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abandonment texas divorce

At Fault Divorce in Texas: Abandonment

Fault in a Texas Divorce: Abandonment

Texas is what’s known as a “no-fault divorce state,” which means that couples get end their marriages without proving that one spouse was at fault for the breakdown of the relationship. Instead, most divorces in Texas are based on the marriage having become insupportable – the two spouses can find no common ground on which to reconcile their difference. Not every Texas divorce, however, follows this path, and sometimes fault – in the form of abandonment – plays a part. If you and your children have been abandoned by your spouse, seek experienced legal counsel; your financial future could depend upon it.

People also read: Does Adultery Play a Role in a Texas Divorce

The Legal Definition of Abandonment

You know how difficult it is to cope with your spouse’s abandonment. It’s important to understand, however, that there is a legal definition of abandonment, the elements of which must be met before you can seek a Texas divorce that’s predicated on abandonment. Specifically, there are two necessary elements:

  1. Your spouse left you (and your children if you have them), and his or her intent was to abandon you.
  2. Your spouse has been gone for at least a year.

If these two elements aren’t both applicable to your situation, it doesn’t rise to the level of abandonment. Further, the burden is on you to show that your spouse actually intended to abandon you.

Community Property

Because Texas is a community property state, everything that you and your spouse accrue during the course of your marriage is owned equally by both of you. You shouldn’t take this to mean that your marital property will be split evenly down the middle at the time of a divorce, however. The State of Texas, instead, seeks a “just and right” division of marital property, which allows the court considerable discretion when it comes to dividing your property in a Texas divorce.

Abandonment and the Division of Marital Property

While most divorces in Texas aren’t fault-based, that doesn’t mean that a divorce based on abandonment will proceed exactly like a no-fault divorce. In fact, the issue of abandonment is likely to play a significant role in how the court determines a division of property that is just and right given the circumstances. If you and your children have been abandoned, you have no doubt suffered financial and emotional hardships that were borne of that abandonment. One obvious financial burden is the fact that while your partner was AWOL, your household had to keep going without his or her income. The judge presiding over your divorce will likely give this fact serious consideration in determining a just and right division of your marital property.

Abandonment and Your Children

During divorce, child custody arrangements are of universal primary concern – they typically take precedence over even the division of marital property. If your spouse has abandoned you and your children, you’ve been through an exceedingly difficult time that likely includes extreme financial and emotional setbacks. Caring for your family without the support of your spouse is obviously an overwhelming hardship, and the court isn’t likely to lose sight of this fact.

When it comes to issues related to child custody, Texas courts typically proceed with the presumption that keeping a healthy and ongoing relationship with both parents after a divorce is in the best interests of the children. If one parent has abandoned the family for a year or more, however, it may well mitigate this presumption. In matters of child custody – as in the division of marital property – the judge wields a considerable amount of discretion, and he or she can use this discretion to significantly limit the amount of access your soon-to-be ex will have with your shared children.

Abandonment and Its Effects on a Texas Divorce

When it comes to abandonment, the negative effects are difficult to overstate. Once it’s established that your spouse’s abandonment directly contributed to the dissolution of your marriage and deprived you and your children of the expected continued benefits of that marriage, it will likely guide the court toward a decision that grants you a greater share of the marital property. Further, it will likely color the court’s view of what’s in the children’s best interests. The court considers several factors in evaluating the legally mandated best interests of the children:

  • The stability of your home
  • Which one of you acted as the children’s primary caregiver during the marriage
  • The physical and emotional needs of the children

If a parent abandons the home for an entire year, it represents a strong indication that said parent isn’t likely to shine in any of these categories.

Spousal Maintenance

What other states often call alimony, the State of Texas generally refers to as spousal maintenance. Texas courts don’t often grant spousal maintenance. To begin, you must be able to demonstrate that you don’t have enough property and/or income to provide for your basic needs. One of several additional strict parameters, however, must also apply:

  • You were married for at least ten years, and you are the lower earner – who cannot provide for your own basic needs.
  • You are the lower earner, and you cannot provide for yourself because of a physical or mental disability.
  • You are the lower earner, and you have custody of a child you share – a child who has a mental or physical disability that precludes you from working toward your own financial independence.
  • Your spouse is the higher earner, and he or she has been convicted of committing family violence against you or your children in the two years prior to the divorce filing.

If you do qualify for spousal maintenance, the court can take your spouse’s abandonment into consideration in awarding that maintenance.  See our family law blog article Texas Divorce and Spousal Maintenance for more information.

If Your Spouse Abandoned You, Consult with an Experienced Houston Family Law Attorney Today

Divorce is always difficult, but abandonment can make it that much more overwhelming. The dedicated legal team at Rudisel Law Firm, P.C., in Houston is here to help. Our compassionate divorce attorneys have the experience, knowledge, and determination to advocate aggressively in defense of your best interests throughout the divorce process. For more information, please contact or call us at 713-781-7775 today.

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Adultery in Texas Divorce

Does Adultery Play a Role in a Texas Divorce?

Texas Divorce and Adultery

Most Texas divorces are difficult, and every divorce is unique to its own set of circumstances. If your spouse engaged in an affair during your marriage – or during the divorce process itself – it can make an already challenging experience that much more painful. If you are considering a divorce and wondering if your spouse’s unfaithfulness will play a role in its outcome, you need to speak with an experienced Houston divorce attorney. As discussed in our article, “Meeting Your Divorce Lawyer for the First Time: What you need to Know” it is imperative that you disclose this type of information. In the end, your spouse’s infidelity can affect the outcome of your divorce, but the effects likely will not be as straightforward as you might imagine.

Texas: A No-Fault Divorce State

Texas is a no-fault divorce state in the sense that you do not need to cite fault to obtain a divorce. In a no-fault divorce, insupportability (often referred to as irreconcilable differences) typically stands in as the reason behind the divorce. It is important to recognize, however, that in Texas – unlike in many other states – you have the option of filing a divorce based on fault, including adultery. While most Texas divorces are no-fault divorces and the path toward such a divorce is far more straightforward, there are instances when pursuing a divorce based on fault is the appropriate approach. A dedicated Houston divorce attorney will help you determine your best options as you go through the divorce process.

The Legal Definition of Adultery

For your spouse’s infidelity to reach the level necessary to file for a divorce based on fault, his or her actions must correspond with Texas’s legal definition of adultery. In the Texas Family Code, adultery is defined very specifically:

• A married person who voluntarily has sexual intercourse with someone who is not his or her spouse commits adultery.
• A married person who engages in sexual acts (that are not intercourse) with someone who is not his or her spouse has not committed adultery.

This distinction can be a difficult concept with which to come to terms. For example, even if you discover that your spouse is having a heated relationship, including explicit photographs, on his or her phone or computer, this relationship does not equate with the legal definition of adultery. In other words, even though your spouse is engaging in behavior that you – and most other people – consider a betrayal, it is not adultery in Texas unless it meets Texas’s legal definition of adultery.

People also read: At Fault Divorce in Texas: Abandonment

We Were Separated at the Time

Even if you and your spouse were living separately at the time that the adultery occurred, it has no bearing on the legal claim of adultery. In Texas, married couples remain married until they are divorced. Texas does not recognize legal separations, so if your spouse begins a new sexual relationship before you are divorced, he or she is committing adultery. This is true even if you are separated and going through the divorce process.

Proving Your Spouse’s Adultery

To bring a divorce that is based on your spouse’s adultery, you must be able to provide proof of that adultery with evidence that is “clear and convincing.” This is a higher standard of proof than the “preponderance of the truth” that typically applies in civil cases. The necessary proof can be as simple as your spouse admitting to the relationship, but it can also necessitate the compilation of evidence that supports your claim. This means that your divorce is going to be decidedly more complicated and more labor intensive than a no-fault divorce would likely be. Your trusted attorney will help you determine if the additional outlay of work is worth the likely outcome.

Adultery and Your Divorce

In Texas, your marital property is not necessarily divided equally in a divorce but instead is divided in a manner that the court deems “just and right.” This means that the judge who hears your case has considerable latitude when it comes to the division of your marital property, which – other than child custody arrangements – is the primary focus of most divorces. As such, the judge who hears your case can take your spouse’s adulterous behavior into consideration when determining how your marital property should be divided between the two of you. If your spouse committed adultery, you can request that you be awarded a disproportionate percentage. Again, this outcome remains at the judge’s discretion when deciding property division in a Texas divorce.

It is also worth noting that pursuing a divorce based on adultery can have a motivating effect on some spouses. If your spouse is very concerned with his or her reputation, he or she may be inclined to agree to more generous settlement terms with you outside of court. Generally, avoiding court – where the judge will determine your financial future – is better for everyone. For a more in depth discussion of property division during a Texas divorce, read  our article entitled, “Property and Debt Division in Texas: What you should Know.

Some Components of Divorce Are Not Affected by Adultery

While your spouse’s adultery may play a role in how the court divides marital property between the two of you, there are certain aspects of your divorce that it will not affect:

• Eligibility for spousal maintenance or alimony is not affected by adultery. If you are eligible for spousal support, however, the amount and duration may be affected.
• Adultery probably will not play a role in the child custody arrangements that come out of your divorce. This is an illustration of the theory that being a faithless spouse does not necessarily make someone a bad parent. Our article entitled “Texas Divorce and Spousal Maintenance” gives an in-depth overview of spousal maintenance.

Moving Forward with a Fault-Based Divorce

There are situations in which moving forward with a divorce based on adultery is meaningful and situations where it is not. A divorce that is based on fault is typically a more complicated and expensive endeavor, so unless your marital property is fairly extensive, you may be better off going with a no-fault divorce. Again, however, every divorce is as unique as the two divorcing individuals, and a dedicated divorce attorney will help you see the big picture and identify the option that works best for you.

If You Are Facing a Divorce that Involves Adultery, Consult with an Experienced Houston Divorce Attorney Today

Divorce is always difficult, but infidelity often makes it that much more painful. If adultery plays a role in your divorce, the dedicated legal team at Rudisel Law Firm, P.C.,can help you navigate your best path forward. Our experienced divorce attorneys are here to help, so please fill out an online evaluation using the “Contact Us” link in the menu or call us at 713-781-7775 today.

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