Seeing Your Kids
You may be very worried that your spouse is going to take your children. As parents, you both have substantial rights to being a part of your children’s lives. Serious substance abuse and ongoing criminal history can put that right at risk. Putting your kids in danger can also put your parental rights at risk. But, short of those things, the courts in Texas are highly unlikely to take your children away and “give” them entirely to your ex-spouse. Most often, the judge will order a standard custody schedule that amounts to one parent having the children 52% of the year (often called primary, though this is not a proper legal term in Texas), and the other parent having the children 48% of the year. Again, it is highly unlikely that you will lose your ongoing access to your children, so please do not be concerned that this will happen if you are filing for divorce or if you are considering divorce. Instead, consult with a lawyer, and fully disclose your concerns about losing access to your children so that your lawyer can tell you the likely outcome given your facts. Again the most likely outcome is both parents get time alone with the kids.
Messing Up Your Kids
Many people say children are “resilient”. I am not in the position to assure you of that. Your job as a parent is to create a strong psycho-socially and physically healthy, productive human being. The way you approach and manage your family life and your divorce will impact your children.
I cannot stress enough that you need to approach things as peacefully as you can. Children are often quite aware of the process of divorce and the emotions that you are feeling. How you act as a parent, the emotions your express to them, whether consciously or not, informs them on how they should manage this transition in their lives. This is a major motivating factor for me in writing this book, “Part as Friends,” because I believe that peaceful, uncontested divorces are faster and will enable both you and your ex to continue your lives as parents in a new dynamic. It is my hope for you that your parenting dynamic will not be wrecked by the divorce process itself.
While it is extremely likely that you will have the right and ability to have regular time with your kids, it is just as likely that you will lose some control over what goes on with them when they are with your ex-spouse. Your ex will have the right to autonomy after the divorce is over, and this will inevitably create a certain number of blind spots as to what exactly your kids are doing during the other parent’s time.
The more constructive your relationship is with your ex-spouse, the fewer blind spots you will have because you will be able to talk with each other about your kids.
I am not here to inspire you to stay married or to get divorced. I am here to give you information so that you can make informed choices.
Learning to co-parent after a divorce that has moved from an uncontested to a contested divorce is even more challenging. Your child’s own opinions of life (and of you) will be impacted by how you deal with your partner during and after the divorce.
Losing Your Money
Paying a lawyer
There are two categories of money losses in a divorce. The first is paying the legal fees, and the second is giving money to your former spouse.
Family Law legal fees can run from $1,000 for the least expensive service to hundreds of thousands of dollars for the wealthy estate division.
The price depends on whom you hire and what you need done in your case. Who you hire will vary in price, as every person or firm will charge a different hourly rate, ranging from $200-$800 an hour. The more details that you and your spouse cannot agree on and the more assets that need to be divided will determine the amount of time that the lawyer will spend on the case, to bring it from filing to finishing. The more time you take from the lawyer, the more you will pay.
Unlike with hospitals and their doctors, lawyers are accustomed to talking to potential and current clients about legal fees. So to choose your lawyer, as we discuss more in this book later, you have to be willing to talk transparently to him or her about payments, your budget, and your expectations. Having these conversations early will help you get the right attorney for your particular scope of work.
Paying your spouse
Preserving your money is a huge part of your divorce case. Whatever money you saved during the years you were married belongs as much to your spouse as it does to you, according to Texas law. So, often in Texas, parties will give about ½ the money and assets to one spouse and ½ to the other spouse. While there is not a firm rule that states the money will be split down the middle, this is often what both spouses deem fair. So yes, plan on the reality that your spouse will likely receive about ½ of the net value of the marital estate. There are ways to approach deviating from the standard 50/50 divide, so this is just a rough estimate way of helping you know what to expect. Your individual lawyer will advise you on whether or not a 50/50 divide is the right way to think about the realities within your own divorce.