What is the Difference Between an “Uncontested” Divorce and a Contested Divorce?
Even if both parties agree that they want a divorce, a divorce cannot be considered “Uncontested” unless both the Husband and the Wife agree on ALL major issues, such as: 1) Child Custody; 2) Child Support; 3) Where the Kids Will Live; 4) How to Divide up the Marital Property; 5) How to Divide up the Marital Debt; and 6) Spousal Support (if any). Most of the time, the parties simply cannot agree on every single one of these issues, and so they have to ask the court to make a ruling on what is the most fair and equitable way to settle these matters. In this situation, the case is called a “Contested” divorce, meaning the parties have to have the judge decide at least one of the major issues described above.
Who will get custody of my children?
It is important to realize that every family is different, and that the court will always look at what is in the best interests of the children when making the choice of who gets custody of the children. Gaining custody of children is not about “winning,”but about making sure that you are doing what is best for your child or children. In most situations, Texas courts believe that the best thing for the children is to have both the Father and Mother actively involved in the lives of their children. Thus, in most cases, the court will name both parents as “Joint Managing Conservators” so that they can both be involved in their children(s)’s lives. In the typical situation, the court will name one of these Joint Managing Conservators as the one who chooses the residence of the children–this parent is then called the “Managing” Conservator. However, both parents will still have rights to certain periods of possession of their children, and the most common way to determine this is by looking at the “Standard Possession Order” (described below). The bottom line is that the court, in cases where both parties are fit to serve as parents, will try to create a plan for custody and visitation that allows both parents to be actively involved in the lives of their children.
Note: If one or both parents, however, are deemed unfit to serve as parents (for reasons of abuse, neglect, drug addiction, alcohol abuse, or a range of other reasons), the court may limit that parent’s custody of their children (or not allow them to have custody in any way).
How much child support will I have to pay?
Determing the amount of child support that a party will have to pay can be complex. Texas has certain guidelines as to how much of a parent’s income should go towards child support. The following table can be helpful in looking at the general amount that must be paid (though there are certain deductions that must be factored in before applying these percentages to a parent’s income level): Click Here.
A parent typically has to pay child support until a child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is later. However, if the child is disabled before turning 18, or there is some other overriding reason to continue support past the 18th birthday, child support can be continued past the date that a child turns 18.
The SPO provides that the noncustodial parent is granted visitation of the child beginning at 6:00 pm every first, third and fifth Friday of each month and ending at 6:00 pm on the following Sunday, as well as every Thursday evening from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. All holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas (winter break), and Spring Break are divided between the parents, giving one parent the right to spend a particular holiday with their child every other year. The SPO also provides for the noncustodial parent to have thirty days with the child during the summer.
Parents Who Reside More Than 100 Miles Apart.
The noncustodial parent is granted the choice of the following:
- Same as the standard possession order, or
- They can have the child(ren) for one weekend of the month, with that weekend being of their choosing (as long as they give 14 days notice to the custodial parent)
In addition to these weekends, the noncustodial parent is granted up to 42 days in the summer. All holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas (winter) and spring break are divided between the parents, giving one parent the right to spend a particular holiday with the child every other year.
Children Under the Age of 3.
When children are under the age of 3, judges have wide discretion to alter the standard possession order if they feel it is in the best interest of the child.
In Texas, a divorce cannot be granted until 60 days after the start of the suit.
If you have any other question about Family Law, please give our Dallas Family Lawyers a call at 214-236-2712.