On top of the emotional difficulties of a divorce, the paperwork, court requirements, and deciding what to do with your children and assets can render the divorce process confusing and time consuming. Below is a brief overview of how a divorce case proceeds from start to finish in Texas. If you are just starting divorce proceedings, a Houston divorce lawyer is available to guide you through the steps of a divorce with the expertise and experience you need to protect your interests.
The Steps of a Divorce in Texas
Before filing for a divorce in Texas, one of the spouses must have resided continuously in Texas for 6 months prior to filing. Additionally, the spouse must have been in the county where he or she chooses to file for 90 continuous days prior to filing.
Once one of the spouses is eligible to file for divorce, the first step is to file the petition for divorce in a Texas family law court. The person doing the filing – also known as the petitioner – must serve the notice of divorce on the other spouse who is the respondent. If the two spouses are on cordial terms, the respondent may waive service and save time and money. In Texas, the quickest that a divorce can become final is 60 days. Even if the sides agree on everything, they must wait 60 days from filing until the divorce becomes final.
When the petitioner files for divorce, he or she can seek a temporary restraining order that outlines how the spouses should behavior towards each other. The order can specify such things as:
- assets should not be moved or sold to hide them from the other spouse or the court
- the two sides should not act in a hostile manner towards each other
- how the sides should deal with their children for now
- temporary measures like child support, spousal support or payment of attorney’s fees
If the court does not order a temporary restraining order immediately, the respondent has approximately 20 days to respond to the order request. Shortly after that, the court will hold a hearing at which it will decide whether the temporary order should become a temporary injunction that remains in place as long as the divorce process is ongoing.
The next step in a divorce is the discovery phase. During discovery, the two spouses and their attorneys share information with the other side. They exchange financial documents, interrogatories (written questions) and other documents that one side requests, and they may hold formal depositions, during which a court reporter takes down the testimony of a witness. A Houston property division lawyer can assist you in fully assessing your spouse’s assets and debts and arriving at an equitable division of property.
Once the parties finish discovery, they will sit down with all of the information and attempt to reach a settlement with each other. The settlement will spell out every term of the divorce, covering such areas as child support, child visitation, spousal support, and how to divide assets and debts. If the spouses reach a settlement, they will sign it and then submit it to the judge who signs it as well and that ends the divorce proceedings.
In less amicable divorces, the spouses may not be able to agree on a settlement. If this happens, the judge will decide how to handle the divorce. The judge may order mediation, which involves having a neutral third party work with the two sides and attempt to negotiate a settlement. If mediation fails or is unavailable, there will be a trial, during which the judge will receive evidence from both sides. At the close of the trial, the judge will decide how the couple will divide assets and debts, how they will provide child and spousal support, what child visitation rights there will be and all other aspects of the divorce.