In Texas, many folks have heard about the recent case of an illegal divorce attempt conducted by a male resident of Harris County. The notorious incident included the forged signatures of his wife and an attorney on the divorce papers. She was completely unaware of the proceedings even after the divorce decree had been issued. In the light of these events, several questions arise: is it possible to divorce unilaterally, and how to protect yourself from such cases?
According to onlinedivorce.com statistics, in the United States, 13.7% of divorces occur at the request of one of the spouses; Among Texas residents, this figure is 11.9%. Unilateral marriage dissolution, when only one of the spouses is against the continuation of family relations, is possible to obtain in Texas by providing either a fault-based reason (such as cruelty or adultery) or by filing for no-fault marriage dissolution.
How does the divorce proceed if one of the partners does not want to end the family relationship?
The main reason for divorce at the request of one of the spouses is the unwillingness to continue the marriage. To confirm the inability of living together, it is enough to state that the relationship is broken. There is no need to drag each other through the mud. In this case, the spouse seeking a divorce must file a petition with the court.
However, this reason is not taken into account if the wife is pregnant or the family has minor children. Therefore, the judge has the right to postpone the consideration of the issue for a specific period to give the family time to contemplate the matter.
Usually, the motives that prompted the divorce are not clarified when there is the mutual desire of the parties to break off the relationship. But in the case of unilateral divorce, the judge decides the settlement of specific issues, such as:
- The procedure of giving responsibilities to former spouses for the maintenance of children, including determination of the custodial parent, and visitation schedule.
- The size and procedure for establishing the obligation of one spouse to provide financial support to another.
- Distribution of property between former spouses.
How to protect yourself from a fraud-spouse?
As it turns out, there are cases where one of the spouses will try to gain a profit from a divorce in fraudulent ways.
1. Before getting married, collect the maximum amount of information about your future spouse.
This approach is more than reasonable because your safety depends on it. When getting married, it’s good to find out the state of health of your future spouse, the presence or absence of previous marriages, the ability to provide a family, social status, and friendships. Ignoring this step may subsequently lead to serious negative consequences. Before deciding to get married, at the very least, you should know:
- The financial standing of your future spouse.
- If your future spouse has a criminal record, especially concerning violence against women and children, including sexual violence, as well as fraud, possession, and distribution of drugs.
- Information about your future spouse’s previous marriages and the reason for their termination.This knowledge will save you from unpleasant surprises afterward.
2. Regularly monitor the family budget and financial flows.
In Texas, the property acquired by the spouses during the marriage (the community property) includes:
- The income of each spouse from labor, entrepreneurial activity, and the results of intellectual activity.
- Pensions, benefits, as well as other cash payments that do not have a special purpose (financial assistance, compensation for health damage, and others).
- Real estate acquired using the joint income of the spouses.
- Debts and financial obligations.
- Value documents, investments, shares in capital, and any other property acquired by the spouses during the marriage.
Periodic monitoring of the income and expenses of your family budget and general bank accounts will be of benefit in any case. Thus, you will be aware of your family’s financial situation.
3. Conclude a prenuptial agreement.
In order to protect your rights as much as possible at the time of marriage, it is recommended to draft a marriage contract between future spouses. A prenuptial contract is an agreement on the obligations and rights of spouses in a marriage. In case of divorce, it is governed by the rules of the Family Law in Texas.
Most often, the issues of this marriage contract are:
- The mode of property acquired in marriage. For different categories of property, a different regime may be used.
- The procedure for managing property acquired in marriage.
- Determination of maintenance for both in the marriage and after its dissolution.
- Issues of participation in the upbringing and education of children.
A marriage contract can be concluded both before marriage and after it (a postnuptial agreement). Any such agreement can be revised over time and be subjected to changes.
4. Save important documents.
Keep any evidence in your favor, be it checks or certificates, sales contracts, bank statements, registration certificates, and so on. Create and maintain a diary, which describes all your expenses, especially those related to the education and maintenance of children. If you are going to sell something, get the written approval of the spouse. Do not be afraid to argue about loans and mortgages.
It is better to keep all essential documents in one safe place, inaccessible to unauthorized persons. Experts say that with proper storage, these documents can not only help you out in the event of a trial but also save your further well-being.
Each happy family has a unique “micro-culture” with its traditions, myths, and stories. And each case of family relationships is individual. If conflicts arise, and there is no way to restore harmony, divorce can be inevitable.
For your financial situation to be reliable and stable, reconsider your life guidelines. Try to anticipate possible negative scenarios of your relationship and protect yourself as much as possible from destructive consequences.