HOUSTON DIVORCE & FAMILY LAW ATTORNEYS
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GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE & UNEQUAL DIVISION OF COMMUNITY PROPERTY
Experienced Houston Family Law Attorneys & Houston Divorce Lawyers
Unlike many other states, Texas is a no-fault divorce state and does not require that you have to establish fault. Therefore, so long as the parties shows that there is irreconcilable or insupportable differences between the spouses, there is sufficient grounds for divorce. However, when and if applicable, you may show that the other party is at fault for the dissolution of the marriage. In Texas, there are a number of fault-based divorces. They are as follow:
Imprisonment for a felony conviction,
Cruel and inhuman treatment,
Living apart, and
Confinement in a memtal institution
There are times in which fault-based divorce is necessary to establish child-custody or if the parties cannot agree on the division of property, child support, or if one party would like the court to consider the conduct of the other party when deciding the issue, such as drug-abuse. The Houston Family Law Attorneys and the Spring Divorce Lawyers can help you determine if fault-based divorce may be an option, or advantages, in which you should file an original petition on as a fault based divorce. In some cases, a party who can establish that the dissolution of the marriage was based on the spouse’ fault, such as cruel and inhuman treatment or abandonment, can obtain a much higher award by the court in the division of property, as well as establishing basis to obtain child custody. At the very least, establishing a fault-based divorce would give the “victimized” spouse leverage in negotiating and in mediating a settlement agreement. Lastly, if you are a foreign national who was recently sponsored to the U.S. by a spouse, and thus only have a conditional green-card, or if you have a pending immigrant petition filed with USCIS, establishing a fault-based divorce may assist you to remove the conditions on your green card or to file a “self-petition” under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
To better illustrate how a fault-based divorce may be useful, consider the following examples:
Mrs. B is a citizen of Honduras. Mrs. B came to the U.S. under a K-1 fiance visa. By virtue of the visa, Mrs. B. is required to get marry with Mr. B, the U.S. citizen sponsoring-spouse, within 90 days of arrival. After one month from the date of arrival, Mr. B. and Mrs. B. formally married in the Justice of the Peace Court in Harris County, Texas. From the date in which Mrs. B arrived to the U.S., Mr. B did not allow her to leave the house without his accompany, contact any friends or family members, attend school to learn English, and he did not provide Mrs. B with any financial assistance (money), as he should. In addition, he failed to file any documents to obtain her driver’s license, identification, or to file immigration applications on Mrs. B’s behalf. Subsequent to the marriage, Mr. B was angry with Mrs. B because she attempted to contact her family in Honduras and to contact friends in the U.S. for help. Mr. B left Mrs. B and the apartment without paying rent in advance and Mrs. B. currently does not know where Mr. B is located. It has been 3 months since Mrs. B seen Mr. B.
Under the scenario stated above, Mrs. B. is eligible to file a fault-based divorce on grounds of cruel and inhuman treatment, as well as abandonment. In addition, Mrs. B. would be eligible to file a VAWA self-petition and obtain a green card to permanently reside in the U.S. Our Houston Divorce Attorneys also have experience in assisting victims of domestic violence and immigrants such as Mrs. B. Our Houston Immigration Attorneys and our Spring Family-based Immigration Lawyers work in conjunction with our North Houston Divorce Attorneys, to assist immigrants who are victims of crimes and domestic violence. Please contact our office for assistance.
Additional Grounds For Divorce
What if the spouse did not commit any grounds stated above, such as fraud or gross negligence in handling community property? Can the petitioning spouse add additional causes of actions into the Original petition for Divorce? The short answer is “YES!” The following example best describes how additional causes of actions are applicable in Texas.
Mr. A and Mrs. A have been married for 12 years and they currently have 2 minor children. The couple were married and lived in New York but moved to Houston Texas in 2005. Over the years, the couple have built up an asset, including checking, saving, retirement, and investment accounts of over 1 million dollars. Suspecting that his wife was contemplating on filing a divorce, Mr. A cashed out all assets, totaling $800,000, leaving only the couple’s retirement account of $200,000 in value and their real property. Attempting to hide the community property, Mr. A. went to Lake Charles, LA to pretend that he had gamble-off the community assets. Over the next 2 months, Mr. A. exchanged $800,000 in casino chips, only to cash it out by his friends and family, who in turn give him back the cash. Upon realizing that the couple assets are “missing,” Mrs. A. suspected foul play and immediately retained the Houston Divorce Attorneys and the Spring Child Custody Lawyers at the Law Offices of Steven Tuan Pham. Does Mrs. A. has any recourse; and if so, under what grounds?
Mr. A’s action in Example 3 constitutes a fraud. By attempting to hide assets, or “wasting” community asset, he had committed fraud upon the marriage. Although “fraud” in and of itself it not a “ground for divorce,” it is a ground for unequal distribution or division of community property. Texas does not require for there to be any grounds for divorce. Therefore, Mrs. A. may file a divorce based on irreconcilable differences and claims fraud as part of her petition. Alternatively, she may also add additional claims of gross negligence, breach of fiduciary duty to a spouse, and negligence as additional claims.
An original petition for divorce is nothing more than a civil action between two spouses. Thus, within a divorce action, the Petitioner may file an action for divorce and add additional claims in the petition. The Petitioner has the burden of prove. The Petitioner must show that the spouse acted in ways that constitute the alleged causes of actions. Under Example 3, Mrs. A must prove that Mr. A committed fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, gross negligence, and negligence. Even if Mrs. A could not prove fraud, she more likely than not would be able to prove breach of fiduciary duty as a spouse and gross negligence in how Mr. A “managed” the community property. As such, Mrs. A will most likely be able to obtain a division of community property greater than her 50% interest under the general rule. One last issue is that even though Mr. and Mrs. A were married in New York, which is NOT a community property state, Texas law applies because they are now Texas residents. As such, all assets, including community debts, acquired from the date of marriage to the date of divorce, are community property and would be divided accordingly.
If you have reasons to believe that you have actions against the spouse for a fault-based divorce, please contact the Houston Fault-based Divorce Lawyers and the Woodlands Child Custody and Child Support Attorneys at the Law Offices of Steven Tuan Pham. Our Attorneys will provide you with a personal consultation and options in moving forward with a divorce proceeding. In addition, our Houston Immigration Lawyers can assist you in determining whether a VAWA self-petition or whether you may be able to remove the conditions of your green-card based on the fault-based divorce. Our Houston Immigration Attorneys and our Spring Cypress Divorce Lawyers may be reached at 713-517-6645.
Please DO NOT rely on the information above to replace a personal consultation with our Houston Family Lawyers and our Houston Divorce Attorneys. There may be other legal issues, depending on the fact and circumstances, in which we have not had the opportunity to discuss in this article. Every case is unique and requires our Houston Child Custody Attorneys and our Spring Family Law Lawyers to review and to provide a personal consultation. Please contact our Montgomery and Harris County Divorce Lawyers at 713-517-6645 or complete our Online Contact Form.