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Grounds for Divorce

Knowledgeable Family Law Attorneys Explain Grounds for Divorce in Texas

Denton law firm assists clients in dissolution of marriage

The legal status of marriage confers certain rights and obligations, not just for the couple but for the state as well. When an individual wants to undo that arrangement, the Texas Family Code requires that there be good cause — known as grounds — for a marital dissolution. At Hayes, Berry, White & Vanzant, LLP, we counsel divorce clients who wonder what grounds they must show to get a divorce in Texas. 

No-fault divorce in Texas

A divorce may be granted on fault or no-fault grounds. In Texas, the most common no-fault ground is called insupportability. A court may grant a divorce if “the marriage has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marital relationship and prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.” All that is required under this no-fault ground is the assertion by one spouse that personal differences make a reconciliation impossible. Other states use the terms “irreconcilable difference” or a marital relationship that is “irretrievably broken.”

There are two other no-fault divorce grounds in Texas:

  • Living apart — If a couple has lived apart for at least three years, either spouse can file for divorce. 
  • Confinement in a mental hospital — If one spouse has been confined to a mental hospital for three years and is unlikely to recover, the other spouse may seek to dissolve the marriage.

In either case, the petitioning spouse must submit proof of these circumstances to the court. 

Traditional fault grounds for divorce in Texas

The Texas Family Code sets out four traditional grounds for divorce that arise from one spouse’s failure to honor the commitments inherent in marriage. These fault-based grounds include:

  • Cruelty — A marriage can be dissolved if one spouse’s cruelty towards the other makes the union unbearable.
  • Adultery — Marriage is a monogamous relationship. If one spouse engages in sexual relations outside the marriage, the other spouse can demand a divorce.
  • Felony conviction — One spouse’s conviction of a serious crime could bring social odium upon the other spouse and possibly cause them poverty. As such, it is a ground for divorce. 
  • Abandonment — If one spouse, with the intention of abandoning the other, remains away for at least one year, the other spouse may file for divorce.

A spouse who files under any of these grounds must present evidence of the fault alleged.

Legal implications of fault vs. no-fault divorce

No-fault divorce is the easier path to marital dissolution. No stigma attaches and the court will not punish either spouse for conduct that led to the divorce. However, the court can impose adverse rulings concerning property division and child custody in certain circumstances. For example, when the court perceives that one spouse’s adultery has caused the breakdown of the marriage, Texas law allows the innocent spouse to be granted greater spousal maintenance and a larger portion of community property, especially when adultery has adversely affected the couple’s assets. For example, the court can view any gifts made to a paramour as an unfair dissipation of the marital estate, which the adulterous spouse must repay.

The court can also act to protect children from an unsafe environment. Thus, proof of cruelty or adultery can weigh heavily in a custody battle.

Effects of fault allegations on divorce proceedings

Since no one wants their dirty laundry aired publicly, the threat of fault allegations in a divorce can often provide leverage for a settlement agreement. However, idle or malicious threats often have the opposite effect, causing an accused spouse to dig in and refuse to negotiate. Therefore, spouses should not make accusations that they are not prepared to support with hard evidence. 

Contact our Denton, Texas divorce attorneys today

Hayes, Berry, White & Vanzant, LLP provides dedicated divorce representation in Denton, Flower Mound or Gainesville. Call our firm at 940-230-2386 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

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