Getting a divorce is not easy. I don't just mean that getting a divorce is difficult emotionally. Getting a divorce from your spouse is difficult to do. There is a process involved That must be explicitly followed and cannot be deviated from. This is not something where you could get some of the steps correctly and skip others and still get a divorce. Instead, there is a set process that you need to follow to get yourself divorced from your spouse. If you fail to follow those steps and understand the process, you will not get a divorce.
Not only will you not be able to get a divorce, but you will have wasted time and likely wasted money as well. I should also note at this point that getting a divorce is not free. No, that does not mean that you will end up spending your life savings on getting the divorce. However, it does mean that there is some money involved simply in filing for divorce. When there is money and, just as importantly, time at stake in your divorce, you should be aware of all of the circumstances in play as well as what they mean to you as an individual.
Now, just because I mentioned that getting a divorce is not easy doesn't mean it is overly complicated. The steps of a divorce can be learned, and we're going to go through them today. The processes involved are not the same as creating a vaccine or building a spaceship. This is not rocket science. However, just like anything else, you need to be aware of the steps involved in the process and aspects of a case. Let's spend some time going through the divorce efforts and then identify where people can make mistakes when they attempt to represent themselves in a case.
The steps and stages of a Texas divorce
The first step to begin a divorce in Texas is to file an original divorce petition. This original petition for divorce covers the basics of your case: the parties involved, the names of your children and their ages, why you are filing for divorce, whether or not any fault grounds are being cited as well as your position on community property division. These are the basics of your case. Ann will act as the road map for you and your attorney as your case begins. An original divorce petition can continually be revised as an amended petition for divorce later in the case, but you must file an initial petition to start the divorce.
The original divorce petition is often filed alongside notice of hearing wherein you request a hearing date for temporary orders. A temporary orders hearing will cover the basic ground rules of your case if you and your spouse cannot agree on them yourselves. Issues like dividing custody for the duration of your divorce, deciding who will remain in the marital home and who must find another place to live, how to divide up bills for the house and the children, as well as issues regarding spousal support and child support. Much of the time, you and your spouse will be able to settle these issues for yourself and temporary orders mediation, but if you cannot, the judge will assign a hearing date for your case.
Once these documents have been filed with the court clerk where your case will be heard, they must then be served upon your spouse. There are two methods to doing this. The first method would be to have a private process server pick up the documents and submit them in person to your spouse. The other approach would be to have a constable or other law enforcement officer pick up the papers and do the same. A citation will be included with the original petition for divorce and any other filed documents; the process server or police officer will fill that out once the service is affected. The citation will be returned to the court and maintained in your file.
It is then the responsibility of your spouse to file an Answer to your original petition for divorce. The answer is the name of a legal document that accomplishes a few things. The first is that it introduces any positions you take regarding allegations contained in the original divorce petition. Many times, a respondent will include with their answer a document known as a counter-petition which allows your spouse to allege their grounds for divorce and other offensive tactics regarding the case.
An answer must be filed within 20 days of being served with the original divorce petition. If your spouse fails to file an answer within this amount of time, they could be held in default, and potentially, you could move forward with the divorce without them being a part of the process. However unlikely it is that your spouse will not file an answer, You need to be prepared to move forward with your case if no response is filed. This is an advantageous position for you and allows you to present your side of the topic to the judge without any contradictory evidence submitted by your spouse.
Once your divorce petition has been filed in an answer has been filed by your spouse in response to your petition, all of the elements of a divorce are in place for your case to begin. The minimum amount of time in Texas for a divorce to take is 60 days from the date the divorce petition was filed. Exceptions to this rule exist for cases where spousal abuse or family violence is prevalent in the home. However, barring any circumstances like these involved, you could expect your divorce to last at least 60 days.
The 60-day requirement reflects the Texas legislature's belief that people should remain married than it is for them to obtain a divorce under most circumstances. Public policy in our state reflects the idea that parents in an intact marriage tend to raise children better than parents who live in separate households and are divorced. The 60-day waiting requirement for divorce gives you and your spouse ample opportunity to think long and hard about whether or not you want to get a divorce and whether it is in your best interest for the divorce to occur.
The vast majority of a divorce case is spent negotiating with your spouse. Contrary to what many people think about divorce cases, it is unlikely for your chance to go before a judge for a trial. Yes, you may go before a judge for a hearing on matters here and there. However, it is more likely than not that your case will be settled in mediation. Mediation is a place where an experienced mediator, family law attorney, and a client can often experience a great deal of success in helping parties arrive at settlements. However, the effectiveness of mediation may be mitigated if you do not have an attorney representing you.
Finally, it is possible that your divorce case could end in a trial. A trial is a situation where both you and your spouse present evidence to a judge and make arguments regarding child custody and property division in your divorce. After the trial, a judge would decide the questions submitted to him regarding custody for children, child support, Visitation, possession, conservatorship, and a division of your community estate.
The decisions by a judge will be written into a final decree of divorce, as would any settlement agreements arrived at in mediation between you and your spouse. Either your spouse is an attorney, or your attorney would draft the final orders. Anne would submit them for review before all parties and their attorneys signing. Once those signatures have been obtained, you would present the document to a judge to consider its validity and then sign it. This marks the end of your divorce case.
Where do costly mistakes arise most commonly in do-it-yourself divorces?
Now that we have gone through the steps of a divorce, we can discuss where mistakes are often made by people who are not represented by an attorney or are represented by an attorney who is not an experienced family law practitioner. Please note that many attorneys will tell you that they can handle a divorce but have, in reality, never dealt with a divorce case on their own. With that said, here are some areas of your divorce where you would be best served to be represented by an attorney to avoid costly mistakes.
The first area where it is essential to have an attorney is at the beginning of your case. A relatively high percentage of the clients at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan at one time handled their divorce case without an attorney. These folks have experience with many people do regarding self-representation in a divorce. Most people do not have the fundamental legal know-how or the time to work on a divorce adequately and maintain the other areas of their life. It is helpful to have an attorney if for no other reason than that attorney allows you two focus not only on your divorce but on other areas of your life, such as your children.
If you make mistakes in drafting documents, fail to prepare and file the correct documents, or failed to move forward with the divorce despite your intent to do so, this sort of mistake can cost you both time and money. Would I tell clients with some frequency is that while you can always make more money, it is impossible to get more time added to your life. As such, you do not want to waste any time on getting your case started. If you know that you need to get a divorce, you should begin getting a divorce in earnest.
Another area of a divorce where not an attorney by your side having can hurt you is at the very end. In mediation, it is beneficial to have an attorney by your side because a lawyer can help you identify well inappropriate settlement options that may not be as advantageous to you. While a mediator can spend time with you during the divorce to help you reach a settlement agreement, the mediator can not give you legal advice. That legal advice can only come from an attorney, and you will be at a disadvantage if you do not have a lawyer with you in your divorce case during mediation.
Finally, it is helpful to have an attorney by your side when drafting in reviewing drafts of the final decree of divorce. Keep in mind that the settlement agreement in mediation is only worth so much if what you settled upon cannot be translated into enforceable court orders. As such, you will want to make sure that what you agreed upon in a mediation ends up in the final draft of your final decree of divorce. Luckily, attorneys like ours can represent you just in the drafting phase of last orders if that is your preference.
Questions about the material presented in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material presented in today's blog post, then please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are an excellent way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and the services that our attorneys and staff can provide to you and your family as clients of ours.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Dividing Property in a Texas Divorce - The Just and Right Division
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- What Wikipedia Can’t Tell you About Texas Divorce and Marital Property Division
- Texas Divorce Property Division Enforcement
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Kingwood 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 essential to speak with ar Kingwood, TX Divorce Lawyer right away to protect your rights.
A divorce lawyer in Kingwood, TX, is 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 Spring, Texas, Cypress, Spring, 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.