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Why does the divorce process surprise many Texans?

Many Texas residents facing divorce don't really know what to expect, particularly if they don't have friends or family who have been through it. They've only seen divorces on TV or read about celebrity break-ups. Both of these tend to have more drama than the real thing.

On the other hand, sometimes divorce is portrayed as just signing some papers and going your separate ways. However, any divorce, no matter how amicable, involves a fair amount of paperwork. The state has to be involved. Even if you and your spouse don't go to court to resolve your issues, a judge still has to sign the final decree.

Another misconception is that property is divided equally, especially in community property states like Texas. Under the law in some community states, property is divided 50/50. However, in Texas, the standard is "equitable" or fair distribution. Of course, if a couple can work out their property division without putting the decision in the hands of a judge, that's often the best course.

Speaking of property, many people think that they can hide or destroy assets to keep their spouse from getting them. That is always a bad move, and one that could have legal as well as financial consequences. The judge could penalize you by giving the asset to your spouse. Further, if you have a contested divorce, both people have to turn over complete and accurate financial records.

While courts care if you've cheated with your financial data, they aren't much interested in whether one spouse cheated on the other. The fact that your husband or wife was unfaithful probably won't help you in your divorce settlement unless he or she gives you everything out of guilt. Texas allows no-fault divorce, which is becoming increasingly common around the country. Therefore, spouses don't have to show that their mates behaved badly.

One last truism of divorce that is becoming a thing of the past is that women are always awarded custody of the children. Today, if a judge makes the decision, under law, he or she is supposed to do it based on the "best interests of the child."

The divorce process can be a frightening and confusing journey. It's essential to have a compassionate, experienced family law attorney on your side and to reach out to friends, family, clergy, counselors and anyone else who can help you get through it.

Source: Huffington Post, "5 Divorce Myths to Legally Separate From (Even If You're Single)," Jessica Mason, Bustle, April. 10, 2015

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