One of the most anticipated events in your life, if you are going through a divorce, will be when the divorce will finally be over with. The thought of putting the divorce behind you and moving on with your life has been something that has been going through your mind for months if not longer. Now that you are inching toward the end of your divorce you may have questions about when your case will be officially done. How much longer do you need to wait and what can you do during your divorce to get your case moving in the most efficient direction?
Getting your divorce moving at warp speed (or at least something close to that)
Deciding to get a divorce is a tough decision at which to arrive. On the one hand, you may know deep down that you and your spouse are headed for a divorce and need to get divorced. On the other hand, there are completely normal human emotions that get in the way of that objective belief regarding divorce. For you and your spouse to be able to move forward to get divorced one of you needs to make the move. This sounds overly simplistic, but it is the truth.
Once you work up the resolve to file for divorce you need to get a plan set up to do what you have set out to do. Some so many people sit at home with the divorce papers in their hands (or on their laptops) and never file the case. Something has to push you to file the case and get your divorce moving in the right direction. This is not something that your cousin, boss, friend, or anyone else besides you and your spouse can do for you. Filing the divorce needs to be done after you have resolved to get divorced and then put in the work to file the papers.
Filing for divorce is typically done online. There are not many jurisdictions/counties in Texas where you can file in person at the courthouse anymore. Rather, you will need to figure out how to draft legal documents, review them, make sure that they are correct, and then file them in the correct place. Meanwhile- the rest of your life is proceeding as normal with the deadlines and stresses still a part of what you are doing. Life and family don’t take a break just because you have filed for divorce. What can you do to help yourself with this issue?
Hiring an experienced family law attorney is a good place to start. This is not just a way for me to encourage you to hire one of the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan- although that would be a good idea for you to have! Hiring an attorney is a surefire way to position yourself as well as possible to have an efficient and relatively quick divorce. Hiring an attorney cannot guarantee you any particular result. What it can do, however, is put you in a position where you can eliminate as many mistakes as possible and gear up for the tough stretches of a divorce where it can seem like your case is never going to end.
When you get to the other side of a divorce you will shake your head and say to yourself that of course, your case was going to end. To think otherwise would be foolish. However, it can reasonably seem to many people who go through a divorce that the end of the case will never arrive. You will deal with stress, anxiety, the behavior of your spouse the concern of your children- all of it can add up to you getting the distinct impression that your divorce is not going to be something that you ever see the end of. Objectively you know this isn’t the case but it’s tough to be objective when the world is coming down on you pretty hard.
A family law attorney who is experienced in handling divorces can help you to be able to keep a wide perspective in the divorce and instead focus on your goals and how best to achieve them. The people who do best in divorces are those who have goals and work to achieve those goals. In other words, an attorney can and should help you develop your "why" within the case. Your why is the reason why you are getting up out of bed each morning, go to work, and then do what you need to do that day in your case. It is not going to be easy, but it will be worth it. However, to be able to achieve that vantage point you need to have a why.
Your why can be anything important to you, but you need to figure out what it is. Having an attorney will allow you to focus on those sorts of goals and be able to better deal with the stresses of your case. If you go about getting a divorce without an attorney you can lose all perspective and instead find yourself having to focus on the logistics of your case, exclusively. Getting documents drafted and filed. Managing deadlines. These are aspects of a divorce that an attorney can help you with immensely. If you choose to not hire a lawyer, then you will find yourself having to deal with these challenges alone. It's doable but it's not easy. At a certain point, you need to think about your schedule and whether you have the time in the day to devote to a divorce. Those of you who have families, work full time, and have any other responsibilities should not assume that the hours of 10 pm to 12 am are going to work perfectly for you to devote to your divorce.
On top of that, you will need to become familiar with Murphy's Law when it comes to your divorce. Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. That's not just a rule for life but for divorce, as well. Things happen in a divorce that will be beyond the control of you or an attorney, for that matter. While you may not be able to control every part of divorce you can set yourself up for success by being able to pivot when something strange or unfortunate happens. A lot of times when life hits us we get knocked to the floor and don't necessarily know how to get ourselves back up. An attorney will be there to dust you off and help you readjust for the next stage of your case. It is not easy to find yourself having to go a different direction in your case. If you wanted to be able to win primary custody of the kids but something happens that makes it appear unlikely for that to occur, your attorney can help you by taking the circumstances as they are and planning for how to best acclimate yourself to them. You may need to come up with a creative solution to a complicated custody issue or a new possession schedule to compensate for a change in your employment. Whatever the case may be your attorney can help you change course quickly and not waste time.
Getting you positioned for the end of your divorce
Many times, after a temporary orders hearing you and your spouse, may take your foot off the gas a little and then coast until mediation for final orders. Whether you had to go through with a temporary order hearing or were able to settle your case in mediation, adjusting to life in a divorce case along with your children can be a time of having your schedules thrown for a loop where you all may need some time to acclimate yourselves to a new reality. However, you can use this time more wisely if you choose to. It will take some planning and some thought, but you can do it. Here is how.
For starters, you need to figure out if the parenting plan and possession schedule that you and your spouse have in place for your children is going to work for you long term. I know that these are just temporary orders, but temporary orders tend to become final orders often. That is, of course, the possession schedule, custody agreement or conservatorship rights that you have in place do not work well for your family. You need to evaluate the situation after a temporary order hearing to determine if these orders are going to work for you all. If the orders need to be changed or amended in some way, then that is something that you can negotiate with your spouse almost immediately. Issues with transportation and logistics as far as picking up children and dropping them off should be apparent to both you and your spouse. You can talk to him or her about how to manage the necessary changes and position yourself better for final orders mediation.
Many people who go through a divorce assume that the case will sort of go on autopilot at a certain point. You would have gotten used to the idea of sharing custody, living apart from your spouse and the whole process involved that you would just sort of go about your business without paying the divorce much attention. While this may be an understandable feeling it will not help you arrive at the end of your divorce any faster. You need to focus on the important aspects of your case even during “down” time in the divorce. It is not as if your divorce is going to have something exciting or difficult to overcome every day. There will be days that are less busy than others. However, you can and should be planning for an end to your divorce this entire period.
One of those areas where you can be planning is regarding your property. Community property division is a major part of most divorces. Because Texas is a community property state that means that the property that you and your spouse acquired during the marriage will almost exclusively be a property that can be divided in the divorce. The planning that you and your spouse must undertake regarding this subject can be exhausting but will almost certainly make a significant difference in the overall outcome of your case. Anyone that you talk to who has gone through a divorce can tell you that the more planning that is done regarding community property division, the better the outcome for their case overall. If you go into this area with no plan, then your spouse has a distinct advantage.
These are issues that are going to be decided in mediation. Mediation offers you the opportunity to discuss with your spouse the issues that are central to your case. Examples include community property division and child custody and conservatorship. There is something about attending mediation that gives you the impression that your divorce is just about done. While this may be true on some level, the reality is that you need to put in the work before mediation to settle your case. The failure to prepare means that you need to start preparing for a trial.
Mediation is great at helping parties settle their divorce cases. More than 80 percent of divorces settle in mediation using my unofficial calculations. Knowing that in one- or two weeks following mediation, a trial is sure to follow means that your backs will be up against the metaphorical wall. This puts some productive pressure on the two of you to be able to work as a team to resolve your issues. Having an objective party like a mediator present won't hurt. You may be able to lean on him or her to get new plans and a distinct perspective when it comes to the various issues of your case.
The mediator will act like a ping pong ball, bouncing back and forth between your room and the room occupied by your spouse- conveying settlement offers and counter offers and generally facilitating the discussions between the two of you. This is usually a very productive exercise if, again, you come prepared. Come to mediation with multiple possession schedules that you have thought up. Come up with an idea about how you want to divide up the community estate. Have you thought hard about how you want the house to be divided? Do you have a proposal on how the house can be paid for using only one income? The more specific your plans are mediation the better the results will be. Do not be surprised if your spouse is not receptive to your ideas on mediation if you are not coming up with specific ideas about how to prepare the settlement.
The mediated settlement agreement is what you and your spouse will be trying to have signed by both parties. The MSA contains all the settled areas of your case. These are meant to memorialize the agreement but are not yet court orders. That is up to you and your attorney, as well as your spouse and their lawyer, to draft and sign off on. You base your final decree of divorce on the mediated settlement agreement. If you and your spouse agree on the language used in a draft final decree of divorce, then you would sign along with your attorneys. If you cannot agree on a draft language, then you would need to file a motion to enter your final decree with the judge. There, you can submit the language that you want to use for your final decree and the judge can decide how the order will read.
When you have a final decree of divorce with the signature of the family court judge on it your case is finally over with. After mediation, this looks like a series of drafts being exchanged between you and your spouse until you settle on the language being used for the decree. A hearing will be held where one of you goes before the judge, answer questions, and then submit the decree for the judge’s signature. Once you have a signed version of the decree you should ask for a certified copy for your records. Now, your divorce is done. Congratulations.
The end of a divorce is not the end of your struggle towards finding a resolution to the problems of your marriage. You may yet have to figure out how to live happily as a single adult. Your children are going to have to learn how to adjust to having parents who don't live together. However, the first step towards resolving these issues is completing the divorce. If you have not begun your divorce, then I hope that this blog post can be a starting point for you.
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 how your family may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.