Many spouses are afraid of drawn-out, expensive court battles when they are contemplating divorce. Although disagreements are common during the divorce process, it is possible to settle things outside of court.
In the past two decades or so, more and more couples are choosing to negotiate a settlement instead of going to court. This is because negotiation allows couples to preserve their co-parenting relationship, their privacy, and their money.
A negotiated divorce allows you to reach an agreement with your spouse with the help of an experienced Texas family lawyer. According to the Fiscal Year 2020 Annual Statisticla Report for the Texas Judiciary, one-third of family cases were resolved by agreed judgment, while 27 percent were resolved by bench trial and less than 0.1 percent were resolved by jury trial.
This means that even if you and your spouse have areas of disagreement or complex financial or child custody issues, a negotiated divorce is still a viable option. The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy can assist you in achieving a negotiated divorce agreement that satisfies all of your needs without a need for protracted court proceedings.
Required Agreements in a Negotiated Divorce
To reach a divorce settlement agreement in Texas, you and your spouse must agree on several standard issues, including:
Negotiating a divorce settlement agreement on all of these issues can be challenging, but with the help of a skilled family lawyer, you and your spouse can find a resolution that works for both of you.
The Importance of an Attorney for Negotiated Divorces
Many people mistakenly believe that hiring a lawyer will make the divorce process more contentious. However, the right lawyer can actually help smooth negotiations and achieve better outcomes for their clients.
Lawyers play a vital role in the negotiation process. They can provide legal advice, represent their client’s interests, and facilitate communication between the parties. Experienced lawyers can also offer creative solutions to complex issues, helping couples reach a settlement that meets their needs.
Mediation for Negotiations in a Divorce
If both spouses agree, or if the court orders it, a divorce case may be referred to mediation under Texas Family Code § 6.602(a).
Mediation can take place before or after a divorce petition is filed. If you decide to mediate after your case starts, you or your lawyer must inform the judge.
A mediated divorce settlement agreement is binding if both parties agree that it is. The agreement must:
- State in bold, capital letters, or underlined text that it is not subject to revocation
- Be signed by both parties.
- Be signed by the parties’ attorneys, if any, who are present when the parties sign the agreement.
You must go to mediation if the judge orders it.
However, you can object to mediation if there have been incidents of family violence against you. You must object before the final mediation order is issued and file a written objection to the mediation referral under Texas Family Code § 6.602(d).
If there is a proven history of family violence or you fear for your safety, you may not be required to attend mediation.
If you have been ordered to mediation, you can file a written objection on the basis of family violence at any time before the final mediation order is issued. Once an objection is filed, the case cannot be referred to mediation unless the opposing party requests a hearing to oppose your objection. If a hearing is held and there is not enough evidence to support your claim of family violence, mediation will be held.
However, the court will take steps to ensure your safety. For example, the mediation may be held in separate rooms where you do not have to have face-to-face contact with the other party under Texas Family Code § 153.0071(f).
Negotiating Child Custody and Child Support Issues
Child support negotiations in Texas family law cases can be emotionally charged and challenging for both parents involved. Child support is often the most contentious issue in divorce or child custody cases.
Child custody arrangements are essential to consider when negotiating child support. Legal custody, which involves decision-making authority, and physical custody, which refers to where the child resides, are both important factors. Additionally, visitation schedules play a role in determining the responsibilities and rights of each parent in raising the child.
The Texas Family Code provides guidelines for calculating child support amounts. It is beneficial to familiarize yourself with these guidelines and calculations before a negotiation conference. This will help you understand the potential outcomes and negotiate more effectively.
Several factors affect the amount of child support, including the income of both parents, the number of children, medical expenses, educational costs, and any special needs the child may have. Understanding how these factors impact the final child support amount is essential for effective negotiations.
Factors that influence child support amounts include:
- Income of parents: Higher income may lead to higher child support amounts, while lower income may result in reduced child support obligations.
- Number of children: Child support tends to increase with the number of children.
- Medical expenses: Additional medical expenses for the child can impact child support calculations, potentially increasing the support amount.
- Educational expenses: If the child has specific educational needs, such as private school or tutoring, these expenses may be factored into the support amount.
- Special needs: Children with special needs may require extra support, which can influence the final child support amount.
Once a child support order is established, it is essential to ensure compliance from both parties. In cases where a parent fails to meet their obligations, various legal options and methods can be employed to enforce child support orders. Understanding the enforcement mechanisms available can help facilitate smoother negotiations.
Life is dynamic, and circumstances may change after a child support order is established. Whether due to significant income fluctuations, adjustments in custody arrangements, or the child’s changing needs, it’s essential to understand when and how child support orders can be modified. This knowledge empowers parents to adapt the support arrangements to the evolving situation.
Child support can have tax implications for both the paying and receiving parents. Understanding these implications, including which parent can claim the child as a dependent for tax purposes, is crucial for financial planning and informed negotiations.
Common Property Division Issues
The court encourages couples to reach a reasonable agreement in a divorce. A settlement of property and liabilities can ease the process. An important factor in a negotiated agreement is whether it is considered “just and right.” The court is generally looking for a fair outcome for both sides. Once the court is satisfied that the agreement is fair, it will approve it. If the court finds that the agreement is not fair, it can ask the parties to renegotiate or decide the case on its own.
Texas is a community property state, which means that any property acquired during the marriage is considered to belong to both spouses. If one spouse wants to keep a particular asset, such as a house or car, it may be better to negotiate with the other spouse rather than have the court decide. The spouses may be able to agree to trade one asset for another.
If the spouses have a business together, this can also be a complex issue. One spouse may be able to buy out the other spouse’s share of the business to avoid litigation.
Couples who are on good terms are more likely to be able to reach a negotiated agreement that they both find acceptable and that the court will approve. However, it is important to have legal advice for any family law matter, regardless of the relationship between the spouses. A lawyer can review the negotiated agreement and analyze the property the couple shares to ensure the settlement is fair. If the case goes to court, it is even more important to have legal help.
It is a good idea to retain the services of an experienced divorce attorney to provide guidance throughout negotiations about property division and other divorce matters. An attorney can help address all of the client’s concerns. For example, if the client wishes, the attorney can ensure that the divorce decree states that alimony or spousal support cannot be terminated without the client’s consent. An attorney can also provide valuable advice when it comes to negotiating for assets and point out that the carrying costs for a house, car, or boat may not be affordable in the client’s post-divorce budget.
The attorney can also help the client consider their future needs. If the couple has children, the attorney can help them negotiate terms for financing the children’s college education. While most states do not require a non-custodial parent to finance their children’s education, timely negotiations may be beneficial in the long term.
Another issue to consider is joint debt. If one spouse agrees to assume responsibility for any joint debt, it is important that the other spouse’s name is removed from the account to prevent non-payment from affecting their credit score.
It is best for each party in a Texas divorce to have their own attorney. An experienced attorney can review all of the decisions made about property division, spousal support, and other matters, and ensure that the client’s wishes are properly reflected in the final judgment of divorce. No one should feel pressured to accept a settlement, and each party is entitled to understand all the proposed terms and conditions before proceeding.
Understanding Your Net Worth
Assets and debts are two important topics that you need to be familiar with when going through a divorce. Some people are the ones in the marriage who pay the bills, track the budget, and keep up with the investments.
Others take a backseat on these issues and let their spouse handle them. It is important for both spouses to be aware of their financial situation, regardless of who has taken the lead in the past.
An asset is anything that has a positive monetary value, such as investments, retirement accounts, bank accounts, personal property, and vehicles. A debt is something that you owe money on, such as a credit card balance, student loan, mortgage, car note, or personal loan. Your net worth is the difference between your assets and your debts.
It is important to know your net worth, assets, and debts before you start negotiating with your spouse about your divorce. Your personal finances affect every area of your life, including child support, spousal maintenance, and other issues in your case.
Know Your Community Estate
The same rule applies to your community property as to your assets and liabilities. You cannot negotiate effectively unless you know what is considered community property in your divorce.
If you need more information about your family’s finances, your attorney should submit discovery requests to your spouse. This means that your spouse will be required to provide you with information, answers to questions, and documents related to your family’s finances. This is especially important if you have not been involved in managing the family’s finances during the marriage.
At the beginning of a Texas divorce, it is customary for each spouse to exchange an inventory/appraisal list. This list itemizes all of the property owned by the couple, along with each spouse’s estimated value for each item of property. You should exchange these lists with your spouse before mediation so that you are aware of your spouse’s assumptions when settlement proposals are being made.
Both methods—exchanging an inventory/appraisal list and submitting formal discovery requests—should be used in your case. One will give you a general overview of your family’s finances, and the other will provide you with a more detailed picture. Negotiations about your family’s finances will not be successful without these crucial steps.
When Spouses Own Businesses
If you or your spouse owns a small business, it can complicate your divorce. The most important part of negotiations is determining the value of the business. There are several ways to do this, but you should hire a professional to provide a detailed and objective analysis.
Once you have a reasonable estimate of the business’s value, you need to decide what to do with it after the divorce. There are several options:
- One spouse can keep the business and pay the other spouse an equal amount in other community assets. For example, if the business is worth $500,000, one spouse could get $250,000 in other assets, such as the family home or investments.
- The business can be sold and the proceeds split proportionately between the spouses. This means that you will need to negotiate the percentage split and find a buyer for the business.
- The spouses can maintain ownership of the business and operate it as 50/50 partners. This may be a good option if you cannot find a buyer, want the business to stay in the family, or cannot part with the industry.
If your business is significant, it may represent a large portion of your net worth. In this case, you may not have other assets to pay your spouse for their share of the business. You may need to agree to pay them in installments over time or spousal maintenance.
Negotiated Divorce Attorney in Tarrant County, TX
Are you hoping to negotiate the terms of your divorce to avoid having to make multiple court appearances? You will want to seek the help of The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy in getting an agreement that you can be satisfied with.
We invite you to call (817) 422-5350 or contact us online to receive a free consultation that will allow us to fully discuss all of your issues with you. Our firm also has experience in cases complicated by domestic violence or recent driving while intoxicagted (DWI) arrests.