How is a divorce in Texas structured in terms of stages?
No two divorces are 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 interim orders. These are precisely 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.
Fundamental issues like deciding who will be paying the bills, how much child support (if any) will be paid, and other logistical problems like determining visitation with your child will be resolved.
If you are stationed overseas, special consideration will need to be given to you regarding how often you can see your child. Typically the parent with whom the child does not reside 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 mediation by Skype, that would be best. I have also had military members follow via a simple cell phone conference call.
Mediation will assist you and your spouse in determining what sort of settlements you can reach on the topics I listed above. Any outstanding issues not resolved in mediation must be decided in a contested temporary order 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 make those decisions and draft temporary orders based on them. Once completed, the parties, your attorneys, and the judge will sign the interim 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 the judge has signed temporary orders, you and your spouse will be given a period to adjust to life under 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. The 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 incorporated into final orders that will affect you and your spouse in the years moving forward.
When is your divorce finalized?
Your divorce is finished after mediation for final orders or after a trial. However, there will still need to be discussions regarding how the last order will ultimately look, so be aware that your divorce will not immediately end after these crucial 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 formality 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 after 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. Harris included many counties; you can pull up pdf versions of the last 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?
You and your spouse can hire the exact 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 decided to proceed under a mutual agreement instead of drawing the process out and fighting over each issue. If you have deals on all the problems 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 your divorce petition has been filed will still be in place. What your attorney would do during this period is work with both parties on drafting an order that reflects the agreements that you both decided upon.
If you do not want to hire an attorney to represent you in the divorce, you and your spouse can seek an attorney's assistance to mediate your dispute as pro se (unrepresented) parties to the divorce. A mediator provides information to you and your spouse and does not represent either side. This is an advisable situation only if you feel confident that you and your spouse will 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, 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 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 will 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 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, don't hesitate to contact our office today. We are happy to work with you on the best and easiest way to communicate, even living abroad.
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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 essential to speak with a 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 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 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.