Life can be moving along at a normal pace when out of the blue your partner approaches you and asks you for a divorce. More truthfully, it's not so much a request for divorce than it is a statement that he or she is going to move forward with a divorce. On the one hand, you can look at the situation as a glass-half-full scenario where at least he or she has told you in person of their plans to file for divorce. On the other hand, it is never easy to be in a situation where you learn about your spouse planning to file for divorce.
Trying to figure out what to do next is the logical next step in the process for you. Depending upon your circumstances there may be quite a bit for you to consider. Do you have children? How old are your children? Are you working or are you reliant upon your spouse for income? These are the sort of questions that you may be asking yourself at this moment. There is no doubt that every divorce is difficult for the people who are going through them. However, your circumstances may be especially difficult if children are involved or if you are reliant upon your spouse for income.
Being confronted by a divorce is enough to take your breath away. However, you do not have to take the divorce lying down and you should pursue the case to the extent that you need to protect your rights. Not only that, but you should also be doing everything you can to assert the rights that you have under the Texas Family Code as far as your children and community property are concerned. While not every divorce is a knockdown, drag-out fight, every divorce case requires you to Play defense and offense.
The better prepared you can be the more intentional you can be about how you pursue your divorce will directly translate to the outcomes in your case. Very few people can wander into a divorce and at the same time wander out of one while having achieved any level of success. Rather, you need to be able to learn how to develop goals and become intentional about how you can approach those goals to have any kind of success in your divorce case. Bear in mind that if your spouse has already talked to you about their plans to file for divorce that he or she is likely ahead of you on the path toward developing a strategy.
In today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we are going to share with you our thoughts on how to best prepare for a divorce when your spouse has beat you to the punch and filed first. We will talk about how to think through the issues in your case, develop goals and ultimately develop a strategy intended to help achieve goals. While no two divorces look exactly alike, we believe that the information presented in this blog post will be helpful to you and your family no matter what circumstances you are facing.
If at the end of today's blog post, you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog 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 being served with divorce papers or generally facing a future divorce.
What does divorce mean in an immediate sense for you?
If I were just handed divorce papers by a process server or simply told about divorce by my spouse my mind would be reeling through various considerations- much like yours probably is. However, once I was able to slow down and think about the issues that are most critical to my life this is probably what would come up first. Remember- we are going to walk through some important considerations on a general level. We won't be getting into a discussion of case-specific considerations that are important to your case because we don’t know exactly what is happening in your life. If you would like to talk to an experienced family law attorney about your specific situation, then please call the Law Office of Bryan Fagan today.
Can you permanently delay your divorce by not responding?
You may be wondering whether your participation is needed in the divorce for the case to move forward. We've all heard the expression: "It takes two to tango," before. This old saying means that two people need to participate in a certain process for it to move forward. An affair cannot happen if only one person participates, for example. Rather there need to be two partners involved for the situation to be a legitimate affair or act of infidelity.
With that in mind, you may be thinking about whether divorce works like that. Say that your spouse files the divorce and hires a process server to physically hand you the paperwork from the court. You know that this may be a possibility, but you have other plans. Rather than take the divorce papers and file a response, you may choose to simply throw the divorce papers away and pretend like you never received them. Or, you may choose to keep the papers but not respond. The thought is that if you don't send in papers yourself that the divorce cannot move forward. Will this sort of plan work to stall or permanently delay the divorce?
Simply put, it does not take two to tango when it comes to a Texas divorce. Rather, your spouse can move forward with the divorce even if you never file a response. You can delay the inevitable, but you cannot stop the process from occurring. Let’s walk through what the divorce could end up looking like if you choose not to participate. I would also like to share with you what the consequences of your actions may be for failing to respond to the petition for divorce, once filed.
Your spouse bumping into you in the hallway of your home and telling you that she wants to get divorced from you does not start any formal or legal divorce proceedings. Does anyone read this blog post remember that episode of The Office where the show’s main character, Michael Scott, steps out of his office and shouts at the top of his lungs: I Declare Bankruptcy?
This is sort of like that. Mr. Scott did not do anything from a practical standpoint as far as a potential bankruptcy case was concerned. Rather, he just declared an intention to file for bankruptcy. Your spouse tells you in the hallway that she wants a divorce and does the same thing. It makes known to you that she wants to get divorced but doesn't move the case forward at all.
Rather, she must file an Original Petition for Divorce and then have that petition served upon her by a process server or law enforcement officer like a constable or sheriff’s deputy. If she goes through with these steps, then your divorce has begun. From the date on which you are served with the divorce petition, the process server will send a document back to the court to confirm the date, time, and location where you were served notice. From that point, the court will calculate the date on which you must file an answer by. That date will be the first Monday at 10:00 a.m. after the expiration of twenty days. This means that you will have somewhere between 20 and 27 days to file a formal Answer.
The Answer does not have to be a very complicated or long document, mind you. Typically all that is filed is a general denial where you would deny the allegations made against you in the divorce petition. You could also ask the court to divide up your community estate if you and your spouse are unable to do so. Getting the Answer filed before the expiration of the twenty days is essential to your being kept abreast of changes in the case, documents filed by your spouse, or a future court/mediation date.
The bottom line is that it pays for you to participate in the divorce. There is no benefit to not doing so. It may feel like you are giving up on your marriage by participating in the divorce process but that is not the case. The truth is that by filing the divorce in the first place your spouse is going to move forward- with or without you. By not participating in the process, you are giving up your right to be informed of important events and most critically to being able to negotiate for temporary and final orders in your case.
What you would be left with is your spouse being able to call the shots when it comes to important orders that will impact you and your children both now and in the future. Even if you don’t have children then your property is still at stake in the divorce. Having a court order that mandates you to pay all marital debts and take on responsibility for a car or mortgage is not uncommon when only one spouse participates in the case. At the end of the day, you need to understand this. Having a seat at the negotiating table, even if it is not a table where you want to sit, is still important.
Failing to participate in the case means not only having to abide by rules created by another person but also having the potential for failing to abide by orders of a court. If you don’t know about the orders, how can you be expected to follow them? For example, let's say that your spouse inserted a requirement that you pay $1,000 per month in child support for the support of your children into your Final Decree of Divorce. If you never knew about that, how could you possibly know how much child support to pay or even where to send payments? This is the risk that you run by not participating in the divorce.
All the while, the arrearages can add up quickly as far as child support is concerned. Interest and other penalties can attach to these payments if they are not made on time and in full. Your spouse can file an enforcement case against you where she asks the judge to hold you in contempt of court. This carries with it the possibility that you could be ordered to serve up to six months in county jail for your failure to pay. The penalties can be that severe. We don’t mention this possibility to you to scare or intimidate you. Rather, we mention it due to it being a possibility and hopefully clue you into the importance of participating in the divorce even if it is not your idea.
Hiring an attorney can be a great way for you to help ensure that the worst outcomes we have discussed in today’s blog post do not come true in your case. Your attorney cannot ensure you any particular result in your divorce, but the attorney can help you to meet filing deadlines, come up with goals for your case and negotiate a settlement for your case. It would be understandable if you were not an expert in Texas family law. After all, why would you be? An attorney will not make decisions for you in a case but will help you to make decisions after providing you with information.
Immediate concerns about your children
Other than the risks of not participating in the divorce, the other major area that you may be concerned with associated with the case has to do with your kids. If you are the parent to a child who is under the age of 18 and a child of the marriage in question, then that child will be a part of the divorce. Your relationship with that child, your ability to support him or her as well as your rights and duties about them are all at issue in divorce. Do not underestimate how your relationship with your child can be impacted by a divorce.
As a parent, we can sometimes get lulled into a false sense of security regarding our kids. We tend to think that our children are always going to be there in our home. Any time we want we can go to their room; see how they’re doing and invite them to the table for dinner. Unfortunately, if you are reading this blog post then you probably understand that this may not always be the case.
Your divorce case can impact when you see your child. Depending upon whether you are named as the managing conservator of your child you may have only visitation rights to your kids. This means that you would see them on alternating weekends during the school year and would split holidays with your ex-spouse. While you would be entitled to a longer period of uninterrupted possession during the summer that would still mean that your ex-spouse would have possession of the children more than you during the year.
All in all, this means that you need to pay particularly close attention to the details of your case and be sure that you have goals in mind. Going into a case involving your children without a goal is a mistake. Rather, be sure to understand the issues of your case, what it means to co-parent after a divorce, and what it means to be able to negotiate regarding custody and conservatorship issues during the divorce itself. While there are no guarantees in a divorce case the best opportunity you will have to accomplish these objectives is to have an experienced family law attorney represent you.
What can you do right now if your spouse came up to you an hour ago and said she wanted a divorce? Don't panic but don't freeze. A divorce is not an impossible situation to navigate but you can take steps to make it easier to achieve success- no matter how you define that term. Start by scheduling a free-of-charge consultation with one of our attorneys. From there you can make decisions for yourself on representation and any other issue that comes your way in the divorce case.
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.