One of the most challenging aspects of a divorce is that you may be served with divorce papers out of the blue by your spouse without you even expecting it. Most people are not huge fans of surprises, especially surprises like a divorce case. A divorce case touches on so many different areas of your life that it can seem like things are spiraling out of control in that you do not get a hold on anyone's site now that this case is a part of your life. However, you need to understand that if you have been served with divorce papers, you have a responsibility to yourself and your family to engage in and participate in the divorce process.
A significant challenge you would face if you were served with divorce papers out of the blue is that your spouse is likely far ahead of you in planning and preparing for this divorce. While the divorce may have been a surprise to you, it was not to your spouse. They have likely been thinking about divorce for an extended time and hiring an attorney and having the papers served on you; it shows that they have put some degree of thought, effort, and money into this case. It is up to you how to respond.
Do not assume that you will forever be at a disadvantage just because you have to play catch-up preparation for the divorce. There is information you can learn and plan that you can engage in That will help you do better in your divorce than you might otherwise have been able to in today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We will share some information about what it means to file, respond to and proceed with a divorce in Texas.
The big difference between filing for divorce and responding to a divorce
Within a single divorce case, there are two parties. The first party is called the petitioner. The petitioner is the party who files the divorce and is obligated to serve notice of the divorce process on the other party. The spouse who does not file for divorce and must respond to the divorce filing is known as the respondent. I am often asked whether it is better to be the petitioner or respondent in our divorce. In reality, there is no legal benefit to being either the respondent or the petitioner. However, there is a benefit to be the petitioner in one crucial regard.
The most significant advantage a petitioner has over the respondent in a divorce is that the petitioner can plan and think ahead about the divorce and the case itself. On the other hand, the respondent is sometimes caught off guard with the divorce filing; they may be at a month's deficit compared to the petitioner. If your spouse serves divorce papers on you, you probably need to get up to speed on your case's issues and how you are going to defend your rights.
The first thing that may catch your eye about your spouse filing for divorce is that they have hired an attorney. In your wildest dreams, you may have never envisioned your spouse hiring a lawyer to represent them and in a divorce. You assumed that, even if he were to get a divorce, neither of you would hire an attorney and would instead work to resolve the case on your own. However, now that you have had a divorcee preserve on you, it is apparent that your spouse will list the help of an attorney during the case.
Once it becomes apparent to you that your spouse will have an attorney in the case, then it becomes a necessity for you to have one. The fact of the matter is that when your spouse has an attorney, it becomes essential for you to have one. That's not to say that you are ill-equipped to make decisions for yourself or that you are not intelligent enough to understand your divorce issues. It does mean that if you are not familiar with the divorce process or about the specific steps to take during a divorce to complete your case, then it is a brilliant idea for you to have someone in your corner who knows the process very well.
Once you have decided to hire an attorney, you should meet with multiple family law attorneys to determine whether or not they are a good fit for your council and whether you will be able to work closely with them on your case. If you interview multiple attorneys and make a sincere effort to ask questions that will allow you to learn more about their attitude, experience, and opinions about your case, you will be well served. Hiring a family law attorney is essential. Do not assume that you can hire a general practice attorney and that they will handle your divorce competently.
What happens if you are served with papers first?
One of the main concerns that people have heading into a divorce is what happens if you are in a position where you need to respond to divorce papers being served on you rather than the other way around. As I mentioned a moment ago, it can be the surprise of being done without expecting it, which can be more impactful and hurtful than your marriage. Sometimes being handed divorce papers can be a jolt of reality that you could not have prepared for.
However, you have precious little time to lick your wounds once you get past this initial jolt of unexpected bad news. You need to be able to take your shocking surprise in applying that too, getting ready for your case as best as you can give your circumstances. We just talked about how important it is to have an experienced family law attorney by your side in your divorce. Once you have decided to hire an attorney and have done so, you need to start preparing a strategy for your divorce case.
Time is not always of the essence in every regard of your divorce. While it feels like you are up against an imaginary clock when you are surprised with divorce papers, the reality is that you likely have more time than you believe in preparing for your divorce. However, there are things that you should do to prepare for your divorce where time may be an issue after all. Let's walk through some of the things you should do right off the bat so that you do not lose the opportunity to do so later.
First, you should consider photographing every room in your home to inventory the property contained in it. You may think that I am over the top in doing this, but I can tell you from experience that it is not uncommon for items that you believe belong to you to find themselves "missing" once a divorce is filed. You are telling a judge that you swear that the particular item was in a specific room in your home a couple of days ago is not going to be enough evidence to have that item return to you. But it would help if you began to inventory every room in your home and all the essential things you own. You will need to do this anyways for your case, but it makes sense now.
This is especially true since you may lose access to your home at some point. Very few spouses remain living in the same house with one another during their divorce. This means that if you are the spouse who has to leave your home, you may lose access to personal property and documents that you need for your divorce in post-divorce life. The best thing that you can do is to prepare for this eventuality and assume the worst. Suppose there are financial documents or other paperwork in the home you believe you will need for your divorce. In that case, you should consider making copies of those documents or at least snapping photos of the documents using your cell phone camera. Many phones have built-in software available where you can scan a document into a PDF very quickly.
Once you have photographed the essential items in your home and have a better idea about where your financial accounts stand, you can begin to divide Community property hypothetically between you and your spouse. Any property or debts that came into being during your marriage are likely to be termed community property. Since these assets and debts are subject to division in the divorce, you need to think about how you envision That process going. Work with your attorney to devise a realistic plan on dividing up your assets and debts.
How to talk to your children about the beginning of a divorce
if a sudden divorce was thrust upon you out of nowhere, then imagine how your children will feel when they learn about the case. In some circumstances, a divorce will be filed in the filing parent will head for the Hills if they have little contact with their spouse or children moving forward. So, it falls to you as the parent who will be remaining with the children to tell them about the case and answer their questions. The subject matter that you discuss will depend in significant part on how old the kids are.
Balancing between being accurate and honest with your kids and saving them the somewhat gory details about the failings of your marriage will be a tricky tightrope to walk successfully. However, this does not excuse your unwillingness or reluctance to have the conversation in the 1st place. Kids will naturally drift into a position where they begin to blame themselves for your divorce. This is not fair; it is not necessary. They will be going through enough difficult times as it is with the breakup of your marriage period. Do not add pressure or place them in a situation where they will blame themselves for the end of your marriage.
Otherwise, you should immediately reach out to your spouse and, assuming that they will speak with you, begin to work out a plan to share custody with your children. If all it takes is a phone call to discuss reconciliation or marriage counseling, then that would be an even better period; however, if we are assuming that your marriage is not salvageable, then you should do your best to ensure that a set schedule gets in place as soon as possible as far as custody sharing between you and your spouse. Remember that kids thrive on stability and consistency in parenting. You and your spouse are still responsible for providing your children with this despite your chosen path to go down the road towards divorce.
Questions about the material contained in this blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are an excellent way for you to learn more about Texas family law and our attorneys and staff services.
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