The Law Office of Judy Ritts

Divorce Attorney in Houston, TX

         Judy Ritts is an experienced divorce lawyer in the Houston, TX area. With more than 20 years experience, the Law Office of Judy Ritts provides Houston residents with assistance in child support, child custody & all areas of family law.

Divorce - Common Terms

“Uncontested” and “Contested”

         These terms mean many different things to clients.  Some believe that a divorce is “uncontested” only if the parties can agree on everything.  Others believe the same term means that they do not want a jury.

         To a family lawyer, “uncontested” means that the parties have reached an agreement about all the issues in their case.  This agreement may have been made by the parties very early or very late in the case, with or without the help of attorneys or a mediator.  In simple terms, if you and your spouse agree about everything, your case is uncontested.

         In the process of divorce, most parties try to agree on as much as possible with little or no involvement of attorneys.  These agreements are good because they save money for the parties and reward parties for working together in a reasonable manner to resolve differences.  These agreements may not be good if they result in provisions that are grossly unfair to one party.  For example, husband and wife agree that he will pay her child support of $600 per month.   According to the Texas Family Code, however, he should be paying her $900 per month. 

         To prevent the hard feelings that can arise upon learning such information, I encourage all parties to consult their attorney before opening negotiations with the spouse.  Use this meeting to gather some information about what is reasonable and what to expect if you end up in court.  Then you can negotiate from an educated point of view.

         After the parties have had the opportunity to negotiate with each other, they still may not be able to settle all the issues.  Negotiations between the attorneys is usually the next step, although it may not last very long.

         Then comes mediation.  Parties who have one or more contested (disputed, non-agreed) issues are required to attend mediation before trial and sometimes before temporary order hearings.  During mediation, the mediator will try to help the parties reach decisions together that may not be precisely what either party wants, but will be acceptable as a reasonable compromise between their positions.

         You can see that there are many opportunities for a “contested” case to become “uncontested” along the path to divorce.  Unfortunately, not every case is resolved that way.

         “Contested” means that the parties disagree about how to resolve one or more issues.  For example, husband and wife agree on everything related to their children but do not agree about how to divide all of their property.   Or they might agree about everything with the exception of how much child support should be paid.  These disagreements mean that those issues are “contested.”

“Community Property” and “Separate Property”

         Texas is a community property state.  That means that all property acquired during marriage except by gift or inheritance is defined as community property.  Property owned prior to marriage or property acquired during marriage by gift or inheritance is defined as separate property.

         “Property” includes income and most retirement benefits earned during marriage.  Clients often refer to “my money” and “my 401(k)” but in Texas, those assets usually belong to the community and are subject to division upon divorce.  The money you inherited from your grandma, though, is your separate property and is not subject to division upon divorce.


         When community property funds are spent on a separate property asset, a reimbursement claim can be raised.  The same applies when separate property funds are spent on a community property asset.  For example, when income from husband’s job is used to make mortgage payments on husband’s separate property house (separate because it was purchased prior to marriage), a reimbursement claim can be made.  It requests that the community be reimbursed for some of the funds that it has spent to reduce the debt on husband’s separate property.

         Reimbursement can also be asserted when separate property (wife’s inherited money) is spent on community property (kitchen renovations to a house purchased during marriage).

         Please don’t think you can just add up all the money spent and get reimbursed dollar for dollar.  It is never that simple and you will need a lawyer to help you determine the value of your reimbursement claim.

“No Fault” and “Fault”

         “No fault divorce” is a term commonly used to refer to a divorce based on “discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of a marriage.”  It is also known as a divorce on the “grounds of insupportability.”  This does not mean one party failed to support the other (e.g., failed to provide food, shelter, etc.).  It is the marriage that has become insupportable because of the discord or conflict described above.

         There are several “fault” grounds for divorce in Texas.  The most common are adultery and cruelty.  The primary reason to request a divorce based on fault grounds is to obtain a disproportionate share of the community estate (i.e., more than half).

         Caution!  Fault grounds are more difficult to prove than you might expect.  Proof of adultery would include photographs of the act itself, an admission by the adulterer, a paternity finding that the adulterer is the parent of a child born or conceived during the marriage but not the child of the innocent spouse.  Almost anything less leaves the door open for an evidence argument in court.  For example, a videotape of husband coming out of “the other woman’s” apartment at 3:00 a.m. does not PROVE they had sex. 

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Practice Areas
  • Family Law
  • Divorce
  • Adoption Law
  • Child Custody Law
  • Child Support
  • Visitation Rights
  • Domestic Violence
  • Spousal Support
  • Paternity
  • Father's Rights

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