I like to think of divorce cases as having two stages. You could argue that there are far more, but I will stick with my general theory that there are two for this blog post. The first is the Temporary Orders phase of a divorce. Once you have filed for divorce, served the Original Petition upon your spouse, and they have responded with their Answer, your divorce is fully underway.
During this stage of Temporary Orders, you and your spouse attempt to temporarily negotiate the terms of your divorce. Who is going to pay what bills? What is the visitation schedule going to be like regarding your children? Which spouse is going to remain in the home? These are the type of questions that will be considered.
At the initial stage of your case, a Temporary Restraining Order will likely be filed along with your Original Petition for Divorce, restraining your and your spouse's behavior in certain areas. This would include transferring or destroying property relevant to your divorce, unenrolling your children from school, or wholly removing them from their campuses physically. Basic things like not harassing your spouse are also covered in the Temporary Restraining Order.
The Temporary Restraining Order lasts for fourteen days after the judge has signed it. The restraining order becomes a temporary injunction once you and your spouse have either agreed to terms on temporary orders or have attended a contested court hearing to do so.
Temporary Orders Hearing
As I alluded to a moment ago, you and your spouse will have an opportunity to settle your case regarding temporary orders by attending mediation or informal settlement negotiations between you and your attorneys. Usually, parties can resolve their issues and not proceed to court. If your case ends up being the exception that proves this rule, then a Temporary Orders hearing will be scheduled, and the judge will make rulings on any contested matter.
Do not let the word "hearing" fool you, however. A temporary orders hearing is a mini-trial where both you and your spouse will present evidence, question witnesses (including each other), and make arguments to the judge about how they should rule on the contested issues of your case. Once all of the evidence has been presented, the judge will decide.
Either your attorney or your spouse's attorney will take those decisions from the judge and draft temporary orders for you and your spouse to sign and submit to the judge for his signature.
Discovery- What is it?
Once you are through with the temporary orders stage of your divorce, then you will quickly transition into a quieter time, most likely. There will not be another court date set for many months unless someone violates the temporary orders or other circumstances arise.
Many attorneys will send out discovery requests to their opposing counsel during the stage of your case where you are preparing to negotiate on final orders. Discovery is tool attorneys use to investigate the other party in a case.
The investigation aims to get responses to questions and have documents provided in response to specific requests. Each side will use this information to help them learn how to proceed in negotiations and how to approach a trial if necessary.
Mediating a case for final orders
If you've attended a mediation before temporary orders (which some courts in southeast Texas require), then you would already know what mediation for final orders is. Meditation is an opportunity for you and your spouse to hire a private, independent family law attorney to assist in settling any outstanding issues in your case. The mediator would be mutually agreed upon, and you and your spouse (and your attorneys) will decide upon a date to mediate at the mediator's office.
On the day of your mediation, you and your attorney will be in one room in the mediator's office, and your spouse and their attorney will be in another. The mediator acts as a ping pong ball, bouncing back and forth between both rooms to bring about a settlement. The mediator does this by communicating settlement offers and helping each side propose counters and solve the issues before you.
Your mediator will likely be a family law attorney and experience with your judge. This is an advantage for both sides in that you can talk to the mediator about what arguments you expect to make in court. The mediator can help you decide if an issue is worth taking to the judge and how the judge would likely rule. If you believe that a particular aspect of your case is a strength and the mediator disagrees, you may approach mediation differently, with that opinion being made known to you.
The end goal of a mediation session is to sign a Mediated Settlement Agreement (MSA). An MSA will memorialize the agreements that you and your spouse came to. All parties, their attorneys, and the mediator will sign your MSA. If all issues have been resolved in mediation, your case will not proceed to trial. However, if there are any outstanding issues after mediation (even just one), your case will go to a trial for final orders.
The trial in a Contested Divorce
As we stated a moment ago, any issues you and your spouse have not resolved- either informally or in mediation- will be brought before your judge for a final trial. The same general concepts and rules applied in the temporary orders hearing are also applicable in a trial.
The issues that will be tried are different, however. More oversized picture items like what will happen with your home, who will pay what debts after the marriage, how visitation will be ordered with your children, and how your community estate will be divided are relevant issues in the final trial. In most cases, your trial will be in front of a judge, but either you or your spouse can pay a fee to have a jury hear your case instead.
The prove-up hearing and the conclusion of your divorce
Once you and your spouse have either settled your case in mediation or attended a trial, the orders in your case will be drafted into a Final Decree of Divorce. Both sides and their attorneys will sign the final version of this document once it is agreed to.
The petitioner (the party who filed the divorce) will head to court once the decree is signed off for a brief hearing in front of the judge, known as a prove-up hearing. You will appear whenever the judge's uncontested docket is called (usually first thing in the morning) to speak to the judge and alert them to the fact that your case has been resolved and the order is ready for them to sign.
If you attend the proof-up hearing, your attorney will have roughly 10-15 questions about the order you are asking the judge to sign. The Answer to most of the questions is a simple "Yes."
The judge will either approve your divorce decree and sign the order, ask your attorney to make specific revisions, or make additional orders that are appropriate given the circumstances of your case. Once the judge approves your Divorce Decree and signs the decree, you and your spouse are officially divorced.
Conservatorship to be examined in tomorrow's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
As our series on family law cases continues, we will look at conservatorship and what it means in your divorce or child custody case. It is the central component to any issues related to your children, and I hope you return to discuss it with us tomorrow.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about this subject or any other in family law, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free of charge consultations to meet with one of our licensed family law attorneys to have your questions and concerns addressed.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Texas Family Law Courts: Temporary Orders in a Divorce case
- Temporary Orders and Temporary Restraining Orders in Texas
- Getting Ready for a Hearing On Temporary Custody Orders
- Preparing for a Temporary Orders Hearing in Texas, Part Seven
- What to expect in a Temporary Orders hearing in Texas
- Texas Family Law Courts: Beginning the Divorce Process
- Texas Family Law Courts: Divorce essentials
- Texas Family Law Courts: Mediation and Divorce Essentials
- Texas Family Law Courts: What to Expect
- Harris County, Texas Family Law Court - 245TH Judicial District Local Rules
- 247TH Judicial District Local Rules
- 246TH Judicial District Local Rules
- Harris County, Texas Family Law Court - 308TH Judicial District Local Rules
- Harris County, Texas Family Law Court - 257TH Judicial District Local Rules
- Why is Separate Property Important and How to Keep it Separate in a Texas Divorce?
Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's essential to speak with one of our Houston, TX, Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our divorce lawyers in Houston, TX, are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Waller County.