FAQ

FAQs about Family Law and Divorce in Texas

The San Antonio firm James L. Nowlin P.C., Attorneys at Law provides compassionate, professional legal support to clients facing family law issues in Bexar County and the surrounding counties in south-central Texas. Please consult the following frequently asked questions for some basic information about the divorce process and adoption, and please contact our offices if you have a specific concern.

How much does divorce cost?

Unfortunately, estimating exact future costs is very difficult, as most attorneys charge an hourly rate for their services, which varies based on their expertise and experience. Generally, however, if the parties disagree on every issue and there are many issues to resolve, a contentious and complex divorce case can cost a significant amount of money. Conversely, if the parties are able to agree to minor issues, and leave only the more complicated matters for litigation, they may be able to save on attorneys’ fees and costs.

What does a retainer cover?

Generally, a retainer fee is an advance payment on an attorney’s hourly rate. The retainer is placed in a trust account, and the attorney deducts from that account to cover costs of services as they accrue, including court costs and expenses, the work the attorney has completed, the time expended on the case, and fees charged. The amount of a retainer deposit usually depends on how complicated a case appears to be.

Do I need a lawyer if I decide to get divorced?

While you can get divorced without hiring a lawyer, an experienced family law attorney can help you deal with the legal issues surrounding your divorce and make sure that you do not miss any issues that need to be resolved during the divorce process. If you have been married for several years and the ownership of family assets has become entangled, hiring a knowledgeable attorney is especially important to protect your interests.  An experienced family law attorney can protect your property assets and the safety and welfare of yourself and your children during the pendency of your divorce.

Our attorneys provide supportive representation to those facing divorce, and have handled many cases involving complex property division and custody issues. With experienced legal counsel on your side, you can be confident in the decisions you make for you and your family.

What is the process for divorce?

In Texas, the divorce process starts when a document called an Original Petition for Divorce is filed with the District Clerk of your county. Your case then is assigned to a court handling family cases. A divorce will not be granted by the court until all property and custody issues are addressed and resolved, which may be accomplished through formal or informal settlement negotiations, or through litigation and trial. When all matters are resolved, whether by the parties or by the judge, a Decree of Divorce will be issued.

As our client, you can be sure that we will work to facilitate and expedite the divorce process as much as possible, while always protecting your rights and interests. Please see our divorce page for additional information about our representation.

How long does the divorce process take?

In Texas, there is a mandatory 60 waiting period between the time you file for divorce and the time the divorce is finalized. During the waiting period, the parties can go ahead and work out the details of their divorce and even draft and sign a Final Decree of Divorce; however, the divorce will not be finalized until the 60 days have elapsed.

Apart from the mandatory waiting period, the length of the divorce process mostly depends on the number of issues that need to be resolved and whether the parties agree or disagree on these issues. A contentious, complex divorce requiring litigation will take significantly longer than a divorce in which the parties work out a settlement agreement.

What is the process for step-parent adoption?

Adopting a step-child is the most common form of adoption in Texas. A step-parent who adopts his or her spouse’s child agrees to be fully responsible for the child, and after the step-parent adoption occurs, the non-custodial parent no longer has any rights or responsibilities for the child, including child support.

If you want to adopt your step-child, the non-custodial parent’s rights must be legally terminated, which may be a simple matter of obtaining consent or may involve a trial if the non-custodial parent seeks to maintain his or her parental rights. Once a legal termination judgment is secured, we file a petition for adoption on your behalf with the court. Please see our adoptions, step-parent adoptions, and termination of parental rights pages for more information about this area of our practice.

How is military divorce different than a regular Texas divorce?

A military divorce must be handled differently than a civilian divorce because of government regulations and other special considerations, such as military pensions, residency requirements, and certain legal protections for military service members. For example, the Service Members Civil Relief Act protects military members from lawsuits, including divorce proceedings and paternity suits, so that they can “devote their entire energy to the defense needs of the Nation.” This means that a court may stay legal proceedings against an active duty member for an initial period of 90 days, with the possibility of extending the stay depending on deployment status.

If a service member or his or her family is only temporarily residing in Texas, or is from Texas and stationed elsewhere, jurisdiction over divorce proceedings may also be an issue. Our office has extensive experience handling military divorces, and can help you navigate the federal regulations and jurisdictional questions that may arise during proceedings. Please see our military divorce page for further information.