It is incredibly critical to your success in a Texas divorce for you to be able to understand the process and be able to confidently manage your case. In today's blog post I would like to walk you through not only what a final decree of divorce is but what managing your case means, the steps of a Texas divorce and a preview of what a final decree of divorce is. I completely understand the motivation to want to jump to the end of your case and learn about the final decree of divorce. Not only is it the final step in the case but it also represents an important portion of your life after the divorce.
The final decree of divorce orders that you and your spouse will follow for some time after the divorce as far as financial and family matters are concerned. If you have children then your orders regarding custody, conservatorships, visitation, possession, and child support are all included in this document. With that said I think it is important for us to be able to talk about how you actually can get to this point so that we can have a better idea of what goes into a final decree of divorce here for obtaining an order that is fair to you and your family.
Managing your taxes divorce: ultimately it is your responsibility
one of the biggest misnomers about divorce that I have come into contact within my years as a practicing attorney is that the divorce is the responsibility of your attorney more so than you. A lot of people hire an attorney and expect that the lawyer will handle the details of the case and they will only need to be contacted on occasion design documents or attend a meeting here in there. This could not be further from the truth. Or at least, it could not be further from the truth in the event that you want to be able to obtain a fair result in your case.
Let's think about it in terms of other professionals you hired to help you improve your quality of life. Think about your doctor. This could be your primary care doctor whom you visit once or twice a year. This doctor must maintain a certain level of care when treating you. That means if the doctor's level of care falls below a certain threshold he may face certain consequences both professionally and legally. By now, we have probably all seen billboards and commercials on TV for attorneys who will Sue a doctor for malpractice if the doctor has made a mistake somewhere in treating you or someone in your family.
With all that said, in the regular course of business absent any mistakes on the part of the doctor your health rides primarily on your own shoulders. This is really a no brainer. Yes, your doctor is the one who is able to prescribe medication and make recommendations about forms of treatment that could improve your quality of life. However, that does not mean for one second that the doctor is able to take control of your life and personally and physically guide you towards better health.
Ultimately, your health is your responsibility. Your doctor can work with you to take steps to improve your quality of health but he or she cannot sit with you at the dinner table and make sure that you're eating more vegetables than you are macaroni and cheese. Additionally, the doctor cannot wake you up at 6:00 in the morning and push your backside out the door to go for it quick walk before the workday begins. These are all parts of your life that you are responsible for. Your health depends largely upon your willingness to engage in these activities.
Now let's shift back to talking about your divorce case. Just like when you hire A doctor, your attorney is responsible for providing you with a level of care when it comes to legal advice and advocacy. Your attorney will be fully capable, hopefully, to represent you in court and advise you on the drafting of documents that will impact your life for years to come. However, it is still your responsibility to understand your divorce and be able to make decisions for yourself. This does not mean that the attorney will not be there to provide you with advice on a regular basis. However, it also does not mean that you can put the case in autopilot and expect your attorney to take the wheel from you completely.
You will want to take personal responsibility over your divorce for a number of reasons. The first of those reasons is that the long-term impacts of your case will be felt by you and your family and not by your attorney. The reality of a divorce case is that at the end of a trial or mediation your attorney will walk out to their vehicle and go home to their family. You will be the one who will live with the impacts of your case for better or worse. With that said, it would be wise for you to take ownership of your circumstances and of your life by showing a keen interest in your case.
A divorce is not rocket science. There is a process to follow that I will outline with you in just a moment. However, it is complex enough that you need to be able to have a basic understanding to know what is going on. Rather than drifting through your divorce aimlessly you should know the steps of the case and be prepared to make decisions that are in your best interests in the best interests of your family. Your lawyer has enough on their plate before having to make decisions for you and your family. Your lawyer will not be interested in making decisions for you he or she will be educating you on the process and allowing you to guide the sales of your ship. With that said, let me walk you through the stages of a divorce.
The stages of a divorce in Texas
Either you or your spouse will file an original petition for divorce which begins your case. that original petition for divorce along with a citation and possibly a notice of hearing Will be served upon the non-filing spouse Pi a constable or process server. From there, the non-filing spouse will have approximately 20 days to file an answer at which time the divorce truly begins in earnest. Both you and your spouse will likely have attorneys can be set up with a temporary orders hearing date so that some ground rules can be established for your divorce.
Once the initial stage of your divorce is complete there are basically two parts to a divorce: the temporary order stage in the final order stage. Temporary orders may not sound all that important, but they certainly are. Temporary orders will allow you and your spouse to negotiate upon some ground rules for the divorce so that each of you will be able to know what your responsibilities are during the case. Responsibilities concerning Visitation with your children, child support, temporary spousal support, household bills in which spouse will remain in the household during the divorce will be decided during the temporary orders phase.
As I'm sure the name would help indicate to you temporary orders do not last forever. Specifically, temporary orders will last as long as your divorce does and will be supplanted by final orders. An important thing to note about temporary orders is that they oftentimes influence the orders contained in your final decree of divorce. A mistake that attorneys and clients alike will make in regard to temporary orders is that they will assume any mistakes made or problems with the orders can be corrected in the final orders phase. While this is sometimes true, more often than not what is decided in temporary orders will oftentimes be repeated in final orders.
What should this mean to you? If I was a person going through a divorce what it would mean to me is that you need to be absolutely sure that the orders as stated in your temporary orders are reflective of your wishes and will work for you on a long-term basis. While it is possible to shift things around in final orders as compared to temporary orders you do not want to be in a position where the temporary orders are so out of whack compared to what do you think is fair or appropriate in your case. I'll give you an example of what I'm talking about before we move on to talking about the final decree of divorce in detail.
One of the most highly contested issues in a divorce is that of primary conservatorships. Primary conservatorships relate to which parent has the ability to determine the primary residence of your children. Not only does this parent have the ability to see the children more but this parents will also be able to receive child support and handle the day-to-day decision-making responsibilities for the child. These are tremendous advantages in a world where conservatorships rights and duties are pretty evenly split elsewhere. Suffice it to say that this is an issue that parents end up going back and forth on multiple times in most cases in a divorce.
If you are a parent who wants to be able to be the primary conservator of your children after a divorce then you need to be prepared in advance of your case to be able to negotiate for this write in temporary orders. Just to be transparent, I am looking primarily at fathers when I make this comment. Many dads go into a divorce assuming that their wife has the leg up when it comes to be the primary conservator of children for no other reason than they are the mom. As such, even if the father wants to be able to be the primary conservator, he will either not prepare to negotiate this way or will simply presume that he has no shot to do so.
I think this is a huge mistake. To go into a child custody or divorce case as a father and not be prepared in knowledgeable about how to become the primary conservative your children is a mistake. Number one, a father who was active and involved in the raising of their children as just as good of a chance to be named the primary conservator as a mother. Discussing this topic with your attorney from the beginning of your case can help prepare you to negotiate through this issue or prepare for a temporary orders hearing. Not being prepared and not discussing your desire to be the primary conservator of your children Means that you will lose this right not only in temporary orders but also in your final decree of divorce.
What is the final decree of divorce in why is it significant?
The final decree of divorce is the closing document to every divorce case. Within the final decree of divorce there will be orders that detail every subject of your post-divorce life such as child support, custody, conservatorships, Visitation and spousal maintenance. This document will contain orders from a judge and will be signed by the judge. Make no mistake that this document contains the law as far as your judge is concerned and your failure to abide by the orders contained in the final decree of divorce can necessitate subsequent intervention by a court.
This means that if you will be living under these orders you will need to be prepared in negotiating and drafting for them. Most of the time, you will be negotiating for final orders in mediation. One settlement agreements have been reached in mediation you will then need to take the mediated settlement agreement, and have it turn into orders that are fit to be contained in the final decree of divorce. This is where having an experienced family law attorney by your side can make a huge difference. Your attorney should be prepared to be able to take the mediated settlement agreement and turn those provisions into orders that a judge can sign off on.
This may sound like a simple task. I have seen many an attorney simply copies and paste, for the most part, the mediated settlement agreement into a final decree of divorce. However, any experienced family law attorney will tell you that the way a final decree of divorce is drafted can determine the success of their client and their family after a divorce case. For instance, if it is your spouse’s attorney who drafts the document do not be surprised to see some liberties taken with the language contained in the mediated settlement agreement. Small changes here and there when it comes to Visitation or spousal support or anything in between can make your life much more difficult.
When your attorney gives you an opportunity to review the final decree of divorce draft you need to absolutely do so with a fine-tooth comb. I realize that this is tedious and not very interesting for the most part, but it can have long term consequences for you and your family most certainly. What I like to do with clients is set up opportunity for them to come into the office and meet with me personally to talk about their case. We can go over the final decree of divorce together and discuss any issues that you may have or misunderstandings. Right now, in the age of the coronavirus pandemic, attorneys are more than happy to have you meet with them via videoconference if that works better for you.
The bottom line is that the final decree of divorce is the document that you are working for throughout your divorce case. I know that it may not feel like this but ultimately what you are looking for is to have your case ended by a document like this. Do not be satisfied with any final decree of divorce and take ownership of where your case goes in order to arrive at a fair conclusion. This means you should be ready to ask questions of your attorney throughout the case, to take ownership of the decisions that you make into negotiate well both at the beginning of your case in the temporary orders phase and at the end of your case in final orders.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone and via video. Thank you for your interest in our law practice and we hope you will join us again tomorrow as we continue to share more unique content about the world of Texas family law.