An Agreed Divorce

Agreed DivorcesAgreed Divorces — It is a good idea. Period, end of report. They resolve conflict quickly and easily.  They remove the stress of litigation. They bring peace and resolution. They are divorces where the parties have resolved the property and child issues. There is no contest.  Court hearings are unnecessary – except for the ultimate “proveup” of the decree.

In an Agreed divorce, the lawyer’s role is limited to preparation of pleadings, waiver of service, the divorce decree, and closing documents. Because of this, legal fees are substantially reduced. The basis for the divorce is “discord and conflict of personalities which destroy the legitimate ends of the marital relationship” – a no fault divorce.

When you consider the fight, consider this:

• Absent extenuating circumstances, the court will divide the community estate 1/2 to each party – round figures.

• Absent extenuating circumstances, the court will order a Joint Managing Conservator relationship as to custody. Both parents will receive almost fifty percent of available time with the children – or so says the Texas Standard Visitation Order. Actually, it’s about 45/55 percent of the time.

• An agreed divorce will save the community estate (your savings, your salary) significant sums. Lincoln said, “the only thing a lawyer has to sell is his time.” There are attorney’s out there who enjoy no more satisfaction than a full scale war between spouses. Some are believed to promote it. Why? Attorney’s fees. Agreed divorces do not require the time element and costs that contested cases do, therefore, they lower your expense significantly.

• An agreed divorce minimizes family disruption and the emotional turmoil that goes with it. It is unfortunate, but those who battle over the kids usually end up doing the most harm to them. Kids are smart. They know you are fighting. They can “read” your feelings. They know how you feel about your spouse.  Further, remember this, all kids will at some point place blame for the divorce on themselves. It is your job as a parent to make sure that this does not happen.

How to reach agreement and avoid the fight?

First, both spouses have to want agreement. Without the cooperation of both sides, it is not going two be possible to resolve the case without court intervention. Sometimes it is said, the argument/fight leaves the bedroom to go to the court room.In order to avoid the fight, the expense: Sit down with your spouse and list out your total assets and liabilities. Try to divide the assets evenly. As to debts, decide what can be paid off now and how you will pay off the rest pursuant to a divorce decree.

If you have children, rationally decide where the primary residence will be. The children have to have a place they can call home. They have to have a home residence during the school week. Decide who is better able to work with the children’s school and extracurricular activities. Ask, who takes the children to school every morning and picks them up – mostly? Who takes them to band, soccer, or baseball practice – mostly?  Who prepares most of the children’s meals, gets them bathed, and into bed? This parent should probably be the primary.

Note that the Texas Expanded Possession schedule provides almost equal possession and access to the children.  In Texas, we really don’t do “custody” as applied to one parent only.  That is why it is assumed that all good parents should be joint managing conservators.Note, if alcohol, drug dependence (illicit or prescription abuse) and/or family violence are involved in your case – nothing on this page is going to work for you. That is,  if children are involved.

If you cannot reach agreement by yourself, then consider mediation. Virtually all courts will order mediation in any case. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution where the parties are provided an opportunity to present their issues to a neutral mediator. The mediator is usually a lawyer who is experienced and familiar with family law. At the start of the mediation, the parties will set forth their arguments and issues to each other and the mediator. The parties will then withdraw to separate rooms. The mediator will go back and forth between the parties to talk the case out with them.  At the end of the day, it is hoped, that the parties will have reached a mediated settlement agreement. A divorce decree will then be drafted in accordance with the agreement and “proved” before the court.

At the very minimum, the following documents are required in a no property/no children agreed divorce:• Original Petition for Divorce• Service of Citation• Final Decree of Divorce• State Information Statement (“the Austin Form”)If children, real property, investment funds and/or retirement accounts are involved then additional closing documents will be needed such as special warranty deeds, child support withholding order or a qualified domestic relations order.All divorces take a minimum of 60 days in the State of Texas.