Understanding the elements of Texas divorce cases

There are several elements to Texas divorce cases, including the grounds for which the divorce is being sought, property division and spousal maintenance.

For any number of reasons, couples in Texas and elsewhere may decide that they no longer want to stay married and make the difficult decision to get divorced. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, there were more than 76,000 divorces across the state in 2013. Unlike the relatively simple process of getting legally married, there are a number of elements involved with divorcing in the state of Texas.

Grounds for divorce

It is not necessary to establish fault in order to get divorced in Texas. Rather, a person must only believe that the relationship with his or her spouse cannot be fixed. It is possible, however, to ask for a divorce because of the fault of one's spouse. Under Texas state law, the grounds for divorce include the following:

• Abandonment or living apart for a specified period of time

• Adultery

• Confinement in a mental hospital

• Conviction of a felony

• Cruelty

• Insupportability, otherwise known as no-fault.

In cases when a court grants a divorce based on grounds other than insupportability, the ground alleged may have an impact on other elements of the divorce case, including the property division process, specifically the awarding of community property in a disproportionate manner or awarding spousal maintenance .

Dividing marital property

According to the Texas State Law Library, Texas is a community property state. Therefore, both spouses equally own any property or assets that they acquired over the course of their marriage. However, this does not mean that each is entitled to an equal share of this community property during the property division process.

Rather, Texas state law requires that the court divide the couple's community assets based on what the court deems to be just and right. Consequently, the court will consider a number of factors in order to determine what is fair and equitable. Factors can include the duration of the couple's marriage, each spouse's contribution to the household during their marriage, fault of a party in the breakup of the marriage, and a spouse's ability to earn in the future, among others.

Awarding spousal maintenance

As specified by Texas state law, spousal maintenance is an award of monetary payments made by one spouse for the support of the other after divorce. Spousal support is not appropriate, and thus, is not awarded in every case.

In order to be eligible for spousal maintenance, a spouse must be unable to earn sufficient income to provide for his or her own reasonable needs due to a mental or physical disability. Additionally, those who have been married for 10 years, or more, and who lack the ability to earn sufficient income on their own may also be entitled to spousal support. The court may see also see fit to award spousal support if people cannot support themselves because they are caring for a child who requires substantial supervision due to a physical or mental disability. And finally, if a spouse was convicted of or received a deferred judgment for an act of family violence during the marriage against the other spouse or the other spouse's child within two years before a divorce petition is filed or while the suit is pending, the harming spouse may be required to pay spousal maintenance to the other spouse.

Working with an attorney

There are a number of complexities that may be involved with even the simplest divorce case in Texas. The parties may become contentious during the process, and the course of proceedings may be extensively drawn out. Thus, a person who is considering a divorce will certainly benefit from obtaining legal representation. An attorney will help the client understand his or her options and will offer guidance throughout the process, often negotiating on the client's behalf for an outcome acceptable to the client.