How is a divorce in Texas structured in terms of stages?
No two divorces are exactly the same. As such, it is difficult to accurately predict the length of your divorce in terms of time.
However, the process that your divorce will undertake will be the same as every other person in Texas, despite your living overseas.
Temporary Orders in a military divorce
There are essentially two stages to every divorce case in Texas: temporary orders and final orders. The first of those stages involve the negotiation of temporary orders. These are exactly what they sound like- orders from the court that are not permanent and will only be in place for as long as your divorce lasts.
Basic issues like deciding who will be paying the bills, how much child support (if any) will be paid and other logistical issues like determining visitation with your child will be determined.
Obviously, if you are stationed overseas special consideration will need to be given to you in regard to how often you are able to see your child. Typically the parent with whom the child does not reside with primarily will be awarded every other weekend visitation along with a weeknight meal usually occurring on a Thursday from 6-8 p.m. For you that will not be an option so your attorney will need to work with you on figuring out what dates you have available to you for visitation with your children.
Typically the parties to a divorce attend mediation in person with a third party, neutral attorney. Again, special considerations will need to be provided to you as that will not be possible in all likelihood. If you can attend a mediation by Skype that would be for the best. I have had military members attend via a simple cell phone conference call as well.
Mediation will assist you and your spouse in determining what sort of settlements you can reach on the topics that I listed above. Any outstanding issues that are not resolved in mediation must be decided in a contested temporary orders hearing. This is a mini-trial where evidence is submitted to the judge and testimony is taken of you, your spouse and any other witnesses you both make available.
The judge will render decisions on any issues submitted to her for consideration. Either your attorney or your spouse’s attorney will take those decisions and draft temporary orders based on them. Once completed, the parties, your attorneys and the judge will sign the temporary orders. You will be bound to follow those orders until the end of your divorce with consequences if you fail to do so.
Final Orders in a military divorce
After temporary orders have been signed by the judge you and your spouse will be given a period of time to adjust to life under the orders. Some of what you agreed to or were ordered to do by the judge may require a bit of transition time. Typically after six weeks or so your attorney and your spouse’s attorney will begin to set up mediation for final orders.
Final Orders mediation is much more cumulative and comprehensive when compared to temporary orders mediation. Division of community property (bank accounts, retirement accounts, real estate, etc.) will be decided in the final orders phase of your case. Many divorces settle in mediation in Texas but there are always exceptions that require you to attend a trial.
The trial in your divorce will look similar to your temporary orders hearing. Again, evidence will be submitted to the judge in the form of tangible evidence as well as your testimony and your spouse’s as well. The judge will hear all evidence and render decisions that will be incorporated into final orders that will affect you and your spouse in the years moving forward.
When is your divorce actually finalized?
For all intents and purposes, your divorce is finished after mediation for final orders or after a trial. However, there will still need to be discussions regarding how a final order will ultimately look so be aware that your divorce will not immediately end after these important events have concluded.
Once a final order has been agreed to by all parties and their attorneys your spouse (if he is in Texas) will need to attend a final hearing called a “prove up” hearing. This is a formality that allows the judge to review the order and hear your spouse’s answers to questions regarding the order’s contents. Typically judges will declare you divorced at the conclusion of this hearing even if the final orders have not yet been signed.
You can request certified copies of your final orders from the county clerk about a week after the prove-up hearing. For many counties, Harris included, you can pull up pdf versions of the final orders on the district clerk’s website at no cost.
Can you and your spouse hire the same lawyer to represent you in a divorce?
It is possible for you and your spouse to hire the same attorney to help you manage your divorce case but the circumstances in which this sort of arrangement is advisable are limited in my opinion.
In some situations, you and your spouse may have discussed the divorce before and have decided to proceed under a mutual agreement to not draw the process out and fight over each and every issue. If you have agreements on all issues of your case then yours is an uncontested divorce. An attorney may be hired in this situation to draft orders based on the agreements made.
The sixty day waiting period from the date on which your divorce petition has been filed will still be in place. What your attorney would do during this time period is work with both parties on drafting an order that reflects the agreements that you both decided upon.
In the event that you do not want to hire an attorney to represent you in the divorce, you and your spouse can seek out an attorney’s assistance to mediate your dispute as pro se (unrepresented) parties to the divorce. A mediator provides information to both you and your spouse and does not represent either side. This is an advisable situation only if you feel certain that you and your spouse will be able to work through issues together and will not be proceeding to a trial.
Overall, attorneys face a conflict of interests in representing two people in a divorce case. It is impossible to serve two masters, so to speak, and the attorney cannot be loyal to two clients in the same legal proceeding. If you get the impression that there is any chance that your divorce could be contested or contentious it is a good idea to hire your own attorney despite what your spouse is telling you. Protect yourself, your children and your rights.
The bottom line: Be sure to have assistance in your divorce
When you are serving in the military and going through a divorce your attention is going to be pulled in many different directions. The stress associated with this balancing act can be significant so it is a smart move to lean on your support system as much as possible. An experienced family law attorney can be an integral part of this support system.
While it is true that attorneys cost money, hiring one is an investment that can have long-term implications potentially. What is decided in your divorce can impact your life for years to come. Do not assume that you will be able to go back and “get a do-over” if you miscalculate something in your divorce case. Make sure that you have representation even in cases that you feel like your spouse and you can negotiate with one another successfully.
Questions about military divorce? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC appreciate the sacrifices and the commitment to our country that is displayed by our men and women in uniform, such as yourself. We take pride in representing servicemembers and the spouses of servicemembers in divorces across southeast Texas.
For a free of charge consultation please contact our office today. We are happy to work with you on the best and easiest way for us to communicate even if you are living abroad.
If you want to know more about what you can do, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: “16 Steps to Help You Plan & Prepare for Your Texas Divorce”
If you want to know more about how to prepare, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: “13 Dirty Tricks to Watch Out For in Your Texas Divorce, and How to Counter Them" Today!”
Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Answers to popular questions regarding military divorces
- Divorcing your spouse while serving in the military abroad
- The division of military benefits in a Texas Divorce
- Military Divorces: Essential knowledge for Texas residents
- The United States Supreme Court Answers a Question about Military Retirement Benefits
- Military Divorces in Texas
- Essential Information for Military Divorces in Texas
- Military Support Without a Court Order During a Divorce in Texas
- How to Divorce a Spouse in the Military
- Texas Divorce - Serving Military Personnel or their Spouse Worldwide
- Texas Statute Aids Military Personnel and Their Spouses in Filing for Divorce
- Roadmap of Basic Divorce Procedure in Texas
- How Can I Get My Spouse to Pay My Attorney's Fees in a Texas Divorce?
- How am I going to Pay for My Texas Divorce?
- Should I Hide Money from my Spouse to Get Ready for my Texas Divorce?
Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston Texas Military Divorce Lawyer
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with ar Houston Texas military Divorce Lawyer right away to protect your rights.
A military divorce lawyer in Houston TX is skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact 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 Military Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Spring, 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.