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Explaining the Contested Divorce Process in Texas

No two divorces are exactly similar. In that way, they are like snowflakes. Unpleasant, frustrating and time consuming snowflakes. Make no mistake, divorces are difficult for both spouses and if there are children involved the process becomes even more difficult.

While it is not guaranteed that a divorce will be a contentious ordeal it is possible. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are equipped to handle a divorce case no matter the facts or circumstances.

The First Mile Stone - Mediation

Often one of the most memorable milestones in a contested divorce case is mediation. Mediation is where both parties and their divorce attorneys visit with an independent attorney (someone who has no relation to either party) with the intent to negotiate and settle on temporary orders.

Whether or not mediation is successful depends on the issues that are being discussed as well as the level of preparation that is undertaken. At the outset of the case, issues ranging from visitation, possession and access to the kids to who will be responsible for paying the household bills are fair game for discussion.

An important aspect of mediating a case is for both sides to become comfortable with taking the middle road rather than being unwilling to accept a result that is anything less than their ideal result.

The importance of negotiation and approaching a situation from the opposing party's vantage point is crucial. Mediation can often result in the parties achieving an outcome that is more agreeable to both sides than what can be achieved in a courtroom. What's more- it saves time and money to mediate a case rather than prolong the issues by going to court.

The Second Mile Stone – Temporary Orders Hearing

Unfortunately, not all meditations are successful and if the parties' issues cannot be resolved between themselves it can become necessary to have a judge play tie breaker. A Temporary Orders hearing is essentially a mini trial where evidence is presented through testimony and documents.

Time is of the essence in a temporary orders hearing with both sides typically being limited to less than an hour to put forth their case. The divorce attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC would recommend avoiding having to attend a temporary orders hearing unless the situation absolutely requires it.

For one, a judge is typically not in a position to be able to render a decision that will be agreeable to both sides. The court will follow the law in most situations and in so doing the result can be inflexible and frustrating for the parties involved. Even if a party and their lawyer believe themselves to have facts that are "good", that doesn't always amount to a positive outcome from a temporary orders hearing.

Also, a temporary orders hearing, while relatively short in duration, means a great deal of preparation time for the divorce attorney. Preparation time equals money in this instance.

Divorce Discovery

Additionally, a contested divorce means being prepared to interact on a frequent basis with your attorney. For example, in a divorce case where the parties own significant property or have financial interests that are extensive it is likely that discovery will be conducted.

Discovery is a general term given to questions that the opposing party can ask you as well as documents they can request that you produce. The purpose is to see what the facts are in the divorce so as to be able to figure out what a fair breakdown of the community estate is as well as what sort of liabilities the opponent has.

Attorneys and clients share in the heavy lifting of completing discovery and clients are often times given "homework" to complete by a certain date. Parties have thirty days to respond to discovery and get their answers back to the requesting lawyer.

On top of requests from the opposing party, an attorney will usually have a plethora of requests of their own client. At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan we will have our clients fill out some forms that assist our office with administering your case properly. A document called an Inventory and Appraisement will consider the financial state of your life in terms of your assets.

Retirement benefits, bank accounts, investments, homes that you may own and similar information is sought in order for our office to best advise clients on how to manage their personal financial lives while the opposing party is doing all it can to capture and retain whatever interest it is able to.

Another document that simplifies much of the same information contained in the Inventory and Appraisement is a Financial Information Sheet. This document is a two page basic statement of your financial life- a snapshot, if you will. Basically it seeks the money going into your home and the money going out. Your total income (wages, salaries, retirement, disability benefits, etc.) and bills (mortgage, groceries, student loans) can show a Court what your month to month financial health is.

Managing Expectations

How then can a client manage their expectations and ensure that a contested divorce, especially one involving children, is not a huge financial and emotional drain? I would start by advising folks to take a look at their case in bits and pieces rather than trying to win the case in one day.

A metaphor I heard years ago that I always like to tell clients is that if you want to eat a Buick crush it up into a itty-bitty pieces and sprinkle it on your cereal each morning. After an extended period of time, you'll have eaten that Buick without too much effort.

The point is- divorce lawyers are paid to advise clients on how to approach their cases in an intelligent manner that will best insure that their children are taken care of and their personal financial situations are maintained as well as possible.

While a contested divorce is far from easy, communicating with clients and being up front with costs and money are relatively easy ways for an attorney to build a rapport with their clients. Trust and communication are the two hallmarks of the relationships the attorneys of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC have with our clients. Please contact our office today to learn more about how we can assist you in a contested divorce scenario.

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