A client recently asked about divorcing her husband who was pending felony criminal charges. Texas is generally a no-fault divorce state. This means that one spouse may seek and be granted a divorce based solely on the irreparable breakdown in the marriage relationship without showing anything else. However, Texas allows for a fault-based divorce decreed in favor of one spouse, which generally only matters when immigration is an issue or when the property available to divide in the marriage is significant. One of the grounds for such a fault-based divorce is the conviction of a felony that results in imprisonment for at least one year. Other fault grounds include cruel treatment, adultery, or confinement in a mental hospital for at least 3 years. It is important to note that fault grounds require proof of the ground and also proof that the grounds actually cause the divorce. In other words, it is insufficient to prove that a spouse was unfaithful during the marriage to get a fault finding. There must be additional proof that the unfaithfulness actually cause the marriage to end. The same would be said for cruel treatment or felony conviction. If the actions were tolerated for many years or ignored and the marriage continued, then fault grounds likely do not exist.
Overwhelmingly, most divorces are granted on no-fault grounds in Texas. The cost incurred of litigating over the fault grounds usually cannot be justified in the overall outcome. There has been movement among very conservative Texas legislators to negate the law allowing no-fault divorce and only permit divorces based on fault grounds. Although the simple concept of making divorce harder to get may sound like a good idea, no-fault divorce actually benefits everyone. No-fault divorce decreases the cost of divorce dramatically by providing one less issue to fight over. Think about it, to prove that a spouse is having sexual intercourse (the standard to show adultery), private investigators would have to be employed in every case. Further, for victims of domestic violence, having to provide proof and testify about the episodes of cruel treatment increases the emotional toil of the divorce.
House Bill 93 was filed in the 2017 legislative session to repeal no-fault divorce and require fault-based divorces in Texas. It was defeated, but many expect a similar bill to be introduced in the 2019 session. A survey by the Texas Bar association shows that 93% of attorneys are opposed to repeal of the no-fault divorce laws. 94% of attorneys believe that the repeal of the no-fault divorce laws would increase the attorneys fees and prolong the time it takes to get divorced. 64% of the Texas attorneys surveyed said that repeal of the no-fault divorce laws would give an advantage to a spouse opposing the divorce in the litigation.