Three Steps that EVERYONE Goes Through When Facing a Divorce
Every person who is considering divorce, or who is facing divorce goes through three steps:
The FIRST Step: SHOULD I GET A DIVORCE? Yes or No?
The SECOND Step: WHAT STRATEGIES SHOULD I USE?
The THIRD Step: DO IT.
HERE IS WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THESE THREE STEPS:
Step 1: SHOULD I GET A DIVORCE?
For some people, this step is easy. For most people, this step is very hard. Do I want to get a divorce? Do I have to get a divorce? Can I save my marriage? Should I save my marriage? How do I figure this out? What are things going to be like if we do? What will happen to my kids? What will I have to give up if we get a divorce?
Step 2: WHAT STRATEGIES SHOULD I USE?
Should I do it myself "for free"? Can I do it myself? Would it really be "free" if I did it myself? Do I know what I'm doing? What are the risks if I mess it up? Would it be better or worse if I "talk to" my spouse? What if they react badly? What will I lose? What is involved in this? How do you do it? Do we have to go to court? How much will it cost?
Should I use an attorney? Will an attorney make things better? How will an attorney help? Will an attorney make it worse? Won't they just fight? What are they going to do? What should we do? How will we work together? What is my part? What are the steps? Do we have to go to court? How much will it cost?
What are the details? What is going to happen through the process? How are we going to pay our bills while this is going on? Who gets what money? When do we have custody of the kids? What happens to the kids? What happens to us? Where do we live? Do we live together? If so, how long? Do we get separate places? Should I leave the house? Do we have to sell the house? What about the joint bank accounts? What if I have a separate account? What about the things I had before we were married? What about gifts? What about the credit cards? What about the retirement accounts? What about the investments? What if I make more? What will I have to pay? What if I make less? What can I get?
What happens to the kids? What is "full custody"? What is "joint custody"? What is "managing conservatorship"? What is "joint managing conservatorship"? What is "possessory conservatorship"? How is child support determined? Who gets to decide where the kids live? Who gets to make medical decisions for the children? Who gets to make education decisions for the children? When do I get to have the kids? Who gets to take care of them?
Then the hard questions: What if there was violence or abuse? What if they cheated? What if I cheated? What if there's mental illness? What if there's drug abuse? What if there's alcoholism? What if there are financial problems? What if they want revenge? Will I be able to pay my bills? Will I lose my kids? What do I have to fear? What are the risks?
Step 3: DO IT.
It's important to all our clients that we actually go through steps 1 and 2 properly. Clients come to us at different stages of steps 1, 2 and 3. Some people think they know whether they should get a divorce, but we find out that while they're mostly sure how they feel, they still have some unresolved questions, issues, and lack the clarity they need. A lot of clients come to us wanting to just know about the process in step 2, so that they can get a picture of what their life might be during and after the divorce. They want to fill in the missing pieces and help themselves not be afraid to make the decision to get divorced or not. Other clients are at step 2 and looking for what type of attorney to hire. They think they're ready to go, but they want to find an attorney who is a good match. Even those clients still should go through the steps to have clarity about the situation. The process of going through the three steps of divorce is very important. Skipping a step is like building a house without laying a proper foundation.
Some attorneys are very mechanical and technical. They charge by the hour from the first minute. You have an initial consultation and they listen to the facts of the case that you tell them. Then they just "fight". They tout their skills and experience and sell their intimidation. Hiring them is used as a threat to your spouse - "If you don't do what I want, then I'm going to hire Dewey, Cheatum and Howe and you'll be sorry! They'll take you for everything you're worth!"
We don't believe in that. That may be ok for other areas of law, but not usually for family law. We believe that family law is about finding healthy solutions when the family relationship breaks down. Especially if you are both parents, the other side is usually not the enemy. Yes, there are hard cases where you and we must stop evil from happening. No one should be physically beaten. No one should be financially ruined. No child should be put in danger. If those elements are present in your case, please call us immediately so we can get an emergency protective order or restraining order for you.
For the majority of cases, your divorce is about ending the fighting - not increasing it.
Our brands of Soft Divorce ® and Healthy Divorce ™ are designed to communicate a vitally important message. This website at SoftDivorce.com is designed to help you understand who we are, what we do, and why we do it. It's also designed to communicate to your spouse that you want something better too. It means we're not out to ruin their lives. It means we're different. It means we want something better for you. It means you believe what we believe - that we should end the fighting, not increase it. Sometimes we do have to increase the fighting, but that's never our preferred or first choice. Instead, it is better for us to use our experience to help you to find healthy solutions. We know what works and what doesn't. We know what subtle changes make huge differences in your life. We are best used as your guide to get you through the divorce process in the healthiest way we can. Yes, we have tremendous skills in the court room. And our skills are even better used when we avoid court.
WE HAVE CREATED SOLUTIONS
FOR EACH OF THE THREE STEPS
SOLUTION FOR STEP 1: THE DECISION COUNSELING SESSION
This session helps you determine the answer to question #1: Should I get a divorce? Yes or no?
We use a system that we developed called a "Marriage Viability Assessment".
For that assessment, you answer 3 basic questions about your marriage for yourself, and you answer the same 3 questions about your spouse. The answers come from you.
And we are biased - we want to help you save your marriage - if that is the right thing for you.
We have helped save marriages and prevented a lot of people from getting a divorce.
As our founder states, "I am the guard at the gate, and my general rule is 'thou shall not pass' because if you pass me, then you have to get a divorce".
If people like us don't go into this area of law, then when people like you are facing a divorce, who are you left to go to?
We created the Marriage Viability Assessment as a tool to show you whether or not your marriage can work, and help give you clarity about whether you should or should not get a divorce.
We also suggest that you separate the decision of whether to get a divorce from the strategies about how you should get a divorce. If you should get a divorce, then it's usually certain that you will be better off afterwards.
The Decision Counseling Session is a set-price and lasts however long you need - up to a half of a day. We usually block two hours for the session and the majority of them last about 90 minutes. Some are as fast as 30 minutes, some take 3 hours.
SOLUTION FOR STEP 2: THE DIVORCE STRATEGY SESSION
This session analyzes your specific circumstances.
The Divorce Strategy Session tells you WHAT you can achieve and HOW you can achieve your goals. This session goes into depth about many of the questions you have, specifically about your situation, such as:
Should you stay in the house? Should you move out? Should you file first? What if they file first? Will I lose my kids? Will they lose their kids? How much money will I get? How much money will I pay? Will I get child support? Will I pay child support? Will I get spousal support? Will I pay spousal support? How much property will I get in the split? How much property will they get in the split? What if I don't have a job? What if they don't have a job? What if I don't know how much money we have? What if they don't know how much money we have? What if we own a business together? What if I own a business of my own? What if they own a business of their own? What about the property we owned before the marriage? What if we have a pre-nuptial or a post-nuptial agreement? What about the gifts I've received? What about the inheritance I've received? What about the inheritance they've received? What about the inheritance we received together? What happens to the house? Do we have to sell the house? What about the retirement accounts? What about the investments? What about the children's college funds? Often this does not work out like you might think.
You can read a lot about these issues online and we could tell you a lot about them here; but, the problem you're trying to solve if you're reading online usually means that you're trying to reduce your FEAR about WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN YOUR SITUATION - so, you're trying to figure out the things that CAN happen in a case. So, naturally, by looking at what CAN happen, you get a little bit of an idea about WHAT YOU SHOULD BE AFRAID OF.
The problem with that approach is - you don't know what ALL of YOUR SPECIFIC things will add up to in the end.
So, you look to your friends and family - especially the ones you normally trust and especially the ones who have been through this themselves. You're trying to get an idea of what it will look like if you make the decision to get a divorce and what will happen.
The problem is - EVERYONE'S SITUATION IS DIFFERENT. The DIVORCE STRATEGY SESSION is designed to analyze YOUR SPECIFIC SITUATION to tell you WHAT STRATEGIES ARE AVAILABLE and WHAT STRATEGY PLAN IS the RIGHT one FOR YOU. We do this for you based on our actual, objective professional family law attorneys with thousands of cases worth of experience to draw from.
Whether you hire our firm, or another firm, the DIVORCE STRATEGY SESSION is designed to determine your LIKELY outcomes based on your situation and the COSTS involved. It REDUCES YOUR FEARS, and tells you WHAT YOU CAN ACTUALLY EXPECT about the process.
If you go through our unique three step process when you get your divorce, it will help you like it has for hundreds of others. Divorce is a change of your life. If you're going to make that change, then make it for the right reasons, in the best way that you can.
SOLUTION FOR STEP 3: DO IT.
If you know that you are ready to work with us, then we are here to help you.
Start wherever you are: Step 1, Step 2, or Step 3.
Child Support in Texas depends on a number of factors. It is usually calculated based on the income of the paying parent; but, as with all aspects of child custody, there are many different options available and we will help you determine the best options for your family. Child support amounts are usually established based on the amount of time and responsibilities that the parents commit to provide to the children. After a child support obligation is established, it is completely separate and independent of custody. That means that child support that is ordered must be paid regardless of whether a parent is exercising custody of a child. Health insurance is often required as part of a child support order. Often child support is agreed upon, and in the absence of an agreement, the court will decide if the case goes to trial. Child support in Texas has "guidelines" but those are only guidelines, not requirements, unless they are ordered. The amount can and often does vary from the guidelines for a variety of reasons that are usually related to the needs of the child, including private school, daycare, medical, disability, relative amounts of parenting time, and other reasons. Child support amounts can also be modified, and we often handle either side of a child support modification case.
In some states the court divides marital property 50/50. In Texas that's not necessarily true. Often the property is divided 50/50, but in some cases it's not. Texas uses the term "Just-and-Right Division" - and that can mean a lot of things. It essentially gives the court the discretion to deviate from a 50/50 division under certain circumstances. The most significant factors are fault in the breakup (the importance of this factor is decreasing in modern times) and relative earning capacity (this factor seems to be the most important now). Relative earning capacity means one party will have the ability to make a lot of money after the marriage but the other party will only be able make very little after the marriage. This happens when one spouse focused on career while the other raised children. The longer the marriage lasted, the more important relative earning capacity is. In Texas, there is separate property and community property. In a divorce in Texas usually all the property is identified, characterized (determined whether it's community property or separate property), then the separate property is confirmed as separate property and the community property is divided. This can get complicated, but we'll help to keep it more understandable for you.
One of the most important aspects of a child custody or divorce case is determining when each parent will take care of the children and what rights, duties, and responsibilities each of the parents have during those times. One possibility is called the "Texas Standard Possession Order", but that is only the default in certain circumstances in court. If parents are able to agree, then we can put any type of customized parenting plan in place. Even the standard order requires certain customizations and decisions. Because we've done literally thousands of custody orders and read thousands more, we know what actually works and we know what things cause problems, even though it sounds good. Our experience is invaluable and even the tiniest of changes that we often make have huge differences. Every family is different. We want to find the healthiest solution for your family. Unique professions, including many doctors, nurses, medical professionals, and military service members, require specialized, customized plans. We also handle custody disputes after an order has been entered. When there is a material and substantial change of circumstances a parent can modify a child custody order. We also help parents enforce a child custody order if the other parent fails to follow the order.
Temporary Orders and Standing Orders
At the very beginning of the case the parties are restricted from doing certain things. The person who files the divorce is immediately subject to "Standing Orders" that prevent the nonsense that we've seen many times - such as draining the bank accounts, cancelling credit cards, insurance, or utilities. The other person is subject to the standing orders after they are "served" by receiving a copy of the Original Petition for Divorce (that's the document that begins the divorce process).
Within a matter of days or weeks either party can request a "Temporary Orders Hearing" to determine: (A) who pays for what things; and, (B) when each parent gets to have the kids. Temporary means during the time the case is pending until after the final trial. A final trial is most often 6 to 20 months (or longer) from the beginning of the case. The way the Temporary Orders hearing comes out usually dictates how the case will settle; and, it's often the only court hearing most cases ever have. We prefer to avoid these hearings and find healthier, customized solutions for our clients without having to go to court; and, we usually spend more time to do that than a hearing would take - which usually gets better results for everyone involved.
Spousal Support / Alimony / Spousal Maintenance
You may have heard that Texas is a "no alimony" state, but that is not exactly true. Stage 1: While the divorce is pending: One spouse can be required to pay the other spouse money for a lot of reasons, including and not limited to: house payments, rent, credit cards, bills, medical, insurance, and most any other type of expenses. Stage 2: After the divorce is complete: Depending on the length of the marriage, one spouse can be required to pay the other spouse "spousal maintenance" and that's essentially Texas' version of alimony - and it can be taxed under the IRS code as alimony. The amounts vary depending on a variety of circumstances including fault and earning capacity of the spouses. The legal standard is whether the receiving spouse can meet their minimum reasonable needs. Spousal support is usually one of the harder items to deal with and negotiate. The property division and spousal support are often related and dependent. Sometimes both spousal maintenance and an unequal division of the property are available. Other times it can be one or the other. This is often an element of a marriage that has lasted 10 years or more. The longer the marriage, the longer the amount of time that spousal support may be paid.
Discovery is the process where both sides ask for and get asked for information. Discovery is sometimes optional, but can be required by either side. Common types of discovery include:
Interrogatories: Interrogatories are questions that must be answered, and also allows us to verify the information
Requests for Production: This allows us to get the documents and records that must be provided so that we have the information we need to make proper decisions.
Requests for Inspection: This allows us to inspect property, including homes and computers.
Requests for Disclosure: This allows us to obtain the other side's case theories, facts that support the case, and witness names, among other things.
Depositions: Depositions are oral or written questions asked by an attorney of a witness, under oath, that the witness must answer. It locks the witnesses into the truth that we can rely on, and reveals lies that we would have to disprove.
Use the form below to contact us to get us started helping you. Include your name and at least one way for us to contact you. To help us best service your inquiry, please tell us in general terms the issue you’re having before telling us your specific details - because first we have to make sure we don't have any conflicts of interest before you tell us any confidential information. Filling out this form does not create an attorney-client relationship yet and this form is not yet confidential - that will be in a next step after we complete the conflict-of-interest check first. You may also email or call us to make an appointment. We look forward to working with you.