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People often ask me if they need a will.  They say they do not have a lot of property or extensive assets, so why bother?  Generally, my answer is yes, you need a will. You may not have a lot of property right now, but you do not know what the condition of your estate will be when you die.  Having a will makes it much easier for those left behind to take care of the payment of bills and distribution of any assets if you have a will..  It can often save your loved ones a lot of time and aggravation if you have left a will and can be especially helpful when there have been previous marriages and there are children from those earlier marriages and children from the later one(s).  And let's face it, most of us want to have some say in how our property is distrubuted after we die.  Having a valid will can make sure that your wishes are carried out.

The issues that will need to be decided by the parties or the court before a divorce can be granted are (1) the division of marital property, (2) division of marital liabilities, (3) child issues such as possession, access and support, (4) income taxes, (5) spousal support, (6) attorney fees, (7) name change.

Marital Assets - If the parties to not have substantial assets, it may be fairly easy to agree upon a division of the assets or for the court to divide them.  If the parties have been married several years and/or have substantial assets, the division of that property can be more complex.  There may be a mix of personal and real property, children, business assets, large or hidden debts, trust funds, property in other states or countries, joint and separate accounts, investments, insurance, pensions, retirement, inheritances, and other assets.  Often experts are required to help value such property.  If the parties cannot agree, the court may have to decide how the property will be divided.

After the parties have completed discovery and are fairly comfortable that they have enough information, we encourage the parties to try to resolve their case, preferably by agreement rather than by trial.  We will ask my client to prepare a settlement proposal that sets out his or her preferences for the division of property and custody and support of children.  We will then contact the other attorney to open negotiations and see if we can reach an agreement.  If that is not successful, we suggest that the parties mediate the case, using a certified and skilled mediator to help facilitate a settlement.  We settle a very large percentage of our cases through negotiation or mediation and are able to save our clients a good deal of money by avoiding the expense of preparation for trial and time spent at the courthouse in trial.  We encourage mediation and settlement because it allows the parties to have a large say in how the case is resolved rather than submitting it to a judge or jury.

You have filed for divorce and the other party has been served and answered or has signed a waiver.  We have either agreed to temporary orders or have had a hearing and the court has issued a ruling.  Now it is time to do discovery to determine (1) the extent and value of the assets of the marital estate and (2) find out any information that may be helpful in deciding custody and support issues.

Discovery is the process where one party learns from the other party, information that is relevant to the lawsuit.  We can do discovery formally or informally.  If we do it informally, I will talk to the other attorney and ask that we exchange information by a certain date.  This avoids the time and expense of sending out formal discovery and having to prepare answers to the other party's formal discovery.  It is much less expensive than doing formal discovery.  If we cannot agree, then I send formal discovery.  Formal discovery usually consists of interrogatories (questions about relevant issues), Requests for Production (asking for the production of documents, including bank records, tax returns, financial records, credit card statements, real estate and vehicle titles, etc.), and Requests for Disclosure (general information about any claims made in the other party's pleadings).  If it is necessary, we may decide to take the other party's deposition, which is sworn testimony done in a question and answer form before a court reporter.  Because depositions are expensive, I usually do not take them unless there is quite a bit of property and money at stake or child issues that cannot be resolved any other way.

Once you have consulted with your attorney and made the decision to file for a divorce in Texas, your lawyer will prepare an original petition.  This is a document that sets out the relief you are requesting, including (1) a divorce, (2) property division, (3) child custody and support, if applicable, (4) name change, if applicable and (5) a request for temporary orders.  If there are special circumstances, additional relief may be requested.  You will not need to sign the petition, but if you wish look at it and review it before it is filed, you may do so.  Once the petition is filed, the case will be assigned to one of the courts and we will ask the court to have your spouse served with process, either by the sheriff, constable or a private process server.  We will ask you if you think your spouse will agree to accept service and sign a waiver.  This means that we mail a copy of the petition and a letter explaining what it contains and the effect of signing it, to your spouse and ask him or her to sign the waiver in order to avoid being served.  If your spouse signs the waiver, we file it with the court and can proceed with the divorce.

Client Area

When you come to my office for our first meeting, if we agree that I will take your case, I will ask you to fill out a client information sheet, custody worksheet, if there are children, and a financial information sheet.

FAQ

This information is designed to assist you in answering some basic questions regarding family law issues.

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