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Navigating Your Texas Divorce Papers A Step-By-Step Breakdown

Are you beginning a divorce case? If so, then it is important to understand the steps involved. Not knowing where your case is headed means that you cannot think of proper goals or plans for your family. Nobody enjoys being involved in a divorce.  While you are there it is best to put your best foot forward. This is what we are going to be talking about today in this blog post.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed during a divorce. Not only are there relational and emotional components to the case but there are also logistical and legal steps to concern yourself with. At the same time, access to information involved in the case is not always readily available. Knowing how and when to move forward with the case is critical. This is where having an experienced family law attorney can come in handy.

Do not worry about not knowing everything there is to know about a divorce. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are here to assist you in proceeding with your case. Not only are our attorneys experienced at serving clients in divorce, but we also have the heart of a teacher. Learning about your divorce case is critical to the success of your family. Let’s talk more about the divorce process from the perspective of the paperwork involved in a case.

Petition for divorce

A divorce petition is the initial document filed in your case. When a divorce petition is filed it allows the court to learn more about you. This includes who you are as well as who your spouse is. The date of your marriage as well as the date of your separation need to be included in the petition. Next, any children that the two of you have together who are under 18 need to be provided to the court. This way the court understands that child custody orders will need to be created.

Next, any relief being sought in the case needs to be listed in your petition. These could be requests for child support, custody orders, a parenting plan, and anything having to do with your property.

If you plan on specifying any grounds for divorce they would need to be included in your petition. Examples of fault grounds for divorce in Texas include abandonment, cruel treatment, adultery, and financial fraud in the marriage. Specifying and then proving a fault ground for divorce means that you can potentially win a disproportionate share of your community estate or more favorable child custody orders.

Service of Process

Although filing an original divorce petition is necessary this does not truly begin your case. A divorce case truly can be said to be underway after the service of process is fulfilled. Service of process means notifying your spouse of the divorce having been filed. This does not mean simply telling your spouse that you have filed for divorce. Additionally, you cannot hand him or her your divorce petition yourself and leave it at that. Rather, a formalized service process is necessary to start your divorce in Texas.

This involves hiring a private process server or law enforcement officer to personally serve your spouse. Your spouse has a right to personal service. Once your spouse is successfully served he or she has approximately 20 days to file an answer to your petition. On the other hand, your spouse can choose to waive their right to personal service. In doing so he or she would need to sign a waiver of service and have that filed with the court. A waiver of service does not waive your spouse’s right to be notified of any future court hearings.

For many people, this is the most difficult part of starting a divorce. Many of you reading this blog post may have filed for divorce but never actually followed through with serving your spouse with the paperwork. When this happens, your case will eventually be dismissed for want of prosecution. Working with an experienced family law attorney goes a long way toward helping you avoid situations where your case gets stuck in the mud at the very beginning.

Response (Answer)

As mentioned, your spouse is likely to file an answer in response to your petition for divorce. This is not just the general name given for the document. It is called an Original Answer to the Petition for Divorce. The answer is a very simple document. It generally amounts to a denial of the allegations made in a petition. An Answer must be filed within approximately 20 days of being served with divorce papers.

Your spouse may also choose to file a counter-petition for divorce. By filing a counter-petition for divorce, your spouse can make allegations of their own and request relief. It is good practice if you are the responding party to consider strongly filing a count your petition along with your answer. This allows you to submit your case to the judge and then you would not have to rely upon the petition of your spouse.

Like any other legal document, the answer filed and divorced needs to be well thought out. There are certain legal norms and drafting conventions that need to be followed. However, it is also important to be able to have the document filed on time in the correct court. Many people overlook this step when being served with divorce papers.

Temporary Orders

There is a long period during a family law case where you and your spouse adjust to life in separate households. This is generally called the temporary orders phase of a case. You will have divided most of your personal property by this point. Have children? Then the two of you adjust to transporting the kids back and forth between your homes. This is not a time that gets a lot of discussion, but it is important nonetheless. Many families develop important skills during the temporary orders phase of a case.

Temporary orders refer to not just the phase of a case but actual court documents as well. Many families will ask for temporary orders immediately upon filing for divorce. Proposed temporary orders are included in a motion filed along with the divorce petition. These temporary orders are requested to better promote the well-being of your family. They would include orders regarding property, child custody, and other elements specific to your family.

A judge can approve certain orders without a hearing for up to 14 days. This assumes that a temporary order hearing will be held immediately thereafter. Or mediation can be scheduled. As we will see, mediation for temporary orders is a key juncture in your case. Preparing for the temporary orders phase of a case means understanding the important issues being faced by your family. Accounting for these circumstances is not always easy. Having the experienced hand of an attorney to guide you greatly increases your likelihood of success.

Temporary Orders are important

Do not take the temporary orders phase of a family law case for granted. The reason is that your final orders tend to look a lot like the temporary orders in your case. Therefore, you should spend as much time as possible preparing for and negotiating temporary orders. The last thing you want to do is not take this part of your case seriously and instead focus only on final orders.

Using temporary orders as a trial run

If this is your first divorce case then you will need some time to begin to prepare for the rest of your case. Not knowing necessarily what to expect can be a major disadvantage. Many people in your position are surprised by what they experience during the temporary orders phase of a case. This can be for many reasons not the least of which is the challenges concerning co-parenting. Adjusting to life in a co-parenting environment takes practice.

For this reason, having someone to help you think through your potential temporary orders is important. You can indeed modify temporary orders, but you should not look at this as a given in your case. Rather, negotiate for temporary orders with the assumption that these orders are going to be in place for months. Thinking this way forces you to negotiate that much harder and to consider your options more thoroughly.

As you can tell, the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan take very seriously the temporary orders phase of a case. We want to ensure that our clients are well prepared for negotiating temporary orders period from there, the drafting of temporary orders is also critical to your family’s success. If you have any questions about temporary orders as a part of a divorce, contact our office for a free-of-charge consultation today.

Discovery

One of the documents that may be filed at the time of your Original Petition for Divorce are discovery request. Discovery requests allow you and your spouse to learn more about the other person’s case. For instance, let’s say that your husband owns a small business. You may be aware of many of the details surrounding his small business but probably have limited knowledge of any debt held by the business or even the yearly profits of the business.

What discovery allows you to do is to formally ask your spouse for information that can help you prepare for a trial. You can indeed ask your spouse for the information and documents informally. However, if your spouse refuses to provide you with the documents you would otherwise be in a bad position. What discovery allows you to do is request documents and information in a way that the court oversees. Both you and your spouse can make requests and offer objections to the requests of the other party. If any issues arise with discovery, then you can request a hearing for a judge to rule on these issues.

There is certainly an art and science associated with discovery requests and answers. If you do not have an attorney representing you then you may fall into the trap of responding to clearly objectionable questions. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are fortunate enough to serve clients with regularity to have discovery requests as a part of their case. With that being said, we can work with you to ensure that you are responding to and asking discovery-related questions that are appropriate.

Negotiation and Mediation

Despite what many people believe in the context of a divorce, you and your spouse are given every opportunity to work out your issues without involving a court. This involves both formal and informal negotiations. Informal negotiations can occur each day of your case. This does not have to be something scheduled by your attorney or overseen by the courts. Rather, informal settlement negotiations take place between spouses with regularity. This is especially true in those cases that are most efficient and seek to be resolved sooner rather than later.

The more issues involved in your case, the more important negotiations are. You and your spouse likely do not need a hearing or trial in your case rather, mediation offers an opportunity to reach a consensus on otherwise contentious issues. Mediation is a formalized settlement negotiation session. It involves you, your spouse, and an experienced family law mediator. The mediator hosts the mediation session and goes back and forth between you and your spouse to help facilitate discussion and negotiation. The success rate of mediation in the family law setting is tremendous.

Even if you and your spouse do not settle every issue in mediation that is OK. Reducing the issues to be heard in a hearing or trial saves time and money. Ultimately, even if you and your spouse disagree on several issues at this moment nobody is in a better position to settle the issues of your case more than the two of you. It takes work to settle a case, however. Being intentional and diligent and preparing for mediation is crucial to the future of your case.

Final Decree of Divorce

The last document in your divorce is the final decree of divorce. A final decree of divorce contains all the final orders in your case. These can be orders from a judge or settlement points from mediation. In any event, once you have the final orders you need to put them down on paper in a way that a judge is comfortable signing them. This means following the format of the final decree of divorce and making sure no orders are left out. The last thing you want to do is to think that your divorce is over only to find that information was left out of the final decree of divorce.

The final decree of divorce needs to be drafted in such a way that it is accurate and written. In the future, if any party were to violate the final decree of divorce it becomes necessary for the opposing party to file an enforcement petition. An enforcement lawsuit seeks to enforce the terms of your final orders. With that said, if a judge in the future cannot understand what your orders have to say the order cannot be enforced. This place places a heavy emphasis on well-drafted and thought-out final orders.

Before the conclusion of your divorce, you are allowed to review the final decree of divorce drafted by the attorneys in the case. Do not look at this as a formality. Rather, spend sufficient time reviewing these orders. Ask questions if you have any. It is a bad idea to sign those final orders but still have questions. Once everything is signed and a judge has put their name on the document it becomes very difficult to change any mistakes that may be included.

Final thoughts on Texas divorce papers

Although there are several steps in a divorce the divorce papers themselves do not need to be intimidating. There is a process that is followed in a divorce, and it is certainly one that you can learn over time. However, coming into a divorce with proper preparation is key. The faster you hit the ground running the more likely you are to accomplish your goals in the case. Even having goals takes some degree of preparation.

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan thanks you for spending part of your day with us here on our blog. We hope that you have learned something about the divorce process in Texas. Our attorneys post unique and informative content about the world of Texas family law each day. Please reach out to us with any questions you may have about this or any other blog that you have read on our website.

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. Interested in learning more about how your family is impacted by the material in this blog post? Contact us today.

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At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, the firm wants to get to know your case before they commit to work with you. They offer all potential clients a no-obligation, free consultation where you can discuss your case under the client-attorney privilege. This means that everything you say will be kept private and the firm will respectfully advise you at no charge. You can learn more about Texas divorce law and get a good idea of how you want to proceed with your case.

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