This article addresses what to do after you have been served with divorce papers in Harris and Montgomery County in Texas.
Step 1 – What are the Divorce Documents?
At the very least you likely have been served with least two documents:
- the Original Petition for Divorce and
- the Citation:
The Citation is the document that should have been served on you by the process server when they originally dropped off the Original Petition for Divorce.
This document is important because it will tell you exactly how many days you have to submit your response to the court. Once you get the Citation make sure you write down on your calendar when the deadline is to respond. You don’t want to miss this deadline!
The Original Petition for Divorce
The Original Petition for Divorce is what most people consider “divorce papers” it is the lawsuit that your spouse has started to obtain a divorce. A good way to look at the Original Petition for Divorce is as a list of requests your spouse is making of the Court against the respondent (you).
At this point, nothing has been proven, it is just a list of allegations and requests.
Step 2 – Be aware of the due date for your response
Once you are served with the lawsuit (the divorce papers) you have very little time to respond.
Under Texas Rules of Civil Procedure 99 The citation states that was served with in the divorce will provide the following notice:
"You have been sued. You may employ a Texas divorce attorney. If you or your attorney do not file a written answer with the clerk who issued this citation by 10:00 a.m. on the Monday next following the expiration of twenty days after you were served this citation and petition, a default judgment may be taken against you."
It is very important to respond by filing an answer this prevents your spouse from being able to obtain a default judgment.
A default Judgment would be judgment in favor of your spouse based on your failure to take action. It basically amounts to a one-sided argument made in front of a judge. Which means the judge will only hear your spouse’s side of the divorce case and rules based on the evidence your spouse provides to the Judge.
This is one the first things your divorce lawyer will want to do for you to protect you against.
Step 3 – File an Answer or Proceed to Step 4
The formal document you draft in response to the Original Petition for Divorce is called an “Answer.” If this is something you would like to attempt yourself we have a blog article that discusses “How to Draft and File an Answer to a Texas Divorce.”
Filing an answer is very important if you want to ensure that you are protected. It lets the court know that you plan to participate in the divorce process. If you do not file an answer your case is vulnerable to your spouse asking for a default judgment.
However, if you hire a Texas divorce lawyer they will take care of all the necessary paperwork for you.
Does Filing an Answer Mean I am Divorced?
No, filing an answer does not mean you are divorced. It only means that you plan to participate in the divorce process.
To be divorced your spouse and you will need to reach an agreement regarding:
- Being divorced
- What is going to happen with any property and debts
- What is going to happen with the children
Once an agreement is reached regarding those things:
- a divorce decree will be drafted and filed with the court.
- There will then be a hearing held to let the judge know an agreement has been reached.
- A judge will review and sign the decree
Once that has happened the judge will pronounce you divorced.
Does the Court Even have Power or Jurisdiction over Me?
Jurisdiction is just another word for authority. Jurisdiction means a Court has the authority to hear and decide a case. The Court might not have the authority to hear your divorce case
- You are the resident of another state, city in Texas, or country
- If your spouse is a recent resident of the State of Texas
- Just moved from another City in Texas
If you have questions regarding a divorce courts authority to hear your case then you will want to make an appointment to
Step 4 - Contact a family law or divorce Lawyer
In my blog article “8 Steps in the Divorce Process” I have contacting divorce or family law lawyer as being the first step in the divorce process. However, in your case it is the second step because you have been served with divorce papers.
As I discussed be aware of the time crunch you are going to want to make a decision fairly quickly about who is going to represent you in your divorce case. The longer you wait the less time an attorney is going to have to respond to the divorce lawsuit you have been served with. You might want to look at my blog article “Hiring a Divorce or Family Lawyer” for some ideas of what to consider when hiring a divorce or family law attorney.
Do I need an attorney?
As with any legal question the answer is it depends. If you truly:
- have no property
- do not have any children and
- have not been married very long
You might not need an attorney. The problem I sometime run into when discussing someone representing themselves is they tell me the above applies to them “but.” Sometimes the but is:
- We do not have any children but I did get pregnant during the marriage by…
- We do not have any property TOGETHER is all in name
- We have only been married a year but I do not know where he is because he got deported
Those buts often mean you will DEFINITELY need an attorney your simple divorce cases just got very complicated.
Step 5 – Financials, Bills, Support, Protect your Credit
Part of the divorce process is going to involve finances. You are going to need to start gathering your financial documents such as bank accounts, tax returns, pay stubs, and w-2’s.
If you have a joint account, it is a good idea to open a separate bank account for which only you have access. I have represented many clients who have had their bank accounts drained by their spouse. You should also start cutting back on expenses and saving money because the divorce process can be very expensive.
Get a copy of your credit report. Review it to make sure you are aware of all the accounts on the report. Take your spouse off any accounts in your name that they are a signatory. This will prevent your spouse from running up bills that you would be financially responsible. Also consider freezing your credit with a company such as life lock. I have had clients who have separate only to discover their spouse has used the client’s financial information to open new charge accounts in the client’s name.
Something you should consider is that most of the time during the divorce process Temporary Orders get put into place. What Temporary Orders generally means is that what you and spouse have been doing prior to the marriage in regards to finances, paying bills, or use of property you should continue to do. In other words, if you drive a particular car you should get to continue driving that car. If you have been paying the mortgage you should continue paying the mortgage.
Depending on your circumstances this may not be what happens in your divorce case. Your divorce lawyer will go into greater explanation of things you should do in the coming future. What I am saying is do not leave your spouse and children without any means of support. A judge will consider your actions in upcoming hearings and if you have drained the bank account and left your children and spouse without any money for food or to pay the rent a judge will not look very favorably at you.
Step 6 – Consider your Children
If you have children keep them in mind. Do not put your children in the middle of the divorce. Do not talk down about your spouse in front of your kids or allow anyone to talk down about your spouse in front of your children.
One reason good reason is this not health for our children. Another good reason is this can have a very negative impact on your legal case. If a judge hears that such behavior is going on in a case a Judge may appoint an Amicus Attorney to represent the children. This Amicus attorney will then investigate this behavior and make recommendations to Judge. These Recommendations could effect a custody determination or a parent’s future visitation with the children. In addition to this the Amicus Attorney is not free a Judge may order both parents to pay for the children or the Judge could order you to be 100% responsible for that attorney’s legal fees in addition to your current attorney’s legal bills.
Being served divorce papers can be scary but with the help of Spring, Texas Divorce Lawyers at the Law office Bryan Fagan you will not be alone in your divorce case. We help you to take forceful, swift, and calculated actions in order help you to obtain a favorable result.
If you want to know more about what you can do, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: “16 Steps to Help You Plan & Prepare for Your Texas Divorce”
Other Articles you may be interested in:
- What does a Default Judgment Mean in a Texas Divorce?
- How to Draft and File an Answer to a Texas Divorce - Free Downloadable Forms
- Waivers - To sign or not to sign? The answer is don't do it!
- How Much Will My Texas Divorce Cost?
- How Can I Get My Spouse to Pay My Attorney's Fees in a Texas Divorce?
- How am I going to Pay for My Texas Divorce?
- Should I Hide Money from my Spouse to Get Ready for my Texas Divorce?
- 7 Important Ways to Financially Prepare for Your Texas Divorce
- 6 Tips - On How to prepare for a Texas Divorce
- 6 Mistakes that can Destroy Your Texas Divorce Case
Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Spring Divorce Lawyer
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with ar Spring, TX Divorce Lawyer right away to protect your rights.
A divorce lawyer in Spring TX is skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan handles Divorce cases in Spring, Texas, Cypress, Spring, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.