The answer to this question will change your life forever no one can answer it for you. Its easy for friends and family (even lawyers) to act like your decision to be obvious. Such a life-changing decision is rarely obvious. However, in the few instances where it is true, guidance can make your path easier.
If you (or your kids) have been physically abused:
Dont walk out Run! Sometimes this is easier said than done. Its complicated, I know. How will you survive? Where will you go? Where can you take your kids? How will they stay in school? How will it affect your case if you leave your house? How can you keep your spouse from finding you?
These are just a few of the worries complicating this situation, but there are also many people who can have the resources and knowledge to guide you through this process. There are many support groups, non-profit shelters, and legal avenues that you can explore. Your safety, and that of your children, is more important than anything else!
If your spouse has already filed for divorce:
Even if you dont want a divorce, your spouse has already begun the divorce process. This means that a lawsuit has been filed and a trial date will be set by the Court. Except for a small number of cases, it is likely that your divorce is "inevitable" and, if you are in Harris County, you will probably be divorced by six to nine months.
At this point, it may be in your best interest to discover your own legal options. This can help you make sure that your property settlement is fair and enforceable.
If you or your spouse needs support while the divorce is pending, a Court hearing can be held to determine the following:
Who will pay which bills?
Who will live in the house, and who will move out?
Who will drive which car, make the payments, and pay for car insurance?
How much cash support (i.e. "interim spousal support") will be needed, and for how long?
These are a few of the issues which will be included in the Temporary Orders. These are filed with the Court to help maintain the "status quo" until your divorce case is finalized.
You may be able to enter into an agreement with your spouse and his or her attorney to settle these issues without having to go to Court. Avoiding court may also help you avoid additional legal fees.
If you have kids, your rights also need to be protected in regards to the following:
Visitation and access
Your ability to make decisions concerning your children
Health insurance issues, etc.
How these issues are handled while the case is pending often affects your final decree of divorce.
If your spouse has left you and/or has stopped supporting you:
Has your spouse done any of the following?
Changed the locks to your home
Stopped depositing paychecks to a joint checking account
Taken your name off of bank accounts or credit cards
Taken your credit cards away from you
Withdrawn large amount of money from the bank, brokerage account or retirement account
Sold property (e.g. car, furniture, jewelry, etc.) without your consent
Stopped paying any of the bills (mortgage, utilities, car payment, car insurance, credit cards).
While doing one of the above doesnt automatically mean your spouse is planning to divorce you, this may be "the beginning of the end." You need immediate legal advice to make certain that your future and best interests are protected.
This is just as important for the spouse with the "only or larger income" as it is for the more financially dependent spouse. Your assets and debts are still a part of the "community estate" until your divorce is finalized.
If your spouse has someone else:
Ouch! I dont care how bad your marriage is, it hurts to know that your spouse is seeing someone else. An "affair" results in anger, hurt, resentment, self-doubt and anxiety not to mention, fear, guilt, regret and depression!
There is often a lot of discussion about:
Who is right?
Who is wrong?
Who started it?
Who did it first?
Who caused it?
How it would be different if only
While the emotional issues in this situation are obvious and over-whelming, there are legal issues at stake, too. If you are the person who has "left the marriage and moved on" it is important to end your current marriage as quickly as possible.
If it is your spouse who has someone new, it can be tempting to "pretend this is not happening" and hope that your spouse will "come to his or her senses" and want you back. Sometimes, this does happen and couples are able to "forgive and forget" and put the pieces of their relationship back together.
Most of the time, this is not the way this story ends. Regardless, if you or your spouse is having an affair, it is important to call an attorney to find out your legal rights and/or obligations and risks.
What to do first:
Please do know, however, that if you think that any of the above scenarios might apply to you, you should consult with a Family Law attorney as soon as possible. A consultation does not commit you to hiring the attorney. It can help you find an attorney that your feel comfortable with and assess your options.
What if its not as bad as all that?
Not all cases are black and white. After all, your decisions from here on can have a large impact on your life and that of any children. Make sure that you voice your questions, whether it is with your attorney or with a loved one. This can help you make an informed decision about your future.