What Do I Do If I Am Served with Divorce Paperwork?
Be aware of the due date for your response.
Once you are served with the lawsuit (the divorce papers) you have very little time to respond.
Under Texas Rules of Civil Procedure 99, The citation states that was served within the divorce will provide the following notice:
"You have been sued. You may employ a Texas divorce attorney. If you or your attorney do not file a written answer with the clerk who issued this citation by 10:00 a.m. on Monday next following the expiration of twenty days after you were served this citation and petition, a default judgment may be taken against you."
It is essential to respond by filing an answer. This prevents your spouse from being able to obtain a default judgment.
A default Judgment would be judgment in favor of your spouse based on your failure to take action. It amounts to a one-sided argument made in front of a judge. This means the Judge will only hear your spouse's side of the divorce case and rules based on the evidence your spouse provides to the Judge.
This is one of the first things your divorce lawyer will want to do for you to protect you against.
How Soon Can a Court Grant a Divorce?
There is a mandatory 60-day waiting period in Texas from when the divorce is filed until you are eligible to appear in court to finalize your divorce.
Under Texas Family Code Section 6.702, a "court may not grant a divorce before the 60th day after the divorce was filed." In my readings of this part of the family code, you learn two things which are:
- The 60-day waiting period begins the day a person files for divorce and so
- This means the 61st day after a divorce petition is filed is the earliest date you can get divorced in Texas.
How long does it take to get a divorce? – Divorces May Take Longer Than 61 Days
This depends on the complexity of your case and whether or not your spouse can agree upon terms for your settlement agreement.
The definitive answer is, from the date of the filing of an Original Petition for divorce to the time that you get your final judgment of divorce is at least 61 days, but often it may take a year.
Many people panic when they hear that particular time frame because they think that it's just simply too long. But the short answer is, if you and your spouse have definable issues and you can come to the resolution table and make compromises, you really can get the divorce over within just a few months.
The process can be completed in as little as 61 days if:
- you have no issues at all (i.e., no children, no property, no debts) AND
- you and your spouse agree that there are no issues AND
- you and your spouse cooperate on everything
The process can take longer, often a year or more, if:
- You and your spouse have complex issues and
- You and your spouse cannot work out an agreement
The reality is that if you have complex issues that need to be addressed, it extends the time. So, for instance, if you have business valuations that need to be addressed or custody that is in dispute for your children as far as parenting time and visitation and such, experts need to be employed, then certainly that expands the overall lifetime of a case. It could exceed a year.
One of the things I will often say in a consult is that your divorce is as easy as the two of you want to make it, and it takes as long as the slowest person in the relationship.
Can the waiting period be waived?
Under section 6.702 of the Texas Family Code. Those exceptions include:
- A court may grant an annulment or declare a marriage void
- If the court finds that the respondent has been convicted or received deferred adjudication for an offense involving family violence as defined by section 71.004 against the Petitioner or a member of the Petitioner's household or
- The Petitioner has an active protective order under title 5 or active magistrate's order for emergency protection under article 17.292, Code of Criminal Procedure.
How long after my divorce is final do I have to wait to get remarried?
Under 6.801 of the Texas Family Code, a person in Texas is free to marry again 30 days after the judge signs their final divorce order, called a "decree." It is important to note that:
- the Judge does not always sign the Decree on the same day you appear in court.
- This works the same ways as above, meaning do not marry anyone until day 31.
Exceptions to the 30-Day Waiting Period For Getting Remarried
Exceptions to this rule include:
- Divorcing spouses under 6.801(b) may still remarry each other at any time and
- In some instances, under section 6.802 of the Texas Family Code, a Judge will waive the 30-day waiting period if good cause is shown. This requires filing a motion to request the Judge to do so.
Examples of why a Judge may grant a waiver of the 30 days waiting period include:
- The health of one of the parties
- One of the parties is scheduled to take a permanent duty reassignment in another part of the world.
Is Will being pregnant delay my divorce?
Pregnancy will not affect how you file for divorce or the procedure that you will follow to obtain the divorce.
However, it will delay the completion of your divorce. A judge in Texas will not allow the divorce to be finalized until the baby is born.
How do I know when my case is set for trial?
At some point during your divorce, the court will issue a scheduling order. A scheduling order will inform you of all court deadlines you are expected to follow. You must notify the court and other parties in writing of your current address to receive the scheduling order and other notices.
What if my case is set for trial?
If an agreement regarding your divorce cannot be reached between you and your spouse, the court will set your case for trial.
Should this happen, depending on the court, you and your spouse may be ordered to attend mediation before the trial date. This is another chance to reach an agreement. If no agreement can be reached, then a trial will be necessary.
How do I get a court date to finalize my divorce?
Once your 60 days have passed, AND you have in your possession the signed and notarized documents from your spouse, you should call our office to set up a court date. Court dates are generally set up for Friday mornings at 8:30.
What happens when I appear in court to finalize my divorce?
This hearing is generally known as a "prove up" hearing.
For many people going through a divorce, a Prove Up hearing is the only time you will have to step foot in a courtroom and talk to a judge.
Most courts in southeast Texas have an uncontested docket in the mornings called before the array of cases on the contested docket. This means that for a short window, sometimes beginning at 8:00 or 8:30, your Judge will call cases where there is no opposing party but where some business needs to be taken care of. Your case is one of those cases.
You will appear with your attorney and approach the Judge when your case is called. The Judge will put you under oath, and your attorney will ask you a series of questions about the settlement you and your spouse have reached. Take a deep breath. The answer to almost every question your attorney is about to ask you will be, "Yes."
Your attorney will need to ask you questions about those areas to ensure that the Judge is made aware that each necessary part was taken into consideration. After the questions are asked by your attorney and answered by you, the Judge will review the paperwork and most likely grant your divorce that day. If any issues need to be changed in your Decree, the Judge will state those to your attorney but hear anything from the Judge but, "Good luck and thank you" is rare. Your divorce is complete.
When am I divorced?
You are divorced when all the property and child-related issues are resolved, and the presiding judge signs an order, usually called a Decree of Divorce.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Do I Need a Lawyer to Get a Divorce? Frequently Asked Questions about Hiring a Lawyer
- Frequently Asked Questions About Uncontested and No-Fault Divorce
- Frequently Asked Questions About Legal Separation
- Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Void Marriage in Texas
- Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Texas Annulment
- 10 Facts You Never Knew About Texas Annulment
- How an annulment is different than a divorce in Texas
- Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Common Law Marriage and Divorce
- Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Texas Marriage
- Frequently Asked Questions in Texas Divorce Cases
- 15 Myths About Divorce in Texas
- 9 Questions to Ask Yourself and the Divorce Lawyer Before You Hire Them
- Common Questions about Texas Prenuptial and Marital Agreements
- Can I sue my spouse's mistress in Texas?
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.