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Fort Worth Family and Divorce Lawyers

What we do

Getting divorced is tough. We can make it easier.

Divorce, custody battles, and the division of property can be one of the most trying experiences of one’s life.

We fight to protect your rights during and after your divorce.  Some divorces are straight forward, while others may require complex litigation to guard your assets and defend your rights as a parent. No matter what unique situation you may be in at the moment, our team will help guide you to an efficient and cost-effective outcome.

You need a tenacious legal team you can trust will work each and every day for you and your children. That’s who we are.  We have experience fighting for good people like you who have found themselves in tough situations in a seemingly overwhelming process.  Our team will help ease your mind, protect your estate, and inspire the confidence you need during one, of if not the single, most demanding time of your life.  

Time and time again, our team has produced favorable results for our clients right here in Tarrant County.  The Varghese Summersett Family Law Group is committed to helping you get started with the rest of your life.  The first step on that journey begins with a consultation with us.

J. Turner Thornton


Wade Griffin


Stephanie Sabelhaus

Senior Associate

Kristen Carr

Senior Associate

Hailey Klingbeil


Laura Richardson


Julie Lystad

Intake Director

Kate Daniel

Senior Paralegal

Brittni Forbis


Alex Iacomini


Tips from a Fort Worth Family Lawyer

Preparation is essential to success.

Winning in family court is all about preparing rather than reacting. Whether you are thinking about a divorce or custody suit, or have been served with papers, you must prepare instead of react.

Communicate to your lawyer that which is most important to you. Outline ideas for compromise. Think about how you believe your spouse will handle the case. What will your spouse prioritize? Is the case likely to be amicable or unnecessarily contentious? The better prepared you are, the more likely you will achieve your desired result.

Make the most of your consultation.

You’re paying for the consultation, make the most of it. If you are prepared and concise, you’ll be able to gather information and understand your best next steps efficiently. You can prepare for the consultation by making a list of questions and concerns and making a list of your assets and debts.

File first when possible.

The person who starts a divorce by filing the petition with the court and having divorce papers served on their spouse is called the petitioner. Many people are reluctant to be the one who starts the divorce, but there are advantages to being the petitioner like in many other life situations. It’s better to be proactive rather than reactive. When you file first, your petition for divorce and motion for temporary orders will frame the issues for the divorce. You will be the first to state your position on each issue. The court reads your documents first. Your lawyer speaks first. Filing first won’t guarantee a win, but it may give you an advantage.

Know when to hold 'em.

If you want a piece of property after your suit is finalized, don’t relinquish control over it on the front end.  On the same token, if you want a better chance of retaining custody of your child, stay by your child’s side as much as possible

Temporary orders have a way of becoming permanent. It is better to thoroughly prepare on the front of the case than to scramble on the back end. Temporary Orders allow the Court to dictate how your life will be while your case is pending, and as you may assume, it is increasingly unlikely for the Court to change your situation after months of living under the Temporary Orders.

Think about it this way - it is far easier for a judge to maintain the status quo than to change something the Court perceives to be working. 

Say little.

Don’t say something to your spouse that you don’t want to be repeated to the judge. Be willing to walk away, hang up, or just keep your mouth shut. Emotions may run high when you decide to dissolve your marriage, but you have to be mindful about what you say. Words in conversations, texts, or emails can be taken out of context. Don’t say or write something you do not want a judge to read. This includes anything you might consider posting on social media. All communication may be used as evidence for or against you during your family law case, so do not give the opposing party unnecessary ammunition against you.

Let your actions speak.

Your actions and conduct should match what you are telling your attorney and what your attorney is telling the court.  The last thing the judge wants to hear is that your own actions and self-interests are trumping those of your children. When your actions contradict your words, your words lose value. How you live your life and what you prioritize will often be the best evidence you can showcase during litigation.

Most importantly, be honest.

Be honest, particularly with your attorney. Your future is at stake – your family, your property, and often even your reputation. The more open you are with your attorney, the more your attorney can understand how to meet your needs.  Conversely, if the judge catches you in a lie, no matter how small, your credibility is often destroyed in the eyes of the Court. Discuss the hard truths with your legal team so they can advise you on the best course of action.

our goal

Protecting your family, your future.

There is an old adage that a divorce can be as expensive as you make it, and there is some truth to that.  That is why understanding a client’s goals is so important. Some marriages can be brought to an end amicably, and the goal is to do so  as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, both parties are at odds, and it may take a scorch-the-earth approach for which you must prepare.  Fortunately, the team at Varghese Summersett Family Law Group have experience handling both extremes and everything in between.  There is no one-size-fits-all solution in family court, and our team has proven results both inside and outside the courtroom.

Our practice areas

We're here to help.


A divorce is one of the most difficult things a person will ever go through. Let our experience protect you from the cloud of uncertainty.

Child Custody

Child custody, also known as conservatorship, is the legal ability to make choices about a child’s life.

Property and Asset Division

Texas is a community property state. However, there are a number of factors that can affect the division of assets.

Child Support

Child support can be ordered by a court against one or both parents until the child is 18 or graduates from high school (whichever event occurs later).

Pre-Nuptial Agreement

A pre-marital, prenuptial, or antenuptial agreement is a contract that predetermines financial and property obligations for a couple getting married.

Enforcement and Modification

As you and your child's lives change, your court order may need to be modified to reflect your new reality.


Adoptions bring us joy. We will be part of the journey to ensure the newest member of your family becomes family legally.

Gray Divorce

Divorce past the age of 50 is different in many regards. We will help your marriage end well - and favorably.

Turner Thornton and Julie Lystad Fort Worth Divorce

What We’re Known For

Our Experience

While most cases are resolved without a trial, we’re at home in the courtroom. If the day comes when your case needs to be tried, we’re ready for the battle. Our experience also ensures the other side knows we bring our A-game, both in and outside of the courtroom.

Putting Clients First

We are known for putting our clients first. We’re accessible. We listen. Whether it is an “after-hours” phone call or a secure message through our Client Portal, the Varghese Summersett Family Law Group know that being accessible to their clients is one of the key distinctions they have from many other attorneys.

Guidance, Not Pressure

We are here to guide you through your decisions, but we recognize the decisions are yours to make. If you realize during our consultation that counseling and reconciliation might be what’s best for you, and that’s happened, we won’t steer you towards divorce. We want an open and honest dialogue with you, and if it turns out we can help you through the family courts, we will do so with the best of our talents.


Once you have made the decision to get divorced, the process itself begins with two steps. First filing an original petition of divorce and second serving the opposing party. Once the case is filed, the clerk will assign the case to a court and give it a case number. 


Texas law allows for family court judges to refer divorce and child custody cases to mediation. It is likely that mediation will be required before your final trial. Successful mediations end with agreements that are legally binding, enforceable, and not subject to revocation. 

Spousal Support

While Texas does not have court-ordered alimony, Texas does have contractual alimony where parties agree upon future alimony payments as a part of their divorce. In limited circumstances, Texas also has court-ordered spousal maintenance for spouses who have been married for at least 10 years.

Child Support

Texas law generally imparts a duty for a parent to provide for their child until the age of 18 or they graduate from high school (whichever is later, or until the child is emancipated.) There are also circumstances under which child support can continue past the 18th birthday.

Asset Division

Texas is a community property state. Texas law presumes property acquired during the marriage is property of both spouses. Despite this presumption, there are many reasons a court may decide that a "just and right" division of property means something else entirely. 


Situations may arise in your life that may require your decree to be modified. A court will generally want to see a substantial change in the circumstances of one of the parties or children involved in the divorce before granting a modification.
family lawyer one city place downtown

Talk to us

Start with a consultation

Clients often come to the Varghese Summersett Family Law Group for a consultation when they have been served with divorce papers or when they are contemplating filing for divorce.

During our initial consultation, we will gather facts about your case. What brought you to us? Have you been served with divorce papers? If so, what was going on before you were served? Perhaps, most importantly, we will assess your goals.

If you a contemplating filing for divorce, we will talk about what you want to see change and your ideal outcome. We will apply the law to the facts and your goals to discuss what we can achieve and the proof that will be required to reach those goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

In theory, generally the fastest an amicable divorce can be granted is 61 days. This is because Texas generally requires a 60-day waiting period between when the petition for divorce is filed and the divorce order is signed. In practice, it will take longer than that to get a divorce in most cases due to delays in the courts’ dockets and agreements that must be reached between the parties. In divorces where the parties cannot agree on the terms and conditions of divorce, the process will take much longer.

Generally, one of the spouses has to have been a resident of Texas for a continuous six-month period and a resident of the county for at least 90 days. There are some exceptions however – for instance for victims of family violence and those active in the military and stationed in Texas.

Texas is a “no fault” state for divorces which means that a divorce may be granted without a finding or allegation that one spouse was at fault. In fact, many divorces are granted in Texas on the basis of “insupportability.

Texas law does not require both parties to want a divorce. If one spouse wants a divorce, the other spouse cannot legally prevent the divorce from happening. While there’s not a legal mechanism to prevent a divorce, reconciliation, particularly through counseling, may be an option worth exploring, but remember reconciliation requires two individuals working towards a common goal.

The spouse who files first is the petitioner. The spouse responding to the divorce petition is the respondent.

In Texas, child custody is referred to as conservatorship. Conservatorship takes mainly two forms: A sole managing conservatorship or joint managing conservatorship.  A sole managing conservator makes the most prevalent parenting decisions, including where the child lives. A joint managing conservator shares the responsibilities more equally. 

Real property and income acquired by either spouse during a marriage is considered community property. There’s a presumption that property owned at the time of divorce is community property but this presumption can be overcome by evidence to the contrary. 

Property obtained by one of the spouses before the marriage or inherited or gifted to just one spouse may remain that spouse’s separate property.

Texas law treats pets as property. If the pet was acquired by one spouse before the marriage, the pet is that spouse’s separate property. If the pet was acquired during the marriage, it is considered community property.

Adultery can be the basis for an at-fault divorce and may affect the court decisions in determining the division of the estate.  

Mediation is a method of settling disputes through a neutral third party – the mediator. The mediator discusses the goals of each party and their attorneys to facilitate a resolution if one is possible. If a resolution can be reached, the mediation will draft a Mediated Settlement Agreement which is irrevocable. The Mediated Settlement Agreement, in turn, will be used to create a final order to be signed by a family court judge.

Don’t forget what you say and do is under a microscope. Statements made to others, online, or directly to your spouse have a way of creeping up in family court. Don’t change an amicable divorce into a contentious divorce -and don’t make a contentious divorce worse- because of something you say. Don’t open credit cards or take out a loan in your spouse’s name without first conferring with your attorney.

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