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FAQ’s

Frequently Asked Questions

Marivonne Essex would like to answer all of your questions concerning divorce law in Texas. If you don’t see a question listed below, please contact the Essex Law Firm.

Divorce / Child Support

Divorce

How much does it cost for a divorce in Texas?

It ranges from $1,800 to upwards of $25,000 or so for a jury-trial custody case. This is a range only. Each case is individual and no fees are quoted until the attorney meets with the person seeking representation.

How long does it take to get a divorce in Texas?

Again, lots of variations. In Texas, there is a 60-day statutory waiting period, meaning that from the date the divorce was filed, a divorce cannot be granted even if the parties agree on all issues, until at least the 61st day after the filing date (there is an exception for protective order cases). So for an agreed divorce, after the 60 days is up, it depends upon the court and county and the attorney handling the case. In Harris County, agreed or “uncontested” divorces are done on a first-come, first-served basis beginning around 8:30 a.m. each day, Mon-Fri., assuming all the paperwork has been signed by both parties and both attorneys. In Montgomery County, the courts require a docket setting, which is usually about 2 weeks after the 60 day waiting period. If the case is contested, meaning there is an attorney on each side and the parties have not agreed, the average is about 9-12 months in Harris County. In that county, trials are automatically docketed once the case has been on file for 2-3 months. In Montgomery County, a request can be made for a trial setting, and the average depends on the court’s availability, but the average is no less than 9-12 months.

Do I need a lawyer for a divorce in Texas?

I love that question. I answer it by saying, “Would you do your own dental work?” If you are SURE (and most people are not) that you do not have any retirement or 401k plans (no matter whose name the plans may be in) and you have no children, you may be able to represent yourself. If you are willing to do lots and lots of research (online research is questionable) and paperwork yourself. If you can find your way through the maze of the particular court system you are in and are able to determine what the specific requirements are for that court. If you are willing to invest the time in appearing in court in at least one attempt to get the divorce finalized (a morning wasted, usually), then come back another day and only to be told there is another reason or another step you must take that you did not know about. And all these “if’s” have to do with having no children or no property. If you have either of those, the laws are complicated. And, in spite of what people think, the internet does not have the answers, because unless you are an expert, you cannot determine whether what you read on the internet is correct and/or applicable to Texas. A property division in a divorce decree is pretty much set in stone; almost impossible to undo once the divorce is granted. So, if you make a mistake and the language doesn’t give you what you thought you should get, you are out of luck. Children’s issues, while not set in stone, are costly to “fix” and you may face a time limit during which no changes can be made. In representing yourself, as the saying goes, you have a fool for a lawyer. It amounts to being penny wise and pound foolish most of the time to try to be your own lawyer. I wish I had a $1 for every time somebody came into my office and asked me to “fix” a divorce decree that was done without a lawyer.

When children are involved, who becomes the custodial parent?

Lots of factors must be considered, but the most important, barring any alcohol or drug issues, is where the child is presently residing and with whom. This is called determining who is the “primary” parent, and if the child is living with you, it is much easier to meet that burden.

What are the laws about property division?

Texas is a community property state. That means the divorce court if the parties cannot agree, divides the community property in a “just and right” manner. Community property is property accumulated during the marriage that a person did not receive as a gift or inherit in some manner. If a person owned property before marriage, that’s separate property, and the court cannot divide it; it stays with the person who acquired it before the marriage. If a person receives a gift or inheritance during the marriage, that’s separate property, and the court cannot divide it. A “just and right” manner, while it can take many variations, usually in Montgomery and Harris County, means a 50-50 split. Other factors can change this percentage, such as a long-term stay-at-home spouse who hasn’t worked in years and has no job skills and various other factors. Even then, the percentage doesn’t usually vary widely from 50-50. See our more in-depth article about property division in Texas divorce.

Child Support

What is the law concerning modification of child support in Texas?

Grounds for modification are a material and substantial change in the circumstances of a child or a person affected by the order OR the passage of three years since the last child support order and a difference in monthly payment by either 20 percent or $100 from the child support guidelines.

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What is the law concerning back child support in Texas?

If a noncustodial parent does not pay child support, he or she is subject to enforcement measures to collect regular and past-due payments. Enforcement can result in jail time or payment arrangements or one or several other forms of enforcing the court order. There is also a statutory 6% interest for past-due child support.

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What is the maximum child support in Texas?

The maximum child support is calculated based on $7500 per month NET income (which is about $10,500-$11,000 GROSS income), and is $1500 for one child and $1875 for two children.

How do you calculate child support in Texas?

It is calculated based on a formula that takes a person’s GROSS income, subtracts certain items that are deductible for child support purposes, and the result is a person’s NET income for child support purposes. The child support is 20% of the NET income for child support purposes for one child and 25% for two. It is necessary to use the Attorney General chart each year to calculate the child support.

What are the general child support laws in Texas?

  • Child support is based on a formula (see above).
  • The formula is used by all the judges in Texas.
  • It can be varied from but rarely is.
  • Once a court order is entered for child support, wage withholding is mandatory.
  • All payments are required to be made through the Child Support Disbursement Unit in San Antonio. There should NOT be any direct payments to the custodial parent.

WHAT DOES A DIVORCE COURT ACTUALLY DO?

Divorce courts usually do only two things, although those two things can take many forms and range from quite simple to extremely complicated. The two things are, divide community property and make orders regarding children who have not yet turned 18 (the court’s jurisdiction over a child ends when the child turns 18, except child support, which ends either at age 18 or when the child graduates from high school, whichever comes last).

Community property is property accumulated by the parties during the marriage. Note that those items which were acquired before the marriage, or were given to a party, or which the party inherited are not community property. It is the burden of the person claiming property is not community to prove that it is not.

Regarding children, judges give the parties a label – usually but not always “Joint Managing Conservator;” decide the rights and duties of the parents, such as which parent the children will reside with, who has the right to take the children to the doctor or psychiatrist, etc.; and various other rights and duties; determine child support, which is usually according to a formula prescribed by the Texas Legislature; and decide visitation for the non-custodial parent. In addition to the two things mentioned, the Courts also, as a result of fairly recent litigation, may order post-divorce alimony (known in Texas as “maintenance”) for either party. As Texas is what is known as a community property state, alimony is still rare in Texas and the rules under which a Court may order it are quite restrictive.

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Reasons you’ll love the “The Red Headed Lawyer”

Cost

We answer phone calls, emails and texts within a 24-hour period. We set up a client portal with our clients so that they email us events as they happen. We like our clients and are interested in what is happening with them.

Experience

You have the right to assume that any lawyer you hire will have at least some experience. Is it enough for your case. The “Red Headed Lawyer” has 31 years experience. She has practiced many times in front of almost every judge in Harris and Montgomery counties. She lets you know what to expect from your court and your judge.

Knowledge

Every lawyer must pass the Texas bar exam and be licensed to practice in Texas. Beyond that, what do you need? You need a Houston, Woodlands, Conroe divorce attorney who keeps up with the law, attends continuing legal education events regularly, and is not too busy to do what is necessary to win for you, including doing research if necessary.

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