What to Do if you are Served with a Divorce Petition, Citation, or Notice to Appear
A divorce proceeding is a difficult time for all parties involved. It is scary to be “served” with a petition for divorce. Fear, anxiety, and confusion are just some of the emotions that go through one’s mind when reading and absorbing an official Court document stating that a spouse wishes to end the relationship. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you are served.
First, it is not the total end of the world. Do not give into immediate impulses and passions or fall prey to threatening or aggressive messages. Remember anything you say or do, especially in messages, texts or emails, may be used against you at Court. Do not give your spouse free arguments for the divorce.
Second, DO NOT use social media to vent frustration or talk about the divorce. Anything you write to third parties on social media may and will be used against you in Court. It may be hard but for your own benefit do not engage in frustrated tirades regarding your spouse on Facebook.
Third, find an experienced attorney, especially if children are involved. Be smart. It is not always prudent to hire a lawyer based on what appears to be the best financial deal possible when your children and possessions are at stake. The old axiom “you get what you pay for” is true when it comes to legal representation.
Fourth, be wary of Pro Se representation. Pro Se means that you have chosen to represent yourself in the divorce case. This may end very badly for you. Many people believe that if they research enough and familiarize themselves with the Texas Family Law Code they just might be able to receive a good outcome and drive up the attorney cost for the other spouse. Attorneys go to school for many years for a reason. The outcomes for Pro Se clients are not usually good and do not be tricked into taking on an inexperienced attorney to save money.
Fifth, save all hateful and scandalous remarks made by your spouse that have been emailed, texted, posted on social media or any other proof that can be saved against your spouse. Delete Nothing! Allow your spouse to dig his/her own hole. All of both spouse’s comments may be used in Court.
Finally, do not listen to your Spouse about any type of perceived legal outcomes. “I talked to a divorce lawyer and he said you better sign this or I will get everything…”. This is common in family law. Do not fall for the trap, seek experienced representation and let the divorce lawyer deal with your spouse or your spouse’s attorney. Do not be tricked into settling or giving up your children or possessions without competent assistance and advice from legal counsel.
Follow this advice and it will greatly help your probabilities with obtaining a favorable and fair outcome in your divorce case.
Nacol Law Firm P.C.
Dallas Divorce Attorneys
The Texas Legislature 87th Session: New Texas Family Code Bills and Revisions
The Texas 87th session was very uneventful this year, with two additional sessions. Listed below are some new bills and bill revisions that passed this year for the Family Code:
- HB 3774: Effective September 1, 2021, The date of the marriage must now be included in all final decrees of divorce in an official court document. Proof of the length of marriage is required to apply for Social Security retirement benefits.
- HB 2926: September 1, 2021, Reinstatement of Parental Rights after Involuntary Termination. This is a new and significant procedure that allows certain people, including the Department of Family and Protective Services and a previously terminated parent, to move for reinstatement of their parental rights. Subchapter D added to Ch. 161 of the Texas Family Code, sets out the basic requirements for filing and hearing procedures.
- SB1936: September 1, 2021, expressly states the standard Possession Order that the alternative ending time for Monday school holiday and teacher in-service days is 8a.m. on the following Tuesday and if a conservator lives less than 50 miles from the other conservator, the court shall also award that conservator the alternative beginning and ending time for standard possession order. This award does not apply if the possessory conservator declines one or of the alternative times or possession is limited by the court in the best interest of the child.
*If the Possessory Conservator lives more than 50 but not more than 100 miles from the child’s primary residence, the law will not change: that parent may still opt into the Expanded Standard Possession Order (ESPO) – but it will not be automatic.
- HB 1012: September 1, 2021, Access to residence or former residence to retrieve personal property. If entry is denied by a current occupant, the denied person could seek a writ, authorizing them to go to the residence to get their possessions with a peace officer. If the property was listed in a Decree, relief can be sought in court granting such Decree.
- HB 3009: September 1, 2021, Child Custody evaluators must be able to communicate with a parent in their primacy language or have someone who can assist the parent in their primary language for Child custody evaluations.
This legislature Session caused a lot of “smoke” but “little fire” for Texas Family Law.
Nacol Law Firm P.C.
Walnut Glen Tower
8144 Walnut Glen
Dallas, Texas 75231
Call (972) 690-3333
Trends in Fathers Rights – Texas Family Law
Dallas Fathers Rights attorney, Mark Nacol of the Nacol Law Firm P.C., discusses Trends in Family Law regarding Texas Fathers Rights .
Spousal Maintenance Law for a Texas Divorce
The origin and basis of family law statutes and precedent in Texas were heavily influenced by the predecessor Spanish/Mexican Law prior to the formation of the Texas Republic. Spanish Law required in large measure that a husband and wife share ownership and if a divorce was granted then a 50/50 split of all property would ensue. Though there are exceptions to this, a general tenant of Texas property law states that both spouses will receive half of all the property they accrue during the marriage called “community property”, not inherited or received by gift. The influence of Spanish Law is a primary reason that for many years Texas has not favored any type of permanent alimony (also called spousal maintenance) after divorce.
In 1995 the Texas Legislature passed the first Spousal Maintenance Law that allowed a limited type of alimony. The law has been amended many times but in its current form it allows, upon proper proof, a spouse, under specific conditions to receive post-divorce money from their spouse for future support. The eligibility for Spousal Maintenance in Texas is limited and narrowly constructed.
Texas Family Code 8.051 states the requirements for a spouse to be eligible for Spousal Maintenance (alimony) as follows:
The spouse in which requests the spousal maintenance has been a victim of family violence by their husband or wife and the offense occurred:
- within two years before the date on which a suit for dissolution of the marriage is filed or;
- while the suit is pending
The spouse seeking spousal maintenance:
- is unable to earn sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs because of an incapacitating physical or mental disability;
- has been married to the other spouse for 10 years or longer or lacks the ability to earn sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs; or
- is the custodian of a child of the marriage of any age who requires substantial care and personal supervision because of a physical or mental disability that prevents the spouse from earning sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs.
The qualifications are narrow. Spousal Maintenance focuses on a spouse who has been a victim of family violence, has a mental or physical disability, or has been married for at least 10 years. The amount of money the Court will allow to be paid to a spouse monthly cannot exceed the lessor of 5,000 or 20% of a spouse’s average monthly gross income per Texas Family Code 8.005.
If you are in the process of divorce, and have been a victim of family violence or have been married for at least 10 years, then speak with an experienced attorney about the possibility of obtaining Spousal Maintenance. Spousal Maintenance is not a permanent fix but a temporary solution until you can get back on your feet. Texas Courts are hesitant in granting spousal maintenance because the spouse of a marriage generally receives half of all property accrued during the marriage. If the required extraordinary circumstances are present it is possible to receive some type of alimony for a limited amount of time.
Contact an experienced attorney that deals with matters to inform you if spousal maintenance is possibility. If you have been a victim of family violence or have been a stay at home mom for at least 10 years then you may have the ability to receive a limited form of alimony to help aid you with the daunting task of finding a new job and starting a new life.