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If you ever find yourself a party to a divorce you will need to be familiar with some of the basics in Texas divorce law. Here are TEN of the most common questions:

How long do I have to be a resident of Texas before I can file for a divorce?

ANSWER: At the time a suit for divorce is filed you as the petitioner must have been a resident of the state for six months and resident of the county in which the suit is filed for a 90-day period preceding the lawsuit. The law has some other twists if you base the petition on the other party's (respondent's) residence.

When will a court order child support and alimony payments in a divorce suit?

ANSWER: A judge has the power to order such things as temporary child support, temporary visitation guidelines and temporary alimony during the divorce action, after a "temporary orders" hearing in which either party may ask for temporary orders.

How does a judge calculate the amount of child support?

ANSWER: The Texas Family Code contains child support guidelines. Use two years-worth of federal income tax returns and year-to-date pay records in order to calculate the amount of child support from the guidelines. By the way, the judge will sign a mandatory wage withhold order at the time of the final decree to provide an additional tool to assure that child support gets paid. The order may or may not be sent to the employer, based upon child support payment history.

Where does health insurance fit into all of this?

ANSWER: Health insurance can be awarded as additional child support and enforced as such.

How do temporary alimony and after-divorce alimony differ?

ANSWER: A judge has wide discretion to award temporary alimony during a divorce. However, after-divorce alimony is not automatic, but is subject to certain limitations.

How about child custody?

ANSWER: In the Texas Family Code there is a presumption that it is in the best interests of a child that the parents be named as Joint Managing Conservators. That means both parents get almost the same rights and duties. One parent will normally determine where the child lives.

Isn't visitation now just a matter of watching a calendar?

ANSWER: No, managing conservators can agree on all aspects of possession or visitation. However, if the parents cannot agree then the final decree normally has a Standard Possession Order that will control visitation.

What are some of the basic rules that a court will follow in dividing property?

ANSWER: Consider the following principle: Community property consists of the property, other than separate property, acquired by either spouse during marriage. Separate property consists of property owned or claimed by the spouse before marriage and property acquired by the spouse during marriage by gift or inheritance. Recovery for personal injuries sustained by a spouse during marriage is separate property, except any recovery for loss of earning capacity during marriage. A judge has wide jurisdiction over community property, but almost no authority over separate property.

How does the court handle the growing number of divorce cases? Will my case get the attention from the court that it deserves?

ANSWER: The Texas Family Code has instituted a program for appointing Associate Judges who hear all family law matters. They are chosen for their experience in family law and hear all matters, unless either party objects to their participation in the case. Associate judges have proven to be able administrators who can draw upon years of personal family law experience. In addition, all parties must agree to mediate their differences if they are ordered by the court to do so.

What if a party fails to follow court orders? What can I do?

ANSWER: A judge has contempt powers in matters involving alimony, child support, visitation, and the turning over of certain property incident to a divorce decree. A party found in contempt could be facing such things as jail time and an order to pay the attorneys fees to the lawyer who brought the contempt action against him or her.

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