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TX divorce lawyerIn recent years, many states have eliminated the option to file for divorce on fault-based grounds and transitioned entirely to no-fault divorces on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. In Texas, however, no-fault divorce and fault-based divorce both remain options. If you or your spouse chooses to file for a fault-based divorce, you should be sure to understand how this can affect the outcome of your resolution.

Fault-Based Grounds for Divorce

In order to file for a fault-based divorce in Texas, the filing spouse must be prepared to demonstrate that one or more of the following has occurred in the marriage:

  • Adultery - This means that a spouse has engaged in some sort of extramarital affair. The Texas Family Code used to specify valid defenses to a divorce on the grounds of adultery, but these defenses are no longer available except in rare cases in which reconciliation may be possible.
  • Cruelty - As grounds for divorce, cruelty is broadly defined. It could mean that a spouse has committed an act that is legally recognized as family violence, such as physical or sexual assault, or that a spouse has engaged in verbal or emotional abuse.
  • Abandonment - In order to qualify for divorce on the grounds of abandonment, one spouse must have intentionally left the other and stayed away for at least a year.
  • Conviction of felony - If a spouse has been convicted of a felony offense in Texas, and, as a result, has been imprisoned for at least a year, there may be grounds for a fault-based divorce.

Filing for divorce on fault-based grounds makes it much more likely that the divorce will be contested and that litigation will be necessary. Even if you have justification for filing for divorce on fault-based grounds, you may find that pursuing a no-fault divorce and working toward a settlement with your spouse is a better option.

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TX divorce lawyerLife can be full of challenges for military families, including frequent relocations and extended absences for spouses and parents. When a military marriage fails, the family can also face unique challenges throughout the divorce process. Whether you are a service member yourself or you are married to one, you should be prepared for the possible effects on asset division, child custody, and other divorce-related issues.

Effects on Divorce Proceedings

Most couples who want to file for divorce in Texas must first meet a residency requirement, with at least one spouse having been a Texas resident for at least the last six months. However, military couples can instead qualify based on a spouse’s temporary stationing for military service in Texas. An attorney can help you determine whether you are eligible to file, and in what county you should do so.

The divorce process can also be impacted if a service member is currently stationed away from Texas while their spouse continues to live there. Though you can file for divorce at any time after meeting the residency requirement, a spouse who is absent due to service obligations can delay the proceedings until they are able to appear in person, according to the terms of the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).

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TX divorce lawyerIn order to reach a fair divorce resolution, it is important that both spouses have access to information about each other’s finances. Until recently, the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure addressed this issue by allowing each spouse to request certain information and documents from the other during a discovery period. However, as of January 1, 2021, these rules have been amended to require certain disclosures from spouses upfront, rather than upon request. If you are initiating the divorce process in 2021 or later, you should be aware of your obligations under these updated rules.

Required Disclosures in a Texas Divorce

Whether you or your spouse is the first to file for divorce, you should be prepared to disclose basic contact information including your address and phone number, as well as all of the following financial information from the last two years or since the date of your marriage:

  • Information and documentation for any real estate property that you own or rent, including deeds, titles, mortgage agreements, and leases
  • Information about your retirement plans and other employee benefits, including statements for IRAs, pensions, 401(k)s, profit-sharing plans, or any other type of plan you may have
  • Information about any life insurance, health insurance, and liability insurance policies you hold
  • Statements for all financial accounts, including checking and savings accounts at banks or credit unions, credit card accounts, loans, and investment accounts

Additional disclosures are required if your divorce case involves child support or spousal support. These include:

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TX divorce lawyerA high net worth divorce will involve a wide variety of financial issues that will need to be addressed, but tax-related matters are one area that can sometimes be overlooked. Those who have complex finances may have tax liabilities, and in many cases, one spouse may be unaware of the debts owed to the IRS. It is important to address these issues during the divorce process, and divorcing spouses should also understand their options if the IRS attempts to collect the taxes owed.

Tax Liabilities and Innocent Spouse Relief

When a married couple files taxes jointly, both parties will be liable for any taxes owed, including in cases where the IRS conducts a tax audit and determines that the parties have tax liabilities due to errors on a joint tax return. Even if a divorce decree or judgment states that one spouse will be solely or primarily responsible for paying tax debts, the IRS can disregard these orders and attempt to collect the amount owed from either or both spouses.

Fortunately, a person may be able to receive innocent spouse relief, and they may be able to avoid being held liable for tax debts incurred by their ex-spouse. This form of relief is available if a joint income tax return understated the amount of taxes that a couple was required to pay. An understatement of taxes may be related to income that was not reported correctly or deductions or credits that were claimed improperly.

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TX divorce lawyerA high asset divorce does not necessarily involve contested litigation. In many cases, the divorcing spouses are eager to resolve their outstanding issues and end their marriage as quickly as possible. To facilitate this, Texas law does allow for mediated settlement agreements (MSA).

An MSA is a legally binding contract signed by both parties. A mediator serves as a neutral facilitator who assists the parties, and their attorneys, in reaching an agreement. But unlike an arbitrator, the mediator does not have the legal authority to force a decision. The spouses are still free to abandon mediation at any time and take their case to litigation.

Texas Supreme Court Clarifies Law Governing Mediated Settlement Agreements

The Texas Supreme Court recently addressed an important legal question regarding MSAs: Are such agreements enforceable if they are signed before either spouse actually files for divorce?

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