Before a trial and likely before a temporary orders hearing in a divorce, you and your spouse will either be ordered to attend or can choose to attend mediation. Mediation is an opportunity for you and your spouse to negotiate formally over the outstanding issues of your case in an attempt to reach a settlement.
A mediator is selected by both you and your spouse. On your mediation date, both sides will appear at the mediator’s office in separate rooms. The mediator acts like a ping pong ball bouncing between you and your spouse in an effort to communicate settlement offers. If there is a common ground to be reached your mediator will do his or her best to help you and your spouse find that common ground.
While mediation does not have to result in a partial or full settlement agreement, it is often the case that your issues will be settled in mediation. A Mediated Settlement Agreement contains all of the agreed-upon issues of your case and will be signed by all parties and the mediator.
The Petitioner’s attorney will take the M.S.A. and draft temporary orders based on those agreements. By settling your case in mediation you and your spouse will be able to avoid having to go before your judge for a contested temporary orders hearing or trial. On the other hand, if mediation does not resolve every outstanding issue in your case then you and your spouse will proceed to a trial.
Final Decree of Divorce
Either after a settlement agreement is reached or a trial is completed you and your spouse will need to draft, agree to sign and submit to the judge for their signature a Final Decree of Divorce. The Decree will settle all outstanding issues of your case and will have the agreements or judge’s orders submitted to writing. The document is one, a long laundry list of the orders that you and your spouse will have to live by moving forward.
Dividing up your community estate, setting up child custody, support and visitation orders and any other issue relevant to your case will be decided and contained with the Decree.
If you took your spouse’s last name at the time of your marriage, your Final Decree of Divorce will be the document that allows you to change your last name should you want to change it back to your maiden name. You cannot change your name to something brand new, however. Your Final Decree is a very complex, detailed document. This is opposed to the Original Petition for Divorce which is typically just a few pages long.
When you first have your child the state does not require you to take a parenting class, attend any training or do anything else to “prove” that you are ready to take on the awesome responsibility that is being a parent. In fact, if our State or any other were to move towards passing a law like that it not only would seem weird but would likely be ruled to be unconstitutional.
However, once you submit yourself to the processes of the state in a divorce it is fair game for them to request that you take a parenting course of some sort. You can check the clerk’s website for the county that you reside in to see if you will need to take this parenting course. Until both parties take and complete the course you will not be allowed to finalize your divorce.
Once you complete the course a certification of completion will be sent to you via email or presented to you live if you take the course in person. That certificate will need to be filed with the clerk of your court. The subject matter is pretty straightforward in these courses and typically focuses on helping your children handle the changes in their lives after the divorce is completed and how to better co-parent with your ex-spouse.
The prove up hearing
Once your divorce has either settled or been to final trial, had a Final Decree of Divorce drafted and signed off on by all parties and their attorneys and submitted that Decree to the judge the Petitioner and their attorney will appear before the judge for a short, uncontested hearing known as a Prove Up. The Prove Up hearing basically brings to the judge’s attention that your divorce has been completed and that a final order has been approved by both sides.
In the hearing, your attorney will walk you through a short script of questions intended to alert the judge to the highlights of your case. If you all have children the judge will need to ensure that all children are being supported after the divorce and that health insurance will be provided for them. For community property matters, a division of your community estate will need to be shown.
Most courts have these hearings early in the morning before the regular docket is called. Some judges require that you call ahead to set up an appointment and check a list of documents to make sure everything is filed correctly. As long as the judge approves your Final Decree of Divorce you and your spouse will be officially divorced on that day. Typically your judge will sign your Decree that afternoon or evening.
The end of your divorce
When you leave the courthouse that day you can feel good about yourself that you’ve completed one of the most difficult processes a person will ever have to go through- divorce. Whether yours was an uncontested divorce or one that involved a lot of back and forth and disputed facts, know that your life is far from a finished product and a divorce allows you to seize future opportunities in order to better the lives of your children and yourself.
Make sure to request a copy of the Final Decree of Divorce from your attorney. Often, your attorney may even pay for a Certified copy of your Decree and will have it mailed to you. This Decree should be kept somewhere safe and convenient so that you can go back to it for reference on issues that come up. If your spouse does not abide by its terms you can confirm it by reading whatever section of your divorce decree contains orders relevant to that issue.
Before too long make sure to call your attorney’s office and ask for any documents you provided to him or her back. If you want to be safe, simply request a copy of your file. You are entitled to this and your attorney has to provide you a copy upon your request in a reasonable amount of time. This way you will have all the important documents returned to you.
Finally, if your intent is to re-marry quickly after this marriage has concluded be aware that you have to wait at least thirty days from the day that your decree is signed by the judge in order to do so. This is because both you and your spouse have up to thirty days to challenge the terms of your divorce decree or to request a motion for new trial. Once thirty days have passed you both are home free for the most part and can remarry if you would like.
Questions on divorce? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
Thank you for your time and attention as we walked with you through the different sort of family law cases in Texas- most notably divorces. If you have questions for us please do not hesitate to contact our office today. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan stand ready to assist you and your family. A free of charge consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys is only a phone call away.
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers
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 one of our Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our divorce lawyers in Houston TX are 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 Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, 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.