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What Ireland's divorce reforms remind us about Texas divorce laws


Earlier this week, the New York Times reported on the latest developments with divorce in Ireland. It's a society that's been far more conservative toward divorce than American society.

Prior to this week's referendum, couples who wanted to divorce had to live apart four of the previous five years before being allowed to divorce. If that seems restrictive, consider that was a law implemented only in 1995 to make divorce legal again, by a referendum that barely secured enough votes to pass. In 1937, divorce was banned, and that restriction stood for nearly six decades.

In Texas, of course, divorce requires far less of a wait time. From the time a petition of divorce is filed by either party in court, the couple must wait at least 60 days even if they're in complete agreement over the terms of the divorce decree. Of course, it takes many couples much longer to negotiate a settlement or prepare for litigation - not to mention preparing for life after divorce.

We've seen some blog articles out there calling 60 days a long time to wait for divorce, but it's a reasonable time to wait and work through the implications of divorce. After all, some couples come into the process with different levels of divorce readiness. People who determine the relationship is over and meet with a lawyer to start the divorce process are already doing emotional work to prepare for life after divorce. Some people honestly don't suspect their spouses want divorce before petitions are filed, and go through raw, real emotions like shock, anger, and grief in the initial days, weeks, or months.

It's also important to remember that, for all the emotion attached to divorce, it's a legal document with profound financial impact. It divides assets that couples may have worked years to secure, including the home that stands as the largest financial transaction many couples have made in their lifetimes. It's not something that should be based on too-quick and too-emotional decision making.

In Ireland, the vote reduced the waiting period to two years - which might still sound too long to Texans who are experiencing divorce and want to move on. Some couples, of course, could benefit from slowing down for the reasons we talked about. And for some couples, the best divorce option is to not divorce at all - they may find, in initiating the divorce process, that they want to stay together after all and might be able to reconcile their differences through counseling.

But ultimately, every divorce is different, and in an ideal world, every divorce would move at the pace that allows each couple to arrive at a sound and mutually agreeable divorce decree. That's not how it works, unfortunately - some cases require litigation, and some couples find alternates to litigation too challenging. But many couples are able to arrive at divorce agreements outside of the courtroom in well under the two years that Ireland now requires.

If you're going through divorce, keep in mind that there's no single "right" way to divorce. At the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance, we listen to you at the outset and determine what's most important to you in your divorce. Whether litigation, collaborative law, or mediation serve you best, we can put that plan into place and move at the pace appropriate to your situation.

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