This article is by Fred Dahr, a trusted Houston criminal attorney. As a divorce may be an emotional event for one or both parties going through it, it may not be possible for a couple to reach a settlement on their own. In some cases, a couple may come to a partial settlement on their own with the intent of allowing a judge to rule on other terms of the deal. What will a judge decide in your divorce case?
The Judge May Make a Ruling on Child Custody Matters
If a couple has children, a judge may have to make a ruling as to who gets the child and when. His or her ruling will be decided partially on state law and partially on what is in the best interest of the child. Therefore, if both parents are fit to raise the child and be in his or her life, they will both get parental rights.
Once a judge has made a decision and enters it into the public record, that ruling is final. If one or either parties deviate from that order, it could result in negative consequences such as spending time in jail or losing parental rights. Therefore, it may be best for parents to make child custody decisions on their own as it may allow for greater flexibility.
Judges Can Make Rulings on Child Support
Parents are generally obligated to provide support to their children even when they are not married to the child’s other parent. Often, a judge will determine how much support will be paid. The amount of support is based on each parent’s income, if the child has any special needs and if a parent is already paying support to other children. Parents can expect to pay support until the child is at least 18, but it is possible to pay support until age 21 or forever if the child is disabled.
A Judge May Rule on Spousal Support
When a marriage ends, it doesn’t mean that the couple severs all financial ties. In some cases, one person may be required to pay spousal support to a former husband or wife to help that person retain a similar lifestyle after the divorce. Typically, a judge will look at variables such as the length of the marriage, the age of each person as well as the potential income potential of each person when determining the amount of support to be paid. It is common for the higher earning spouse in a long-term marriage of 10 years or longer to pay support for many years or permanently.
Judges May Rule on Property Division Disputes
Part of a divorce involves splitting any property that was acquired during the marriage. This may also include property that was owned by one party before the marriage but becomes commingled while the couple was together.
For instance, a husband may have owned a home prior to the marriage. However, the wife may have an ownership claim if she spent $10,000 to upgrade the property or helped pay the mortgage.
It is important to note that property will almost always be split equitably if not equally. Therefore, one parent may get the house because he or she is a child’s primary caregiver while the other parent gets a cherished sports car or other valuable property.
A Judge Could Rule on the Validity of Prior Agreements
Couples are free to come to prenuptial agreements or other arrangements on their own on how to divide property or how to handle the liquidation of joint assets. However, the agreement may not be valid if it is forged, agreed to under duress or may not be reasonable or otherwise legal under state or federal law. A judge may make a ruling on the validity of any agreement that couple came to prior to the divorce, and this may play a large role in shaping the final divorce decree.
If you are getting ready to go through the divorce process, it may be in your best interest to have an attorney. An attorney may be able to help you get favorable rulings from a judge or help guide you through the next steps in your legal battle if a judge rules against you.