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How to Get a Divorce in Texas during COVID-19

Even though it might not feel like it, the world has not come to a complete standstill due to the coronavirus pandemic. While it is true that many of the courts in Southeast Texas are closed down due to social distancing concerns there are records that are open for hearings. The district and County clerks of Southeast Texas have not stopped accepting filings 4 a range of civil cases. This includes divorce cases in other family law related matters. If you are considering filing for divorce in Texas during this pandemic, then you are fully able to do so. 

What I find with most people when it comes to filing for divorce is that they have concerns over how to actually get divorced in the 1st place. While everyone pretty much has an understanding of the fact that a lawsuit needs city file to get divorced fewer people understand how to actually go about getting the divorce. If you throw in the subject of this pandemic the path towards getting a divorce becomes even murkier. Has the pandemic created new guidelines or new requirements as far as divorce is concerned in Texas? 

In reality, the requirements to get a divorce in Texas are the same now as they were six months ago or 6 years ago for the most part. The pandemic in and of itself has not created any new requirements that people have to jump through in order to get a divorce. This is good news for you if you are considering filing for divorce in are interested in learning more about that process. That is what I would like to discuss with you all today. While getting a divorce is the same now as it was prior to the pandemic, it may not feel like that to you. 

I realized that during a tough time like we're going through what feels like the truth and what is the truth can have blurred lines. What we perceive to be true and what we feel to be true oftentimes becomes just as important as what actually is true. With that said there is nothing standing in your way of getting a divorce not even a pandemic. Let's start off by going over what my divorce is and how to get a divorce in Texas. From there, we can discuss how this pandemic may impact your divorce here in Southeast Texas. 

Getting a divorce in Texas, the basics 

As I mentioned earlier in today's blog post the process associated with getting a divorce in Texas is no different today than it was at the beginning of this pandemic. I know it may feel like nothing in our lives is the same now as it was a few months ago but that is not the case. A divorce is still a legal and to a marriage just as it was back in March. By filing for divorce in Texas you are telling the state that you no longer wish to be married to your spouse for any number of reasons. 

There are two types of divorce in Texas the vast majority of divorces are what are called no fault divorces. No fault divorces mean that you are not citing any specific fault grounds for the divorce. Essentially you are telling the judge and the state that your marriage needs to end due to irreconcilable differences between you and your spouse and that there is no hope for a re unification of the marriage. another term that is used a lot in no fault divorces is a discord or conflict in personalities. 

On the other hand, you can file for divorce and specify specific fault grounds for divorce. By specifying these fault grounds for divorce, you are telling the judge that you have a very specific reason for asking for a divorce. These fault grounds include abandonment, domestic violence, adultery and many other processes as well. The key to siding fault grounds for divorce is that by doing so if you are able to prove your fault grounds you may be able to receive a disproportionate share of any Community property that is a part of your divorce. This means you may be entitled to a greater share of assets. 

The initial filing in a Texas divorce is the original petition for divorce. The petition is a typically short document that contains all of the relevant information that a divorce court will need to know about you and your family. This includes your name, your spouse’s name, your children's names and what fault grounds you are specifying, if any. You are also able to request certain types of relief from the court that should be granted to you upon conclusion of the divorce. 

Along with an original petition for divorce you can request a temporary orders hearing. Temporary orders are just Orders that will dictate your life and that of your spouse during the divorce. If you have children, temporary orders will cover a temporary possession schedule they will detail when each parent, you and your spouse, are able to be in position of your children. Topics like child support and temporary spousal support are also covered in temporary orders. 

This is one area that may differ in your divorce now than perhaps would have occurred last year. Because many family law courts are closed right now it is tougher to get a hearing date with a judge. Many courts are shifting not essential hearings to later dates and are only hearing matters that are considered emergencies. This means that if you are strongly considering going to court to have a judge decide your temporary orders you may want to rethink that plan. 

Rather than seeking to go to family court for a hearing on temporary orders, I would recommend that you instead seek the advice of a family law mediator. A mediator can help you and your spouse negotiate for temporary orders in a setting called mediation. Mediation is where you, your spouse, and your attorneys go to a mediator's office and that mediator will walk in between your room and your spouses to help hammer out temporary orders. In the age of COVID-19 you are likely to be able to select a mediator who offers virtual mediations where everyone can attend from your own home or office. 

Once you have successfully negotiated for temporary orders in your divorce then the first phase of your case is done. You can expect to live under temporary orders for at least a couple months while you and your family are just two separate lives. Keeping in mind that a divorce need only take so long to complete, you may be able to negotiate for final orders soon after temporary orders. This may be especially agreeable to you right now considering expenses associated with divorce are especially important to consider right now. 

Negotiations for final orders or going to trial?

Once you have temporary orders negotiated for the next phase of your case is preparing to negotiate for final orders. From my experience color temporary orders in final orders tend to look very similar. The key difference is that temporary orders last for only as long as your case does. On the other hand, final orders can last much longer absent future modifications and changes. However, watching negotiate foreign temporary orders tends to occur again in final orders. Do not assume that you can come back later in your case and negotiate for more advantageous rights and duties to your children, for example, then you have now. Negotiate as hard as you can in temporary orders and that will pay dividends for you later on in your case. 

In addition to any issues related to Visitation, possession and access to your children a person like you who was considering a divorce should also plan to negotiate on financial matters towards the end of your case. The duration of your divorce case tends to involve more issues related to personal finances such as bills and mortgage payments. Temporary orders dealing with financial matters are intended to help you just make it through your case. Basically, to tread water. The big-ticket items such as what to do with your family home and how to divide up retirement accounts comes towards the end of a divorce. 

When negotiating for final orders related to finances you should consider your economic future when discussing any item with your spouse. For instance, if you have been a stay at home mom for many years and have not worked during that time do not assume that you will be able to immediately find a job and begin to make mortgage payments on your own immediately after your divorce. I ask clients to consider a range of outcomes in their divorce and to negotiate based on the more likely of those outcomes 

there are many options on how to divide up community property in a divorce. You do not need to be tide to one outcome in particular and you do not need to believe that there can only be one outcome that will suit you and your family for years to come. What I find to be true is that as long as a family can negotiate honestly with one another and we'll put the interests of their children rather than short term gains at the front of their mind then financial negotiations in a divorce can usually go very smoothly. 

Are there any special circumstances related to COVID-19 you need to be aware of in a Texas divorce? 

I think the most important thing that you need to realize associated with getting a divorce right now is that if you plan on having the judge decide every issue for you and your spouse in your divorce then you may have a tougher time right now than you normally would. Contrary to what most people think, divorces do not typically end in a courtroom. Most of the time spouses negotiate four terms of the divorce in mediation. This is a time and money saver for all parties and usually allows people to come up with better solutions than would a judge. 

While judges are knowledgeable of the law, they are not experts in your family. Nobody knows your circumstances better than you and your spouse. It is much better for you all to rely on each other to carve out an agreement in a divorce than to rely upon a judge who doesn't know you and doesn't know your spouse. In the best of circumstances that judge will not have time to learn everything there is to know about you and your family. That is especially true right now when judges are being spread thinner than ever before. 

The biggest piece of advice I can give to you right now if you are preparing for a divorce is to plan on working closely with your spouse and their attorney to end your case. Save time and money by coming into your divorce with an idea of what you want to accomplish. You will create a better outcome for you and your family and will decrease your anxiety level surrounding a long and drawn out divorce. There are many circumstances associated with this pandemic that we all cannot control period one circumstance, however, that we do have direct control over is that we can create the best possible circumstances to negotiate a fair and equitable end to your case. 

Questions about getting a divorce during the pandemic? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan stands ready to assist you and your family. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, via video and over the phone. We take a great deal of pride in serving our community and would be honored to discuss with you how we could best serve you and your family. 

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