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How children and finances complicate the process

A common question many people considering divorce ask is related to how long it will take. It would be nice to have a crystal ball to know for sure; unfortunately, there are often unforeseen circumstances that can delay the process. 

That said, there are a few parameters to consider which might allow for a reasonable prediction.

In the state of Texas, a divorce cannot be finalized in less than 60 days.

While that law doesn’t give us the most accurate estimation of a deadline, it does establish the minimal amount of time a Texas divorce will take.

On average, most divorce cases in Texas settle around the 6 to 9-month mark. 

Generally, it takes half to three-quarters of a year in order for people to gather the pertinent information necessary to adapt to the custody schedules and the new arrangements. 

Divorces that take longer than 6 to 9-months usually have a higher measure of conflict between the parties.

 There are two issues where conflict between parties can become highly contentious:

  • Disagreement about where the children will live. 
  • Disagreement about the values of certain properties. 

In each of these situations, when settlement cannot be reached, experts may be hired to perform investigations and valuations to determine a greater sense of transparency and to offer the judge a clearer picture. 

Which means…

When experts are hired to offer recommendations, the divorce process can take 12 to 18-months.

Unfortunately, it can take even longer than that…

Outlier divorces that feature high conflict and aggressive custody battles can take 2 to 3-years to become finalized. 

The difference between a 60-day and a 3-year timeline is immense. Therefore, it’s wise to do a lot of homework on the front end to get educated about the divorce process and to understand where most of the controversy happens.

A person contemplating divorce should take the time to sort out that kind of information before committing to the process so they can have more control over the length of time it might take. 

Does Having Children Affect the Length of a Divorce? 

Each divorce is unique in the sense that throughout the process the parties are determining the answer to two important questions: 

  • What’s worth fighting over? 
  • What do I feel most strongly about?  

Whenever children are involved, they inevitably become the answer to these two questions.

There are several issues to consider when children are involved. 

  • How old are your children? 
  • Are you worried about their safety with the other parent? 
  • Are you in disagreement regarding major decisions about your children such as feelings about value systems, how they should be disciplined, or where they should go to school?

Generally, there are 3 subcategories to be aware of: 

  1. Conservatorship. 

In the state of Texas, conservatorship is another word for rights and duties. Within this subcategory parents and the court must determine the primary residence for the child(ren). Will they live with one parent? Will they transition back and forth between two homes? Are there geographical limitations? 

In most cases, Texas law presumes that both parents will become joint-managing conservators and will share equally in the decision-making process.

  1. Possession Schedule.

Texas family code does provide a guideline for custody disagreements. 

It’s presumed to be in the best interest of the children that one parent will have first, third, and fifth weekends, while the other parent has second and fourth weekends. 

The parent with first, third, and fifth weekends also gets a weeknight during the school year (typically a Thursday night). Meanwhile, the children are with the other parent the rest of the time.

There’s also a holiday schedule to follow. Texas law only concerns itself with the “big” holidays: 

  • Christmas
  • Winter and Spring Breaks
  • Thanksgiving
  • Mother’s Day and Father’s Day (which for same sex couples becomes more difficult).
  • Summer Break (Typically 30 days each) 

It’s generally distance that complicates possession determinations. The farther apart the parents live the more complex the challenges can become. 

A lot of parents like to vary from these norms, especially when they don’t align well with their work schedules, and there are variants whereby a 50/50 split can be accommodated. 

Essentially, the possession schedule can be whatever each couple is willing to agree to, but that’s where the process can become drawn out. Are the parents going to agree on a schedule? 

  1. Child support.

A common snag in the divorce process is related to how the financial needs of the children will be met. If the parties are able to reach an agreement on child support, then they can do whatever they want as long as each lawyer carefully reads over the settlement and finds it reasonable on behalf of their client. 

That said, Texas family code, does offer a helpful guideline which is linked to a percentage of income which Texas code caps out at $8,200 per month. 

People making above that amount needn’t concern themselves with this guideline; however, any person making below that amount will see the child support totals vary depending on the number of children and the exact amount of net income. 

How Do Household Income, Property Ownership, and Personal Assets Affect the Length of a Divorce? 

As stated earlier, each divorce is unique in the sense that throughout the process the parties are determining the answer to two important questions: 

  • What’s worth fighting over? 
  • What do I feel most strongly about?  

A common response to the above questions is often related to household income, number of assets, and property interests. Generally, having more assets or a high-net worth complicates divorce or can cause the process to take longer.

Important questions to consider when it comes to handling finances in a divorce are:

  1. Do you own a house? If so, is there a mortgage? Whose name is on the mortgage? Whose name is on the deed?
  2. Who’s going to live in the house if you keep it?  
  3. How will you allocate accrued debt?
  4. Do you own a business? If so, is it privately owned? Also, what kind of a business is it? 
  5. What about allocation of retirement benefits such as 401Ks and IRAs? 
  6. Do either of the parties work for a company that offers differed compensation like stock options? 

There are countless possibilities to consider, which is why when filing for divorce it’s helpful to pull together as much financial information as possible. In fact, it’s often necessary to hire outside evaluators to provide an impartial and clear view of the family’s financial situation due to its significance for each competing side.