Single Mothers face unique challenges in divorce. Often times, single mothers have been out of the workforce for several years, choosing to work in the home. Although being a stay-at-home-mom is vitally important to your children and to your household, it may put you at a disadvantage when that household goes through a divorce. The following are ten things you need to know about divorce.
1. You may be entitled to child support.
Child support is based upon a percentage of the spouse’s monthly resources as set out in the Texas Family Code. Child support obligations are typically 20% for 1 child, 25% for 2 children, 30% for 3 children, etc. The percentage maxes out at 40% of the net monthly resources.
To determine the net monthly resources, the court looks at every source of income that person has. Next, federal income taxes, social security, Medicare, union dues, and the cost of the children’s health insurance are deducted. The number left over is the amount to which the percentage is applied.
In order to obtain child support, the court must sign an Order for child support. This court document orders the amount to be paid and when that amount will be paid. Often times, the Court will also issue a wage withholding order. This document orders the employer to withhold the amounts from the paycheck of the individual ordered to pay support.
2. The court may require that he pay your attorney’s fees.
Attorney’s fees can be awarded in a divorce case. However, just because it is possible to obtain reimbursement for your attorney’s fees does not mean the court WILL order attorney’s fees. This means you will have to give the judge a good reason to order your spouse to pay your attorney’s fees. The court will weigh your need for funds to pay attorney’s fees and litigation costs against the opposing spouse’s ability to pay those expenses.
In other words, the court may order your spouse to pay your legal fees, but will not make your spouse destitute in order to pay those fees. It is important to show the court assets, accounts, or cash from which the fees could be paid. If there is no such liquid asset available, suggest to the court a particular item which could be sold to generate the funds.
3. He may have to pay for the house.
The court will usually order temporary orders in a divorce. These temporary orders will typically order the parties to maintain the status quo and prevent them from making any major financial moves. This could, and sometimes does, include ordering one spouse to continue to make payments towards the mortgage and household bills during the divorce.
4. You may be entitled to more than a 50-50 split in property.
The property will be divided in a manner which is deemed “just and right” by the court. Sometimes, “just and right” means 50-50 and sometimes it means a more one-sided division (60-40, etc.) There are a variety of factors the court can consider in determining that a disproportionate division is “just and right”. Consider the following:
• Fault in The Failure of the Marriage
• Size of Separate Estates
• Anticipated Inheritance
• Right of Reimbursement
• Gifts to A Spouse
• Unusual Gifts to Third Parties or Paramours
• Improper Use/Waste of Community Assets
• Property in Other Jurisdictions
• Custody of Children
• Unique Nature of Property
• Benefits The Innocent Spouse Would Have Received by Continuation of the Marriage
• Disparity of Earning Capacities
• Physical Condition, Health
• Difference in Ages
• Size of Community Estate
• Tax Considerations
• Spousal Support Obligations
There is no clear cut rule on how these factors are applied to the percentages. For example, there’s no rule that infidelity results in a 60% division to the non-cheating spouse. However, if these factors are present, the court may award a disproportionate division of the marital estate.
5. You will be able to obtain information through the court process.
Often times, stay-at-home-mothers are at a disadvantage when it comes to information about the finances of the household. It is not uncommon for a spouse that works in the home to be kept in the dark where assets and debts are concerned.
However, you will be entitled to conduct discovery to identify the various assets and debts acquired during the marriage. This involves written questions your spouse will be legally required to answer. Your spouse can be ordered to sit for a deposition under oath. You can also hire experts who can scour financial records to give you a complete picture of the financial position of the household.
6. You don’t have to move out.
You do not have to move out of the house simply because your spouse wants you to. This applies even if you do not have any ownership interest in the house (i.e. it was acquired prior to marriage, or your “name isn’t on the house”).
In order for either spouse to be ordered out of the marital home, a hearing would need to take place and the court would have to order that spouse out of the home. In situation of family violence, the violent spouse can be ordered out of the house up front if that spouse is a danger to you or the children.
7. There is no preference for moms at the courthouse.
There is no preference towards mothers at the courthouse. There is a presumption that it is in your children’s best interest both parents to be involved in your children’s life. The court will look at who is the primary care-provider for the children and specifically what is in the best interest of the children.
If you are a stay-at-home-mom, it is likely that you are the one who cares for the children (i.e. gets the children ready for school, attends doctor’s visits, etc.). This is the reason for the misunderstanding that there is a preference towards mothers at the courthouse. In reality, it is simply a preference towards the children’s primary care-giver.
8. You may be entitled to spousal maintenance.
There are two ways to obtain spousal maintenance in Texas. The first is if you have been married 10 years or more and you cannot provide for your minimum needs despite trying to get back in the workforce. The second way is if your spouse has been convicted of family violence in the two years prior to the divorce.
Obtaining spousal maintenance in Texas is difficult but possible. If you are successful, the spousal maintenance will be the lesser of either $2,500 monthly or 20% of the spouse’s net income for a period of not more than three years.
9. The Court prefers a standard possession order.
One of the biggest concerns for parents in a divorce is what will happen with your children. However, it is unlikely, without a good reason (i.e. physical abuse, mental abuse, substance abuse, etc.) that a parent will be able to take the kids away from the other spouse.
Typically, the court will award a standard possession order with the kids ordered to live with the primary care-giver (so long as that is in the children’s best interest). However, when you consider the amount of time both parents spend with their children under the standard order, the periods of possession are more or less even.
However, if either parent has endangered the children or shown themselves to be unable to properly care for them, that parent’s visitation may be reduced. If you are genuinely concerned that your husband will kidnap your kids – this is an entirely different issue. If this is your concern, contact an attorney IMMEDIATELY.
10. You may be able to prevent your children from being around his new girlfriend.
While the divorce is pending, yes. You can request the court make temporary orders that neither parent may have overnight guests that they are involved with romantically. Judges will usually grant this request. Sometimes a court will even order that no new romantic interests may be introduced to the children during the divorce.
It is important to know that you might feel disadvantaged in divorce or might feel intimidated at the prospect of filing for divorce. We are here to help! Going through a divorce, even if you're the one filing, can seem catastrophic at the moment. Keep your head up and keep seeking quality help and advice. You will get through this!
Our law firm is standing by to help and answer any questions you may have. Send us an email or call(713) 999-9398.
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