While not every divorce can be done in sixty, seventy, or eighty days, some can. For this to be possible, you and your spouse must understand how this can be done and if your circumstances will allow for this to occur. If you have not done so already, I recommend going back to read through yesterday’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, so you can learn how a divorce can be achieved in a relatively quick fashion. We will pick up where we left off in yesterday’s post by detailing more essential steps to getting the quick divorce you desire.
What needs to be included in your Final Decree of Divorce
Just because you and your spouse agree on a few critical areas of your divorce does not mean that your divorce will wrap up quickly as a result. Indeed, you all will need to do the work (or likely your attorneys will) to create a final decree of divorce that puts a bow on any outstanding issues in your case. Children and property are at the top of the list of items that will be argued about in your divorce. This should come as a surprise as these are the only two categories of subject matter that will come up in your case.
We discussed issues related to children yesterday, so that we will jump right into a discussion on the property today. Your Final Decree of Divorce will need to go over issues related to dividing up community property related to your case. Any property that was purchased or acquired during your marriage, as well as most forms of income earned, is considered to be community property. This means that no matter which spouse earned the income or purchased the property, the asset is considered jointly owned by each of you.
As a result of this joint ownership, you and your spouse will need to determine what is considered a community and what is to be considered separate property. Once you have done this, this property will need to be divided up in some form or fashion between the two of you. Like businesses, real estate, and your home, some properties cannot be divided up as quickly as a silverware set or jewelry. If you all anticipate that there will be issues in dividing up property, then it is unlikely that your divorce will be as quick and easy as you may have liked it to be.
Uncontested or contested divorce
I speak with potential clients on occasion who will come into our office to discuss their particular divorce circumstances with me and detail how they are likely to be considered uncontested. However, what each person thinks uncontested means is an important question to ask. Uncontested means that every issue of your case has been agreed upon. No outstanding issues, no barriers to drawing up a Final Decree of Divorce that considers all of the issues related to property and children. Put a bow and signatures on it and have it ready for the judge to sign on the 61st day.
Unfortunately, most divorces are not genuinely uncontested. There are usually a few issues that are still to be resolved after the divorce petition has been filed. If for no other reason than the issue may have slipped the mind of you and your spouse, or you both may have been wholly unaware of the issue’s existence and importance to your divorce. If you can resolve these issues (with or without the assistance of an attorney), then you are much more likely to wrap your case up in relatively quick order.
You can also look to whether or not you had to serve your spouse with your original divorce petition or whether they were willing to sign a waiver of service. For a more detailed explanation of these concepts, I recommend that you go back and read yesterday’s blog post. Still, for this section, I will note that the non-filing spouse signs a waiver of service in situations where they are willing to waive their right to be personally served with the divorce petition.
If your spouse signs your waiver of service, it will need to be filed with your court. This shows an intent, in most cases, to not fight or haggle over issues and rather settle on them instead of moving towards a contested divorce. Even if you have to serve legal notice upon your spouse, they may still be willing to proceed on a virtually uncontested basis by not filing an Answer within the twenty-day (give or take a few extras) periods. You may then proceed on a default basis and have a judge sign your order without consultation or further notice to your spouse.
Bottom line: either get your spouse to agree with you to the terms of your final decree of divorce, draft a decree and have him sign within sixty days to get to the courthouse on the sixty-first day with a decree ready for the judge’s signature. In the alternative, you can have your spouse default into the divorce if they were legally and adequately served with notice of the divorce and chose not to file an Answer. Either way works and can lead to a 61-day divorce in Texas.
Finalize your case with a brief hearing before the judge
A prove-up hearing is a final step in finalizing a divorce- contested or uncontested. In most counties in Texas, this hearing will occur early in the day before the judge calls their contested docket of cases. You and your attorney will appear in person, in court (if you are the filing party), and show the judge your decree. Your attorney will then ask you a series of yes or no questions that will show the judge that you know what the decree includes and that all items were negotiated upon fairly and with knowledge of your spouse (unless it is a default divorce).
Your spouse will not attend this hearing, and it is a formality. Once your judge is satisfied with the order, they will officially divorce you and your spouse. They will likely sign the order later that day once the day’s docket has been called.
Want a quick divorce even if you and your spouse don’t agree on everything? Mediate
Mediation is the key to getting a relatively quick and painless divorce. Even if you and your spouse do not agree on everything, you can mediate your case and achieve great results. Mediation is the process whereby you and your attorney, and your spouse and theirs, will agree upon an independent, third-party attorney to intercede and attempt to help you all resolve any outstanding issues in your divorce.
Each party will attend mediation at the mediator’s office. You will be in one room and your spouse in the other. The mediator acts like a ping pong ball bouncing back and forth between each of your rooms to discuss settlement proposals, counter-proposals, and other issues related to your case. If you all settle on all issues, a mediated settlement agreement will be drawn up that allows one of the attorneys (usually the party who has filed the divorce) to draft a decree based on the agreements contained in the MSA.
This is the most realistic path towards a quick and relatively pain-free divorce in Texas. Wishing your spouse into a reasonable person probably won’t work. Hoping that they do not respond to your petition isn’t either. Mediation is a good and highly successful path to your divorce goals.
Questions on divorce? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
If you are interested in speaking to one of our licensed family law attorneys, please contact our office today. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week to answer your questions and go over your specific situation to help you problem solve and strategize for your upcoming family law case.