you need an experienced divorce attorney to help you settle your divorce.
What Is The Difference Between Contested And Uncontested Divorce In Texas?
Every divorce is contested in the beginning, because the United States system basically classifies every lawsuit as adversarial in nature, meaning it is one person against the other.
An uncontested divorce could occur when the parties are able to come to an agreement. Some examples of an uncontested divorce could include:
- If you both attend mediation;
- If one party reaches out to the other to discuss the terms of the divorce, and you both agree to them;
- If you hire an attorney who works out the terms;
- If you draft an agreement yourselves and both parties sign off on it;
- And more…
However, if you can’t reach an agreement with the other person, that is a contested divorce. This occurs frequently because it’s difficult and sometimes impossible to come to an agreement in a failing marriage. The trust has been broken and “for better or for worse” has now become worse.
Most people don’t reach an agreement. In this situation with a contested divorce, you either have to go to trial or set up some sort of hearing before the court.
How Does The Process Differ Between A Contested Divorce And An Uncontested Divorce?
If it’s truly uncontested, the couple may have already divided their assets. For example, an uncontested divorce could occur if a couple has been separated for a few years, or at least six months, and they are already not living together. Maybe one of them already moved out, took their vehicle and their personal items, and they already know that they don’t need anything else from the other person.
In an uncontested divorce, the two parties might be at the point where they just want to officially file and complete the divorce process. They are not going to hire separate attorneys or fight, they may just hire one attorney together to do the agreement.
On the other hand, in a contested divorce the two parties are more likely to have their own attorney, and they are fighting for all assets. Usually, the separation has just occurred and there is still mistrust, so there has not been any division of assets.
In these cases, the judge has to get involved, or the pair need to go to mediation to figure it out. It is still considered contested whenever there is no true agreement from the beginning of the case.
How Does The Judge Decide How To Divide Our Community Property?
Most people assume a judge is going to divide everything 50-50, but there is a specific formula in Texas to divide assets called “ Just and Right.” Just and Right means exactly that – the division has to be just and it has to be right.
That means nobody gets a 100% if both parties worked for a shared property. It has to be fair, and sometimes 50% is not fair.
For example, imagine that a man and a woman got married 20 years ago. The man told the woman not to work because he had all the skills to make money, so he did all the work.
Meanwhile, the woman was a stay-at-home mom who raised their children. Now, 20 years later, they are divorcing.
In this scenario, if you give the woman just 50% of their assets and you give the man the other 50%, the man is going to continue to make money because he has all the knowledge and skills to generate income.
However, the mom was just a stay-at-home mom, based on her consent to the request of her husband. So, the woman in that situation may actually petition the judge that Just and Right in this case is giving her more assets. If she doesn’t have an education or money-making skills, she cannot generate an income the same way as the husband after the divorce is finalized.
If We Can’t Agree On Anything In Our Divorce, Will We Have To Go To Trial?
There are only two ways to get divorced in Texas. If you’re going through a divorce, either you reach an agreement or the judge makes a decision for you. The only way a judge makes a decision for a couple is through trial.
Trial can be very complicated and it may take several days. It can also be as simple as needing the judge to resolve one issue. Perhaps the couple has only one thing they can’t agree on, and they need the judge to make a decision for them.
Often, the one thing they cannot agree on is related to their child or children. Property issues are usually resolved relatively easily by the couple, but kid issues are often where the parties cannot agree.
When Is A Divorce Final In Texas?
Your divorce is finalized in Texas when a judge pronounces you divorced. Typically, you will attend a court hearing for a trial, and based on the evidence, the judge will agree that they have the authority to hear the case.
The judge may say, “We have jurisdiction over the parties and the children. We are granting the divorce on the grounds of insupportability, which is a no-fault divorce.” At that moment, your divorce is final.
However, it may take a few more weeks for the judge to actually sign the final decree. You will be officially divorced based on what the judge says, meaning you can legally go marry someone else (although you have to wait for 30 days anyway to remarry).
You are divorced as of the pronouncement by the judge, even though it may take another couple of weeks or months for the actual decree to be drafted for the judge to sign.
What Are The Dangers People Face When Trying To Handle A Divorce Without An Experienced Divorce Attorney In Texas?
Whether you have an experienced attorney or you do it by yourself, I always tell people that you get what you pay for. Divorce is a contract-like activity, meaning if you reach an agreement with the other side, it’s a contract.
The common mistake is people signing something they don’t completely understand. For example, I’ve had a case where someone agreed to be paid $20,000 while the other party got the house.
However, there was no date as to when that $20,000 was going to come because they didn’t understand that a date was needed. If you sign the contract and the other person doesn’t pay that 20,000, there is really nothing you can do because what you signed does not force them to make payment within a certain time.
Another issue is with visitation rights with children. Without an experienced lawyer, the parties may decide that visitation will occur based on the agreement between mom and dad.
This is as good as nothing because one parent might say, “Well, I don’t trust you right now. I don’t want you to have a visitation.” And they may never trust you for the entire duration of your children’s lives. Once they turn 18, there is no longer visitation, but you may have missed your kid’s entire childhood.
Divorces are stressful enough without having to worry about the potential future legalities of an agreement. If you’re considering divorce, it’s important to make sure you have an experienced attorney who can differentiate these nuances.
They can help explain why something may look good in terms of an agreement, but may not be practical or enforceable if a date or a time is not put into the agreement. You need an experienced attorney to see these little things that people tend to overlook. For more information on Contested Divorce Vs. Uncontested Divorce, an initial consultation is your next best step.