Analyzing the Difference Between Contested and Uncontested Divorce in Texas

In Texas, we categorize divorce proceedings into two distinct types: contested and uncontested divorce. Whether you’re facing a contested or uncontested divorce, the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is your trusted resource for comprehensive legal guidance. Across communities like Baytown and Bellaire, our firm actively dedicates itself to providing invaluable insights and support to individuals navigating family law matters. We prioritize serving our clients with the utmost dedication, ensuring they have the information and assistance needed to make informed decisions throughout the contested vs uncontested divorce process in Texas.

There are some major differences between uncontested and contested divorces. How you go through each of them, the process involved, and the emotions and time commitment required of each are quite different. That is the subject matter that we will be hitting on in today’s blog post. How do you know if your divorce is contested or uncontested? What impact does the type of divorce have on your children? Is there anything you can do to cause your divorce to be one or the other? These are the sort of questions that we will be answering today.

Expanding our office presence in Houston area

Before we go any further, I wanted to make sure that you knew the Law Office of Bryan Fagan has opened two additional offices here in the Houston area. Our “home” office is located on Cypress Creek Parkway/FM 1960 just east of the Champions area. That is where you can always find our team of legal assistants, financial ambassadors, paralegals, and attorneys working hard for our clients. We have recently expanded our office space to accommodate our clients and team. If you have not done so, drop by sometime to see the changes that we have made to even better focus on our clients.

We also have two additional office locations: in Humble and Kingwood. We opened these locations to provide greater convenience for our clients residing on the east and northeast sides of Harris County. Driving across Houston is no picnic- we know that. To make life easier for you during a time when everything else may be making life more difficult we have opened these offices to clients and potential clients so that you have a place to come and speak to an attorney who cares about people and has the heart of a teacher.

Free consultation: Empowering you through information

Having the heart of a teacher means that while our attorneys can be bulldogs in the courtroom and at the negotiating table, it also means that we want to be able to provide you with information so that you can make informed decisions for your family. All of the fancy “lawyering” in the world isn’t worth much if it doesn’t amount to your being able to work through problems confidently within your case. Information is power in a divorce, and our attorneys seek to provide you with the information you need to proceed better in your divorce case.

For a free-of-charge consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys 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 can help you focus on the most important issues of your potential family law case. It is not a good strategy to aimlessly move from topic to topic with no stated goals or purpose in mind. Rather than worrying yourself to sleep each night why not speak to one of our attorneys today? We can work with you to discuss your case and make sure you know why our team of attorneys and staff are the best in Houston when it comes to family law.

What is the difference between a contested and an uncontested divorce?

Contested and uncontested divorces in Texas differ significantly. In a contested divorce, which is more common, spouses typically disagree on at least one issue. This doesn’t necessarily imply hostility; disagreements are natural even among reasonable individuals. A contested divorce simply means that you and your spouse don’t fully agree on all aspects of your divorce, which may not be a major conflict. If there’s any lack of complete agreement between you and your spouse at the outset of your case, it’s considered contested.

An uncontested divorce occurs when you and your spouse agree on all relevant issues in your case, such as child custody and property division. Ideally, you would have already reached specific agreements on these matters, simplifying the divorce process. However, some divorces initially thought to be uncontested may become contested when disagreements arise during negotiations. In such cases, the divorce proceeds as a contested divorce.

Your divorce is unique to you and your spouse. No two divorces are exactly alike, which is part of the reason our attorneys enjoy our jobs so much. Not only do we get the opportunity to serve our clients but also can think creatively out of necessity due to each case we handle is unique. What we did in serving a client last week will not necessarily have the same positive impact on you and your case. As a result, we are constantly learning and growing in how we represent clients so that you can be as ably represented as possible in your divorce.

Where do you start in a contested and uncontested divorce?

Hopefully, by now you have a good idea of what kind of divorce yours is likely to be. Again- your case can go from one to the other before filing. However, we will start by discussing the beginnings of a contested divorce because that is what your case is likely to be. A contested divorce begins by filing an Original Petition for Divorce. This is the document that tells the court of your intention to divorce your spouse. It also introduces your family to the court including your minor children. Your Original Petition for Divorce will outline any relief you are seeking from the court. While not overly detailed, this document is essential in the divorce process. You will file this document with the county or district clerk in whichever court has jurisdiction over your case.

Jurisdiction means that a court has the ability and right to issue orders related to your family. For a Texas court to gain jurisdiction over your case, you must first be a resident of Texas for at least six months. Next, you must have lived in a specific county for at least the past ninety days. You can have multiple courts with jurisdiction over your case given that you may live in one Texas county while your spouse resides in another. You can choose the county with the appropriate jurisdiction and then file your case there.

Understanding the importance of citations in divorce proceedings

A citation will need to be paid for when filing your petition. The citation will inform your spouse of their legal rights as far as filing an Answer to your Petition for Divorce. Additionally, the citation will need to be filed with the court once your spouse has been served with the divorce papers. Service means that your spouse has a right to be made aware of your filing for divorce. You can file an Original Petition but until your spouse is notified and made aware of your doing so the case has not truly begun. A private process server or constable can pick up the documents at the courthouse and then physically hand them to your spouse to have him or she served with notice. Once service is “effectuated” the citation will be returned to the courthouse by the process server or constable.

Your spouse will have approximately twenty days to file an Answer to the Original Petition. The answer usually comes in the form of a general denial of the allegations that you made in your Original Petition. Along with the Answer your spouse may choose to file a Counterpetition for Divorce which will include their allegations and requests for relief. From there, you and your spouse can set your case for mediation, submit discovery requests to each other, and generally begin the negotiation process for your case.

Navigating uncontested divorce: understanding the key differences

An uncontested divorce follows the same general timeline as a contested divorce but with some major differences in approach and process. An uncontested divorce begins with the filing of an Original Petition for Divorce, just as an uncontested divorce will. Here is where the main difference between contested and uncontested divorces first appears. In an uncontested divorce, you would likely inform your spouse of your intent to file for divorce before initiating the process. This will give him or her time to prepare a response. If you all believe that you agree on the issues in your case, or if the issues are so few that you all do not need to contest anything, then you can decide to not have your spouse served with notice of the divorce through a process server or constable.

Instead, you might opt to discuss with your spouse the option of filing a Waiver of Service. This document serves as your spouse’s Answer to your filed divorce petition. By submitting a Waiver of Service, your spouse informs the court of their decision to waive the right to be personally served with notice of the divorce filing. Instead, they agree to accept the divorce petition directly from you, saving both time and money. While the costs associated with filing for divorce and hiring a process server may seem insignificant individually, they can accumulate over time. Your spouse can complete the Waiver of Service, return it to you, and then file it with the Court.

Negotiations in a contested and uncontested divorce

Most of the divorce process involves negotiating the issues of your case with your spouse. This may be a surprise to you as television and movies make divorce out of a situation where the parties to a case are constantly in the courtroom arguing over a seemingly never-ending stream of issues. The judge is banging their gavel on the bench while the attorneys are making themselves rich in the process. Sound familiar? It may be a familiar storyline on the various screens that we watch but it is far from the reality that you are likely to encounter in your divorce.

On the contrary, your divorce is more likely to be a situation where there are long periods where no courtroom appearances occur- this is true in an uncontested and contested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, courtroom appearances are typically unnecessary until the end of your case, where either you or your spouse attend what is known as a prove-up hearing with the judge. This hearing involves reviewing your documents while you answer scripted questions from your attorney about the contents of your final decree of divorce.

Uncontested divorce

In an uncontested divorce, you will still need to negotiate your final decree of divorce. You may encounter differences of opinion on these subjects- we have already talked about how differences of opinion within an uncontested divorce are possible. However, the hallmarks of an uncontested divorce are that you expect to be able to work out these issues directly with your spouse rather than require the use of a courtroom to have a judge make those decisions for you.

You and your spouse may be able to negotiate through all of the issues of your case quickly. However, it’s important to note that even in an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse must still wait at least 60 days from the date of filing your divorce to finalize your case. Contested divorces will take longer than 60 days to complete in most situations.

Contested divorce

In a contested divorce, you and your spouse will negotiate through the various issues of your case. The more complex your case the greater the need to attend mediation. Mediation is a process where you and your spouse will agree to name a neutral, third-party attorney to oversee settlement negotiations. Likely you and your spouse will go to the office of the mediator to make settlement offers and counter offers to one another. The mediator will be present to facilitate those negotiations and also offer information that can be helpful to both sides.

If you and your spouse resolve all case issues in mediation, a trial becomes unnecessary. The mediators will draft a mediated settlement agreement encompassing all agreements reached. You and your spouse must ensure full incorporation of these agreements into your final decree of divorce. This step represents one of the final stages of divorce. Once both of you are satisfied with the decree’s contents, you sign the document, and then proceed to file it with the court.

Whether you’re navigating a contested or uncontested divorce in Texas, unexpected issues and circumstances can arise, leading to feelings of helplessness. However, with the guidance of an experienced family law attorney, you can effectively address unforeseen challenges and emerge from the process with a clear plan for moving forward. By enlisting the support of a knowledgeable attorney, you can also take proactive steps to mitigate potential problems in your divorce, ensuring a smoother resolution overall.

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