Once you have completed all the necessary forms for your divorce the next step is getting those forms filed with the appropriate court to proceed with your case. For example, if you are a resident of Harris County and would like to file for divorce in Harris County then you would need to figure out whether you would like to file your documents online or in person at the courthouse located at 201 Caroline street. You can have perfectly drafted documents but until those documents are filed with the court then your divorce cannot be said to be gone.
It is important to be aware That there are filing fees associated with proceeding with the divorce. In total, these filing fees can oftentimes amount to a few $100 in Texas if you are trying to file an original petition for divorce, temporary orders, and to obtain a citation to be served along with the papers upon your spouse. You can fill out an affidavit of indigency if you believe that you cannot afford to pay for these filing costs. Assuming that you were able to show that have a proven financial inability to pay these costs then these fees will be waived.
A case number will be assigned to your case once it is filed. At the top of any do-it-yourself addition for divorce, there will be a space for an A cause number as well as a court number. You should not fill these out because the clerk of the court will do so once your case has been filed and assigned to a specific court. Otherwise, you should leave this area blank and simply fill out the paperwork as instructed. Thankfully, the original divorce petition is a fairly simple document and should not take much time for you to complete.
If you find yourself having some issues with a completely new or original petition for divorce then you should stop and consider whether or not it is in your best interest to proceed with the divorce case on your own and without representation. The paperwork in a divorce only gets more complex from here and there are certain requirements for filing paperwork that needs to be followed. Making mistakes in these regards can cost you time and money in your divorce case. I think we can all agree that a divorce is not a time when you can afford to waste time or money.
Based on the county where you file your divorce, once you file your petition you may be given instructions on how to proceed as far as the next steps are concerned. If you are given a handout to follow then you should look at the handout those steps as closely as possible. Between a guide like that from the county where your divorce is filed as well as step-by-step instructions like we are providing you in this guide to a do-it-yourself divorce, you should be set up for success.
What does it mean to serve your spouse with divorce papers?
When you file your original petition for divorce as well as any other paperwork with the court then that is only the beginning of the process. From there, you will need to provide notice to your spouse at the divorce has been filed. This process is called service. The most typical means of serving your spouse with notice of the divorce would be to have a constable, sheriff, where a private processor would pick up the documents from the court house and physically hand them to your spouse. This is known as personal service. From there, your spouse would have around 20 days to file an answer showing your original petition. Once an answer has been filed your spouse would be able to receive notice of any future court dates associated with the divorce.
However, you may be asking yourself how you can proceed with the divorce if you do not know where your spouse is, it is not out of the realm of possibilities that you and your spouse may have completely lost touch with one another. In that case, you should start to come up with a plan on how to serve him or her using an alternative method of service. Here are a few different methods that you may choose to employ when it comes to an alternative method of serving your spouse.
You can attempt to serve your spouse via certified mail. To do this, you would need to first show a family court judge that you have attempted to serve him or her personally and have been unsuccessful at doing so. Once you have displayed to the court that you have exercised a certain degree of due diligence in attempting to serve your spouse personally then you may request that you serve him or her via certified mail. You would submit an affidavit at the last known address to the court and could show the judge this is where you believe that your spouse is living period from there, your spouse would be able to sign for the paperwork once to the liver to him or her.
How do you respond to the original petition for divorce?
Your spouse would have 20 days, approximately, to respond to your original petition for divorce with the document known as an answer. An answer is a straightforward document. It contains most likely a general denial of the allegations made in the original divorce petition as well as leaving open the possibility of a counter-petition for divorce being filed. In many cases, it is a good idea to file a counter-petition for divorce. Counter petition for divorce allows your spouse to make allegations of their own and request relief from the court.
An important aspect for your spouse in this situation would be that unless he or she makes allegations of their own for things like spousal maintenance or a specific division of the community estate in a counter-petition they will lose the ability to assert those rights at the end of the case. For that reason, your spouse and you for that matter are well served in working with an experienced family law attorney to help guide you in a case like this.
Notice of temporary orders hearing new paragraph Many times in a divorce case you or your spouse can request that temporary orders hearing be set up to address either of your requests for temporary orders. The temporary orders hearing will seek to establish orders that will govern your behavior and that of your spouse during the divorce. This is about temporary spousal support, child support as well as a temporary possession schedule. You and your spouse would have the opportunity to attend mediation to see if you can work out a settlement on this issue before a trial. If you were unsuccessful, then a temporary orders hearing will be held.
What happens at this stage of a divorce?
Many family court judges will require that you attend mediation before a temporary orders hearing. Mediation is a process whereby you and your spouse agreed to name a third party and independent mediator to help you negotiate a settlement when all the issues in your case. The mediator can help you both to come up with creative solutions to these problems that will allow you to agree more readily on the important issues. In the opinion of most people, avoiding a temporary orders hearing is in your and your spouse’s best interests given how unpredictable a family court judge can be when issuing orders. Rather than putting all the power to make pronouncements on your case to a family court judge mediation allows you and your spouse to take center stage and resolve those issues together.
One of the things that I will hear from people on occasion is that you and your spouse do not get along to such an extent that you cannot even negotiate well enough to come up with temporary orders in a mediation setting. While disagreements and animosity between you and your spouse may be a major reason why you are getting a divorce, you would be surprised at how effective mediation is at causing you and your spouse to come together. Also, understanding that there is a deadline to settle your case before a judge will do so can do wonders for you and your spouse in the ability to put aside your differences and settle your case.
at the end of mediation, a mediated settlement agreement would be the document created by the mediator that considers any settlements that you and your spouse were able to reach. Ideally, all the issues of your divorce for temporary orders would have been settled in mediation. However, even if only a few issues were settled in mediation then you can include those in your mediated settlement agreement. Whatever it is that you do not settle would be the subject matter of a temporary orders hearing.
The mediated settlement agreement is not a final order from the judge. Rather, you or your spouse’s attorney will have to take what's included in the mediated settlement agreement and draft orders that are In line with what you all agreed to. It is important to review the language in any proposed temporary orders so that you understand what is being ordered of you and to make sure that it comports with what was agreed to in mediation. Your failure to do so could result in your having to follow court orders that go against your interests. new paragraph finally, once your temporary orders are signed off on by all parties in their attorneys then someone's attorney would file a motion to enter the order into your case record.
This is the final step of your temporary orders phase of the case. From there, you and your spouse will work to adjust to living life in separate households and possibly sharing custody of your children if you have any under the age of 18. You should pay close attention to your possession schedule with the children during this time. For instance, if your children express a desire for any kind of change you should listen to their reason why and consider that for the final orders negotiations that you and your spouse will go through at the end of your case.
do not assume that if there is something that you do not like in the temporary orders for your case that you will be able to change those orders before mediation. Rather, what is included in temporary orders most likely will be what your funnel orders look like, as well. The main exception to this rule is if you or your spouse do something during the temporary orders phase of your case that puts your children in danger. In that case, you should work to make sure your attorney is aware of any actions on the part of your spouse so that you can address those issues in final order mediation.
The final orders phase of your divorce
The last phase of a divorce in Texas is something that I like to call the final orders phase. During this phase, you and your spouse will adjust to living in separate households and sharing custody of your children who are under the age of 18. Do not underestimate how difficult a transition this may be for your family. You should listen to the concerns of your spouse because your concerns may be the same. There is no use in fighting with your spouse unless it becomes necessary.
one part of this phase of a case that I think is incredibly important for you and your spouse to pay attention to is regarding pick up and drop off your children under a possession order. In many cases, you may figure out that some aspect of your possession order for custody times will not work. For example, it may be that you have bitten off more than you can chew regarding picking the kids up on Friday afternoon to start your weekends of visitation. If you know that you work over an hour away from your spouse’s home, but you commit to being able to get there after work on a Friday in only 30 minutes you are setting yourself up for a problem. Violations of temporary orders can result in punishment that can hinder your ability to receive the orders you want at the end of your case. As a result, it pays to be very diligent about how you negotiate and ultimately agreed to certain issues in the custody component of a case.
It is preferable to attend mediation with the same mediator who assisted you with temporary orders. While this is not always possible you and your attorney should develop a game plan on all issues related to your case including division of Community property, custody, child support, and a possession schedule. The more intentional you can be when it comes to creating this order the better off you and your family will feel once the case has ended. The mediator will be able to remember back to her mediation session months ago and can talk to you about your experiences about any number of issues before that court.
Just as we saw during the temporary orders phase of a case, any issues that are not settled upon in final orders mediation will go before a judge for trial. Mediation can act like a preparation course for a big exam. The subject matter you discussed in mediation will likely be virtually identical in the trial. One of the great parts about mediation is at the mediator will likely have experience with the judge who has been assigned to your case. That way you can run hypothetical situations past him or her and get their opinion about how a judge would likely rule on any number of subjects related to your case.
Once all the issues of your divorce have either been settled upon in mediation or orders handed down in a trial, the plaintiff's attorney will likely be responsible for drafting a final decree of divorce. As opposed to the original petition as well as the original answer, the final decree of divorce is usually an extremely long and detailed document. They give you the marching orders for the rest of your parenting and adult life when it comes to any number of subjects related to your case. If you choose to represent yourself in a divorce, then you will be responsible for drafting this document to the expectations and approval of a family court judge.
Questions about the material contained in today's 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 a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.