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You’ve been served with a divorce lawsuit in Texas: Where do you go from here?

In yesterday’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC we have discussed what you can do if you find yourself on the receiving end of a family lawsuit of any kind. Whether it is a divorce or child custody case you need to know what to do, how to do it and who can help you fulfill these responsibilities. In today’s blog post we will continue along where we left off yesterday by discussing the middle stages of a divorce case once you have filed your Answer to your spouse’s Petition for Divorce.

The Temporary Restraining Order

A Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) looks like a scarier and more intimidating document than it really is. Words like “restraining” and “order” have connotations of being very, very important and they are to an extent. Obviously if you find yourself holding any Order from a court with a judge’s signature you are bound to follow its terms no matter how you feel about them or the circumstances that lead to the judge signing them. You may be thinking to yourself that you never even had a chance to speak to the judge prior to the orders being signed. A TRO does not require both parties be present when they are signed. In fact, your spouse applied for the TRO when she filed for divorce so technically neither you nor she were present when the judge put pen to paper and signed the orders.

Basically what a TRO does is protect your spouse (and you) from bad actions by the other. You will be prohibited from doing things like removing your spouse from your health insurance plan, harming their vehicle, restricting them from accessing whatever place she is calling home these days and running up big bills on credit cards. Bank accounts that you have with your spouse will basically be frozen except for essentials and hiring an attorney. If you have children then you will be barred from removing your child from school or otherwise hiding your child from your spouse.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that a Temporary Restraining Order does not last forever. It can last for fourteen days and then another fourteen days if your spouse were to ask the court to extend them. Ideally you and your spouse will appear with your attorneys before the judge during this time for a Temporary Orders hearing that will result in additional temporary orders that will seek to govern your lives for the duration of your divorce.

Most ideally you and your spouse will have attended mediation rather than having to go see the judge. Mediation is an settlement negotiation process whereby you and your spouse mutually select a third party mediator to help you both settle any outstanding issues in your case. Typically you and your attorneys will go to the mediator’s office and will be in one room while your spouse and their attorney will be in another. The mediator will bounce back and forth between your rooms like a ping pong ball in an attempt to help you all reach a settlement.

What are some less commonly considered, yet still important restrictions contained in many TROs?

I just laid out a few of the more important restrictions and prohibitions that are contained in TROs. However, there are a few more that I believe are important for you to be aware of due to their possibly having a role in your own divorce case.

-Withdrawing Money from a Retirement Plan

-Threatening the opposing party in person, on the phone, via text or via electronic mail

-Destroying property without the knowledge or permission of your spouse

-Removing your spouse as beneficiary on a life insurance policy you hold or removing them as an insured from your company provided health insurance plan

What if you don’t think that the court in Texas is legally able to bring you into the proceedings?

The question that you may really be asking is whether or not the family court in Texas where your spouse filed for divorce has jurisdiction over you. Does the court have the power to hear your case and decide the issues inherent in your divorce? Your court must have personal jurisdiction over you and your spouse.

Personal jurisdiction can be established in a Texas divorce in multiple ways. If you live in the county where your case was filed then jurisdiction is established. The term “domicile” is important as it means that you must be residing in that county and have the intent to remain there as well.

Do you have minimal contacts in Texas? Do you live outside the state but do frequent business here? Do you come to visit your children and spouse here? These are the sort of minimal contacts that a court would need to look to if and when you make a jurisdictional challenge based on a lack of personal jurisdiction over you.

Next, a court could look to whether or not you were personally served in Texas with the divorce lawsuit. If you were visiting friends or family here and were served then service was conducted properly. If your spouse tricked you into coming into Texas for the first time ever in order to serve you in-state then this would not be proper service and the Texas court’s personal jurisdiction over you probably would not be established.

The other way that the Texas court could establish personal jurisdiction over you would be for you to consent to that jurisdiction. Your consent will be assumed if you do not formally challenge it. If you file an Answer to the Petition for Divorce you are consenting to the court’s jurisdiction so you would need to file a motion to challenge jurisdiction as being improper prior to filing your Answer.

Do not ignore the Petition just because you don’t believe the court has jurisdiction

As I noted in yesterday’s blog post do not ignore a divorce Petition, no matter if you do not believe that your court has jurisdiction over you or not. Failing to respond to the Petition in any way will not result in a favorable outcome for you. In fact, it is best for you to hire an attorney in the jurisdiction where the divorce has filed so that a Special Appearance can be filed on your behalf. A Special Appearance will allow you to respond to the divorce lawsuit but not consent to the court having personal jurisdiction over you. This is not a straightforward or document to file so it is advisable that you have an attorney to help you in this process.

At what point in the process do you actually get divorced?

This is valid question to ask. Some people assume that as soon as your spouse files for divorce from you that you are formally divorced. This is not legally correct, however. You will not be actually be divorced until the very end of your divorce case when a Final Decree of Divorce is signed by all the parties and the judge. You are quite a ways from that stage, however. At this stage, and until the signing of that document, you are officially married to your spouse whether your feel like you are or not.

Most divorce cases, for what it’s worth, last about four to six months. Some last longer if there are complicated issues involved. Other cases can last for a shorter length of time. Keep in mind that there is a sixty day waiting period that is a part of every divorce filed in Texas. This means from the date your divorce was filed the fastest you can get your divorced approved and completed is sixty one days after that date.

More information on divorce lawsuits will be provided in tomorrow’s blog post

If you are interested in learning more about the latter stages of divorce cases in Texas please head back to our blog tomorrow. In the meantime if you have any questions about your particular circumstances please do not hesitate to contact our office. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week with one of our licensed family law attorneys.

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Other Articles you may be interested on regarding the default judgments include:

  1. What does a Default Judgment Mean in a Texas Divorce?
  2. What Happens if my Ex-Spouse Refuses to Sign the Final Decree of Divorce Revisited
  3. What if My Ex Will Not Sign the Final Decree in My Texas Divorce?
  4. I have been served with Divorce Papers - What do I do now in Texas?
  5. How to Draft and File an Answer to a Texas Divorce - Free Downloadable Forms
  6. 6 Tips - On How to prepare for a Texas Divorce
  7. 6 Mistakes that can Destroy Your Texas Divorce Case
  8. Waivers - To sign or not to sign? The answer is don't do it!
  9. Roadmap of Basic Divorce Procedure in Texas
  10. What is mediation?

Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Spring 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 Spring, TX Divorce Lawyer right away to protect your rights.

divorce lawyer in Spring 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 Divorce cases in Spring, TexasCypressSpringKleinHumble, KingwoodTomballThe Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris CountyMontgomery CountyLiberty County, Chambers CountyGalveston CountyBrazoria CountyFort Bend County and Waller County.

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