A contested divorce occurs when spouses can’t agree on their divorce-related issues themselves. Thus, they have to get legal assistance through their case, which typically results in a hefty bill. Therefore, when filing for a contested divorce in Texas, divorcing couples should carefully consider all the aspects of such a process.
The Cost of a Contested Divorce
On average, a contested divorce in Texas costs about $15,600. However, the overall divorce cost depends on many factors, including legal assistance, marital assets division, custody battles, and the complexity of a contested case.
The most expensive part of a contested divorce is legal assistance. While in an uncontested divorce, the lawyer’s services are hardly required, a contested divorce usually implies that professional legal help is needed. In addition, the spouses may also require consultations with accountants and assessors, which will also add up to the total cost of their divorce.
If the spouses can’t agree on property or debt division, the court will have to decide for them. In Texas, everything acquired during the marriage is considered community property and should be divided equally between the spouses. Thus, it may be time-consuming to prove to the judge that one spouse’s proposal is better than the other. And in the end, the court’s ruling may not satisfy either spouse.
Custody battles are another significant factor affecting the divorce cost in Texas. If the couple cannot agree on child custody, the court will have to involve third-party experts, such as custody evaluators. Their services may cost a couple from $500 to $15,000 if either spouse requests an additional private evaluation.
Generally, if the divorce case is contested, the spouses will need an attorney. Because the average divorce attorney services in Texas costs $260 - $320 an hour, the overall contested divorce cost may rise significantly. There is a large retainer to pay at the beginning of the case. In contested cases, more than one retainer may be required.
Contested Divorce With Children
When parents cannot agree on child custody, the case goes to court for a custody determination. In custody cases heard by a judge, four issues must be considered:
- Conservatorship (this term refers to custody in Texas);
- Rights and Duties;
- Visitation; and
- Child Support.
Conservatorship (Child Custody)
The judge puts the child's best interest first when deciding child custody. In Texas, conservatorship is a legal term for custody. And thus, there are two types of conservators:
- Managing conservator; and
- Possessory conservator.
Let’s get familiar with the terms and arrangements behind them.
Managing conservators can be divided into two sub-categories: sole and joint.
A sole managing conservator is a parent exclusively responsible for making decisions for the child. Such conservatorship happens when it is proven that the joint option is not in the child's best interest.
A joint managing conservator is when the parents share the rights and duties. However, the exclusive right to make certain decisions (like where the child lives) may be awarded to one parent.
- A possessory conservator is a parent who gets the right to possession of a child according to specified conditions. In other words, this parent has a right to visitation.
Regardless of which type of conservator the child has, one conservator commonly has the right to choose the child’s primary residence and is unofficially called the custodial conservator.
According to Texas Laws, either one or both parents may be ordered to support their child financially until one of the following occurs:
- the child reaches the age of 18,
- the child graduates from high school,
- the child emancipates by marriage,
- the disabilities of the child are removed,
- the child dies.
However, if the court considers the child physically or mentally disabled, the support should be paid indefinitely.
To calculate child support, the court will apply child support guidelines. These guidelines set a basic minimum amount of support, yet the court may decide to deviate from them considering numerous factors.
The spouses can calculate the amount of the child support following the next steps:
- Step 1: Calculate monthly net resources
- Step 2: Determine how many children are eligible
- Step 3: Determine the percentage of monthly net resources they will owe
- Step 4: Apply the percentage to your monthly net resources
According to the Standard Possession Order, for parents who live within 100 miles of each other, the noncustodial parent has the following visitation arrangements: first, third and fifth weekends of every month, Thursday evenings of each week, and alternating holidays (such as Thanksgiving every other year).
Contested Divorce Without Children
Even though a contested divorce is a complicated process, for those couples without kids, it becomes relatively easier to get a divorce decree. However, divorcing spouses still have to handle such issues as property division, alimony (spousal support), debt allocation, etc.
In a contested divorce, the spouses need to hire a lawyer to represent their interests along the process. The spouses may also require a lawyer’s consultation while preparing their divorce paperwork.
Contested Divorce: Attorney Cost
Divorce attorney costs may vary depending on which county the spouses choose to proceed with their divorce. However, the average price tag in Texas is about $300 an hour. The hourly rate typically depends on an attorney's experience; thus, finding a more affordable option is possible.
Other factors may affect the overall divorce cost:
- Court filing fees (depends on the county, ranges from $250 to $300);
- Document preparation and serving;
- Use of child custody evaluation professionals (may range from $500 up to $15,000 if an additional private evaluation is required); and
- Compensating expert witnesses (may range from $245 to $500 an hour).
Contested Divorce Online
A contested divorce is a time-consuming and relatively expensive process. Unlike an uncontested divorce, where the spouses can get assistance with their paperwork using online divorce services, the spouses going through a contested divorce cannot use this option. Typically, the couple needs legal services to help them select and fill out their divorce papers.