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An Overview of the Texas Divorce Process

We all wish that we could tap the "easy" button and have the challenges of life thrown to the side for us at every opportunity. How many times throughout the day do we encounter difficulties and just want to wish them away or have someone burst into the door to finish the job or take care of the issue for us? That would be the ideal situation but it's usually a fantasy to imagine a situation where a white knight comes and saves us. As we get older, we soon realize that we are the white knights that must save ourselves.

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan want to help you navigate a divorce as easily as possible. That’s not to say that your divorce is going to come easy or that all your wildest dreams will come true when it comes to your case. Rather, we know that the seas of a divorce can be choppy and when you are out sailing there are not many people who can help you. It’s more likely that someone will be there to rescue you after a huge mistake rather than help you before it’s too late. However, having an experienced family law attorney can be the break that you need to bring your case together.

That is what we are going to cover with you here in this space. The easy road to a divorce may not be exactly what you expect it to be but it can be something where you derive a lot of benefits just from knowing some of the basics about what a divorce is, what a divorce isn't and how you can get from a starting point to an ending point with as little stress as possible. When you can finally reach the point where you have more answers and fewer questions you feel like you have the world on a string. A confident person with a deep pool of knowledge can better attack the problems in a divorce. It's not that the problems go away the more information you have but you are better able to roll with the punches and course correct the more prepared you are.

What is the waiting period for a divorce?

Getting the end of a divorce is what most people are seeking when they file. You are probably in this boat as well. The idea of filing the divorce probably doesn't get you to jump out of bed each morning. However, the idea of ending a divorce and moving on with your life probably does. That is where you are in a case when you have nothing left to negotiate upon and the final order of a divorce, the Final Decree of Divorce, is signed by all parties and the judge. When you reach this step, you know that your case is over with, and it is time to put a bow on the whole divorce. This is a nice goal to have but how do you know when you’re close to the end?

Let's first cover what it takes to file for a divorce in Texas. The state of Texas and a family court within the state must have jurisdiction over your divorce to issue rulings associated with the case. Jurisdiction is established through residency in the state of Texas. You or your spouse must have been a resident of Texas for at least the past six months before filing for divorce and you must have also been a resident of the county where you will be filing for the prior 90 days. That means you can live outside of Texas and can still file for divorce here so long as your spouse resides in Texas, and vice versa. That is the first part of the case as far as how you file for divorce here and how you qualify to file for divorce in Texas.

The other part of the equation that we need to discuss is how long you have to wait to get divorced. Imagine a scenario where you and your spouse have a relatively simple divorce where the issues are not complex and are not that many. In that sense, you all may be able to complete the negotiations in your divorce quickly. What then? Can you march down to the courthouse and just get a divorce right there? Not exactly. From the date on which you file the divorce, 60 days must have passed to have your divorce finalized by a judge.

There are some exceptions to this rule. If you have been the victim of family violence, then you can have this 90-day waiting period waived by a judge. Hopefully, this is not a relevant situation for you, but it may be. You should talk to your attorney about all the different considerations for when a court can waive the 90-day waiting period. However, it is most likely that you will need to wait at least 90 days from the date on which your petition was filed to be officially divorced. Do not go into your divorce case if this can get done any faster. I have worked with people who have built into their cases an assumption that you can get divorced faster than that. Planning on re-marrying or doing anything else for that matter quickly after filing for divorce would be a mistake.

What is the difference between a petitioner and a respondent?

Just like in any area of interest, you may have; the world of Texas family law has terminology that you need to become familiar with. This does not mean that you must purchase flashcards and keep them on your bedside table. Rather, you can learn the essential terminology of a Texas family law case by reading articles and meeting with experienced family law attorneys to learn the processes involved in filing for and obtaining a divorce. Fortunately, the terms that you are going to learn are not like speaking a foreign language. Rather, they may be words that you have never heard before but are not impossible to learn. All it takes is some practice and some effort to position yourself to learn as much as you can about the language used in Texas divorce cases.

For example, the petitioner and respondent in a Texas divorce are two of the terms that you will need to familiarize yourself with. The petitioner in a divorce case is the party that files an original divorce petition. This is the initial filing document for the divorce case. It will introduce the court to you, your spouse, and your minor children if you have any. Any relief or temporary orders that you are seeking from the court would be laid out in this document. As the petitioner, you have certain responsibilities such as providing your spouse notice of your having filed for divorce as well as information about any upcoming court hearings that have been scheduled in your case. you will likely need to personally serve your spouse with notice of the divorce by hiring a private process server or sheriff's deputy to perform the job for you. it is not as simple as handing over the divorce paperwork to your Co-parent or spouse directly. Rather, he or she has a right to be served personally with your divorce petition.

A respondent is a spouse who responds to the original petition for divorce. This makes sense, right? The respondent responds to something. The petitioner petitions (asks for) something- in this case, a divorce. We know about petitioning a divorce since that is an active role in the divorce. The respondent is the party who is in the passive role, at least initially. However, this is still an important role to play in divorce. The respondent is the spouse who does not file for divorce and is responding to the Original Petition for Divorce. Typically, this is done through a general denial that stands to deny all allegations and requests for relief that are made in the original petition. In some circumstances, the Answer is only a couple of pages long. The truth is that the Original Petition for Divorce does most of the heavy lifting for a couple going through a divorce.

The Respondent can file its petition for divorce, known as a counterpetition for divorce. This allows the respondent to be able to assert their allegations, make requests of the court and ask for a temporary order hearing if one has not yet been set. As a rule, it is wise to file a counterpetition no matter what so that you can ask for relief of your own in a trial if that becomes necessary. Otherwise, you end up playing the defense against your spouse's petition without first being able to come forward with your requests for relief for the judge to consider.

What are temporary orders?

Temporary orders give you and your spouse your marching orders for the duration of your divorce case. Without temporary orders, the two of you will be wandering about without direction. You may figure out how to make up custody or visitation orders on your own but either one of you can break those orders whenever you want with no legal repercussions. However, when you have temporary orders signed by you, your spouse, and a judge then there are actual consequences for violating an order. These orders are intended to keep you and your spouse in line during the divorce and will help you to avoid miscommunication for as long as your case lasts.

Temporary orders will cover issues related to your children. Conservatorship rights and duties are covered. Which parent will house the kids on a full-time basis? How much child support (if any) will be paid, if? What sort of visitation schedule is going to be created because of the divorce? These are examples of conservatorship issues that are frequently decided in a divorce. Conservatorship means rights and duties to children. The rights are the right to make decisions for your children about important areas in their life like their health, education, and mental health. The duties relate to your responsibility to provide your children with the essentials of life like food, shelter, and clothing.

The other major area of your case that temporary orders will deal with is the Community property division. Community property refers to the way that Texas law handles the division of property for married people. In general, the property that you and your spouse have acquired during your marriage will be considered Community property. This means that it is subject to division by a family court judge in your divorce. Note that the income that you earned from your job during the marriage is also considered to be Community property. Therefore, it doesn't matter which spouse earns more money. All that matters is that the income was earned during your marriage. You and your spouse will have primary control over how to divide up Community property. It is not necessarily true that a family court judge will play the primary role in dividing the property owned by you and your spouse. If the two of you can put your heads together and find a way to divide the property yourselves then you will be able to do so. It is only when the two of you are not able to work together to find a solution on how to divide property that a family court judge must step in.

Oftentimes mediation is the destination for parties who are interested in settling their divorce cases for temporary orders. Mediation involves hiring an experienced third-party mediator to help you and your spouse be able to settle your case and facilitate discussions regarding the most important subjects in your divorce. While many people assume that temporary orders mediation is not as important as final orders mediation this is not always the case. Rather, what is negotiated and settled upon for temporary orders will very often become what is ordered for final orders. Therefore, you need to devote as much time and attention to settlement negotiations on temporary orders as you would on final orders.

What is a prove-up hearing?

Jumping to the end of a divorce, a prove-up hearing is the final hearing that you or your spouse could have before a judge in your divorce case. Prove-up hearings are held on the uncontested docket for your court which means that nothing is being contested in the content of your hearing and only you or your spouse need to attend the hearing. Bring with you to the hearing signed copies of the final decree of divorce, a wage withholding order, documents related to the final disposition of your home, and anything else that is required by your court. If you have hired an attorney to help you manage your divorce, then he or she should be able to guide you on this. If you are representing yourself in the divorce you will need to verify the documents that are required of you to bring to a prove-up hearing.

The judge will ask you questions, and you will give simple answers to the questions about the contents of your final decree of divorce. Most of the time these are questions that you and your attorney can rehearse before the hearing. Make sure that you are aware of what to bring for the hearing. If you do not bring something necessary for the judge to review, you can cost yourself a great deal of time and will usually have to come back for a second hearing.

Divorce in Texas

Wherever you are in the process of planning for and going through a divorce in Texas you need to know that there are options available to you as far as help is concerned. You should not feel like you must go it alone during a divorce case. Rather, there are resources available to you that are at your fingertips and can provide you with assistance and perspective. We hope that this website and the information that you can gain through our attorneys is a great place for you to learn how to manage the divorce and move forward confidently in your case.

In our opinion, the best way for you to utilize the information contained in this guide to the Texas divorce process is to go a step further and contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan to speak with one of our experienced family law attorneys about the specific information in your divorce. When you do that, you can become better accustomed to the processes involved in a Texas divorce as well as learn how your specific circumstances will relate to the law and process for divorce in this state.

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.

Other Related Articles

  1. Navigating the Divorce Process in Texas: What You Need to Know
  2. 5 Misconceptions Regarding the Divorce Process
  3. The Texas Legal Process in a Divorce
  4. The Simplified Process for an Uncontested Divorce in Texas
  5. What can I do on my part to help my Texas divorce process go easier?
  6. You've filed your Divorce... now what? The "Discovery Process" and why it's important
  7. 8 Steps in the Divorce Process in Texas

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