As we begin to approach the final weeks of 2017 you may be thinking ahead
to the Holiday season and everything that still has to be done. Presents
to be purchased, decorations to put up, and coordinating your own and
your children’s holiday get-togethers. This is certainly a time
of looking ahead and anticipation.
On the other hand, some of you may be looking back on the year that was
and considering what you intended to do but for whatever reason was not
able to achieve. Maybe you wanted to get a promotion at work but your
boss never made an offer. It could be that you wanted to run a half-marathon
but hurt your knee during summer training. Or, you may be thinking about
the promise you made to yourself to move towards a
divorce from your spouse that hasn’t happened yet.
Filing for divorce is something that you should only consider after a lot
of careful thought. However, all the careful thought in the world isn’t
going to lead you towards the steps of filing for and achieving a successful
divorce in Texas. The attorneys with the
Law Office of Bryan Fagan would like to share with you the process of filing for and going through
a divorce in Texas.
Starting the Divorce- Drafting an Original Petition for Divorce
Divorces are like snowflakes- no two are the same. Your divorce will not
look like your neighbor’s or your second-cousin’s. However,
the basic steps and processes will be the same for everyone once the divorce starts.
Your divorce will begin when you file an
Original Petition for Divorce. Of course, your spouse could also file for divorce against you but I
am going to write this blog post from the perspective of you being the
filing party. There is no specific length that your petition has to be,
but the document must contain information about the identity of yourself
and your spouse as well as your children (if you have any). It is advisable
to have an attorney draft the petition as certain counties may have particular
rules about what they prefer be included in a petition.
Your petition must include the
grounds you are citing for requesting the divorce. The majority of divorces are
initiated due to a discord or conflict of personalities between spouses-
basically that you and your spouse could not get along and that there
is no chance for a reconciliation. If there are children involved then
you must state if you will be requesting to become the
primary conservator of the child. Finally, you must specify how your marital estate will be
divided up prior to the conclusion of the divorce. It is the practice
of our attorneys to always make note that our clients own certain separate
property as well that is not subject to division.
The Original Petition for Divorce is a very basic, abbreviated document
in most cases. Courts don’t require there to be much specificity
to the document other than the requirements I listed in the previous paragraph.
Once your attorney has drafted the Petition he or she will sign and file
it with the clerk of the court in your county.
Serving the Petition on your spouse
So you’ve hired yourself an attorney, drafted your Original Petition
and have successfully filed it with the court’s clerk. Your divorce
has now officially begun. The next step in the process is to inform your
spouse of this by serving him or her with the petition.
Your spouse must have “notice” of your having filed for divorce
in order so that he or she can muster a response and have their rights
represented in the legal proceedings. You and your attorney will hire a
process server or law enforcement officer to retrieve your petition from the court’s
clerk and physically hand the paperwork to your spouse. This is called
“service.” Along with the petition the clerk will prepare
a citation letting your spouse know that he or she has been sued for divorce
and that an answer is due by a certain time from the moment he or she
is given notice of the divorce.
Along with the Petition, there may be a
temporary restraining order that has been drafted by your lawyer that is served along with the Petition.
These temporary orders are intended to keep the peace during the initial
weeks of the divorce until either a
temporary orders hearing is conducted or you and your spouse settle on temporary orders in
By “keep the peace” I mean that both of you will be forbidden
from removing your children from school, harming the
property of one another and taking out loans or racking up
debt during the initial weeks of the divorce. People are capable of pretty
strange behavior during a divorce so these protections are needed more
often than you may think.
How must your spouse respond to your Original Petition?
Once you have served your spouse with a Petition for Divorce he or she
has twenty days (give or take a few days) to respond to your Petition
with what is called an
Answer. An Answer, much like your Petition, is not an overly detailed document.
Its main function is to operate as a formal response to your Petition
so that a
default judgment cannot be taken against your spouse. A default judgment can occur if your
Petition goes un-responded to for a certain period. You then have an option
to proceed to court without your spouse and request orders based on your
preferences. However, the vast majority of the time your spouse will respond
by emailing or faxing an Answer to your attorney.
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan- Advocates for southeast Texas families
I hope you now have a better understanding of the initial phases of a divorce
case in Texas. If you are considering a divorce please
Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our attorneys represent clients across southeast Texas and would be honored
to do the same for you and your family. Please contact us today in order
to set up a free of charge consultation.