Getting a divorce should not define who you are (no matter what anyone else says)

In the blog for the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, I am fortunate enough to be able to write about topics that are important to people like you and I. These family law topics impact the people around us to a great extent. Whether you know it or not, your neighbors, co-workers and the person at the booth next to yours at the restaurant are likely going through or have gone through some sort of family law related event. It is difficult to put into words how impactful these sorts of cases are on a person’s life.

There are certain events that leave a mark on a person’s life that cannot be removed. The first time you met your spouse. The first time you laid eyes on your baby girl or boy. The time that you received a promotion at work or when a loved one passed away. These are memories and experiences that can be negative or positive, but they are important either way. A family law case could certainly fall within that category of events that are impactful to that extent.

If you have never gone through a family law case before you would not know to the extent that people will go through really tough times in order to do something that they consider to be worthwhile for themselves and their children. Divorces and child custody cases are among the most emotionally laden and stressful legal cases that I can think of. People like you go through those cases not because they are enjoyable or easy, but because they are heart wrenching and difficult. Some things just have to be done, no matter how difficult they may be.

What you are left with at the end of a family case, no matter if you win or lose your case, is that you are in need of some self-inventory. What I mean by this is that you now need to take a good, long look at yourself and determine how you are going to approach the rest of your life. Your own sense of self-worth may have taken a beating in your family law case. Or, your sense of self-worth may have become strengthened because of a successful result that reinforces the way that you had previously considered yourself.

Either way, I would like to talk to you all today about how you can best approach the subject of self-esteem and self-preservation after a family law case. Your own sense of right and wrong up and down may temporarily be askew as a result of the stresses related to your family case. My goal in writing you this blog today is to inform you of a couple of key factors that relate to how you can maintain (or develop) a healthy sense of self after a family law case ends.

You are not admitting defeat to anyone if you get a divorce

Your marriage may end as a result of your divorce but that does not mean that your life is ending or that you have failed in some regard. Yes, the goal of a marriage is to only allow death to cause a parting of you and your spouse. That is unavoidably true. However, there are circumstances that are often beyond your direct or indirect control that can lead to a divorce becoming necessary.

We may know our spouses very well throughout dating that person and up until the time of our marriage’s infancy. However, people change with time and we are not always able to accurately predict how our spouses and even ourselves will adapt to the changes that come with the passing of time. Your spouse may have lived by a certain model of behavior as a younger individual but has now changed how they behave for any number of reasons.

It is especially true if you have children, but is nonetheless true even if you don’t, that a divorce acts as the birth of a new phase in your life. You can approach that new phase with vigor and optimism, or you can choose to let self-doubt and the opinions of others sink you before you get a chance to swim on your own.

Whatever issues you may be struggling with as a newly single person, you should know that you have what it takes to overcome them. For instance- you may have thought that your divorce was never going to end. Or that you didn’t have what it took to get through such a hard time in your life. Well, the fact that you are standing on the other side of a divorce is a testament to hard work.

Take a good, long look at yourself before moving on with your life

A child custody or divorce case offers you a great opportunity to do some serious self-reflection. Who are you and what do you want to be doing with the rest of your life is a good place to start that reflecting. What kind of parent do you want to be? If you don’t have kids, what kind of relationships do you want to expose yourself to in the future? While your family law case may have changed your perspective on life, it does not have to sink your own self-image or self-worth.

You may be thinking- we haven’t even talked about filing a lawsuit, why do we need to talk about the steps after a divorce? I want to share this information with you now because I do not want you to be surprised by how a family law case can impact your life- for better or worse. Some serious self-reflection can show you just how resilient you are.

The ins and outs of filing a family law case in Texas

Next up, we need to consider what to do when it comes to actually file a family lawsuit in Texas. You need to consider all of the information that we have shared over the past few days before taking the plunge into filing a family law case. Remember- these are deeply personal and typically very emotional issues that are related to family law cases. In many areas of the law, you can file a lawsuit and then “nonsuit” the case to make it so the case never happened. If you file a divorce prematurely, but your wife is served with the paperwork there is no going back, most likely.

The first document that is filed in any divorce case is known as an Original Petition for Divorce. Likewise, a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship is the first document that is filed in conjunction with a child custody case. These documents introduce the court to you, your child’s other parent and your children (if you have any in relation to a divorce). You will list what you are asking the court to award you in the case and then your name is signed (or the name of your attorney is signed as your representative).

Nowadays, most counties in Texas require that you file this document electronically. Many counties in our area (though not Harris County) have what is called a Standing Order that is attached to the petition after it is filed. These standing orders go into effect after every single divorce or child custody case is filed. They restrict your behavior and basically prevent you from doing anything “anti-social” towards your spouse or the opposing party. Things like physically harming your spouse, unenrolling your child from school, destroying the property of your spouse or withdrawing large sums of money from your bank account are forbidden under most standing orders.

Once the petition or SAPCR is filed client typically want to know how long it takes to actually get the other party served. In most cases, it can be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. The “x” factors include how long it takes the court’s clerk to prepare the documents for service, how quickly your opposing party can be located for service and other factors like these.

You’ve been served!

You can file your Original Petition for Divorce with the court, but the lawsuit does not officially go into effect until you provide notice of it to the opposing party in your case. That notice is provided through something called service of process, or “service” for short. The other party will then have an opportunity to respond to the lawsuit with something called an “Answer”. From that point forward, your lawsuit will have two parties and is a go for launch, so to speak.

Service of process can be performed by either a constable or by a private process server. Most family law attorneys (including our office) use private process servers to complete this requirement. A majority of the time we and our clients want to keep this process relatively quiet, so we work with clients and process servers to find out when the opposing party will be at home and not with other people. Serving your spouse with divorce papers at work can be extremely embarrassing needless to say.

Many times you may not know where your opposing party lives or works. I have had clients serve their spouse at the park, at a restaurant that they are known to frequent or at a doctor’s office. Sometimes our attorneys will have to perform detailed internet searches on a person to determine where he or she lives in order to perfect service. If you do not know where or how to find your spouse then do not worry. Our office will work with you to locate him or her so that your divorce can begin.

What if your spouse tries to avoid service?

A question that I receive with some regularity involves the possibility of your spouse trying to purposefully avoid service. Many times you and your spouse may both know that the divorce is coming, it is only a matter of which one of you is going to file and which one of you will respond to that filing. In this case, there is very little reason to purposefully avoid service.

On the other hand, in some divorce situations, you may not want to tell your spouse that you are filing for divorce because you have concerns about your well-being. In these types of cases, your spouse may do everything in their power to avoid being served. He or she may go to live with a friend for a period of time, may not come into work in order to avoid service and may even have other people lie for them about their actual whereabouts.

Don’t worry if your spouse or opposing party attempts to avoid service. Their avoiding service may delay your case to a degree, but it cannot stop your divorce. You can seek alternative methods to serve him or her if it becomes clear that personal service will not be possible. Your attorney will have to request a hearing with the judge to inform him or her about the methods that have been employed to serve your opposing party and the reasons why those attempts have been unsuccessful. Posting the petition on a door, serving a relative or other person who lives in the house, and serving the opposing party at places other than their house or business are just a few examples of alternative methods of service that are legal in Texas.

More on the initial stages of a divorce or child custody case in Texas

We are just beginning to scratch the surface of the initial stages of a family law case in Texas. If you have questions on anything that we have discussed today or are seeking more information on legal representation, please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week. These consultations are a great opportunity to have your questions answered and issues addressed directly by an experienced family law attorney.

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Other Articles you may be interested in:

  1. How to Draft and File an Answer to a Texas Divorce – Free Downloadable Forms
  2. Waivers – To sign or not to sign? The answer is don’t do it!