3 cases when divorcing spouses in Texas may need legal help

Hiring a divorce lawyer may be advisable for people who face shared parenting issues, high-asset divorce or contentious separations.

Each year, thousands of people in Fort Worth and other parts of Texas navigate the difficult and legally complicated process of divorce. In 2012 alone, over 80,000 divorces occurred statewide, according to The San Antonio Express-News.

To many spouses, selecting a divorce attorney during this stressful time may feel like a burden. As a result, some spouses may consider handling the divorce process alone. This can be a harmful choice, however. In the following situations, seeking qualified legal help may be especially important for divorcing spouses.

1. High-asset divorces

Under the Texas Family Code, most assets that spouses obtain while married are considered community property. These assets include personal income, real property, retirement benefits and property that a spouse creates, such as a personally owned business. Unfortunately, dividing complex or valuable assets that legally belong to both spouses can lead to several potential pitfalls. CNBC points to the following common issues:

  • Spouses may overlook or undervalue assets that they are legally entitled to, resulting in an imbalanced settlement. Valuating complex property, such as stocks or a professional practice, may require the assistance of a professional.
  • Spouses may forget to compare the tax implications of different settlements. Assets that are subject to tax may have a substantially lower value than spouses realize.
  • Spouses may unwittingly accept a settlement that orders an unenforceable division of assets. For example, certain retirement benefits can only be awarded to a non-employee spouse with a legal order called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order.

Unfortunately, the division of property specified in a divorce settlement typically cannot be modified later, even if errors or oversights occurred. An attorney with experience in community property division may be able to help spouses avoid common stumbles and secure a balanced division of assets.

2. Shared parenting situations

In Texas, divorcing parents have the right to collaborate and create a parenting plan, which stipulates how they will share custody and visitation. If a divorce court finds that the plan serves the child's best interests, the plan will be approved. If parents fail to submit a plan that is deemed appropriate, however, the court may create the parenting plan itself.

A court-ordered plan may not adequately account for the unique relationships, circumstances and preferences of each member of the family. This is especially a concern for people with unusual obligations, such as parents who must frequently travel for work. An attorney can help a parent understand the criteria used to assess parenting plans and seek an appropriately tailored parenting plan through mediation, collaboration or litigation.

3. Contentious separations

During divorce, high-conflict individuals may deliberately provoke fights, prolong disputes and attempt to seek revenge on the other spouse. In these situations, an attorney may be able to help a person identify his or her primary goals, then develop a strategy for meeting these objectives while minimizing conflict over secondary issues. Hiring an attorney may also be beneficial if the other spouse has already sought legal representation.

Before ruling out seeking legal help, spouses who face any of these situations should consider consulting with a lawyer. This can help a person better understand the challenges that his or her divorce may present, along with the benefits that securing legal representation can offer.