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Every divorce is unique, but the general divorce process in Texas remains fairly consistent for all couples. While some divorces can be finalized in as little as 61 days, it is not unusual for divorces to take a year or more to sort out and litigate contested property or custody issues.
What is a contested vs uncontested divorce?
Terms frequently used to discuss the divorce process in Texas are contested or uncontested divorce.
- A contested divorce means that the parties do not have an agreement, and a judge will need to hear evidence and testimony to make a decision for the parties.
- An uncontested divorce means the parties have already come to an agreement—usually amicably.
Whether you have a contested or uncontested divorce, it is advisable to hire an experienced divorce attorney to draft the paperwork and handle the court process. Experienced family law attorneys know how to protect your legal interests, and negotiate agreements that can actually reduce the need to have future court involvement.
How does the divorce process start in Texas?
Regardless of whether you have a contested or uncontested divorce, or how long the divorce process takes you, each divorce starts out the same way—by filing a Petition for Divorce. Your Petition for Divorce will notify the court that you want to formally and legally break all marital ties with your spouse.
The petition also lays out what the party is asking for in the divorce. For example, a petition may include requests for the following:
- Conservatorship of the children of the marriage;
- How the party would the like to divide the property in a fair and equitable manner;
- and sometimes more specific requests, such as a claim for a waste of assets or fault grounds for the divorce.
What you ask for in the petition is extremely important. If you do not request relief in the petition, you could be prohibited from obtaining it from the court. Occasionally, new information comes to light or your situation can change while the divorce is pending. If this happens, you can discuss the changes with your attorney and file an amended petition to seek additional relief from the Court.
Many counties have Standing Orders regarding the conduct of the parties while the case is pending. Once the petition is filed the parties need to ensure their conduct does not violate any Standing Orders.
Notice of service
Once the petition for divorce is filed with the court, the other party to the divorce must be notified. This is referred to as a notice of service, or commonly referred to as “being served.” This notice can be done—and is most commonly done—by personal service, such as through a process server or constable. These parties will serve the lawsuit on the person.
What happens if my ex can’t be served?
If the other party cannot be located, there are options for alternative service. However, in order for alternative service to be approved, Texas courts want to see that you made significant attempts to serve the other party. Alternative service must be approved by an order signed by the Court.
The other party can also waive personal service, by signing a waiver in front of a notary. that is then filed with the Court. This is most commonly done in uncontested cases. It is important you only sign a waiver if you are fully informed of the documents that will be submitted to the Court so as to not unintentionally waive any rights you may have.
Getting your divorce terms in writing
Once the petition is filed and service is complete it is time to get to work. Depending on what you are intending to accomplish, if you and the other party have an agreement for all, or even some matters regarding property or custody of children, those agreements can be put into writing in one of the following:
- Temporary order
- Rule 11 agreement
- Settlement agreement
- Final decree of divorce
If you do not have an agreement, and things are getting litigious, most likely your attorney will make a request for a temporary order hearing. This hearing is usually held within a few weeks of making the request depending on the issues and the Court’s availability.
Temporary order limitations
In the Texas divorce process, temporary order hearings often have time limits for presentation of testimony and witnesses. Any order rendered after a temporary hearing is, as the name sounds, temporary. A temporary order lasts either until further order of the court or some other expiration by law. While the divorce is pending, these orders are generally limited to the following:
- Where each party will live
- When each party will have possession of the child(ren)
- Who will be paying what bills
Since most divorces have to be on file with the court for a minimum of 60 days before they can be finalized, temporary orders can help preserve the status quo, or at least lay some ground rules, for the parties while the divorce is pending with the court.
Preparing for the final hearing
Next, it will be time to start preparing for the final hearing. Preparation for the final hearing may include discovery, depositions, investigation, attending mediation, and trial preparation by the attorney and client.
Once an agreement is signed or the Court makes a ruling after a trial, the Final Decree of Divorce can be prepared, circulated amongst the parties, and eventually presented to the Judge to sign. There are likely other ancillary documents that will need to be prepared in addition to the Final Decree of Divorce. Some of those documents include items such as income withholding orders, for child support or spousal maintenance; Domestic Relations Order, which divides retirement; deeds to transfer real estate; powers of attorney for transferring vehicles; and much more. It is important to have an experienced family law attorney on your side to ensure you are protected, and all loose ends are tied up.
Need help through the Texas Divorce Process? Call 254-526-5688 to speak with a divorce lawyer.
If you are in Texas and you realize that you need the help of an attorney through divorce process, The Carlson Law Firm is here to help. Even if you and your soon-to-be ex agree on everything, getting through the divorce process requires some knowledge of the legal system. Divorces can become particularly complicated when there are children and assets involved. If you are considering divorce, you need a compassionate lawyer on your side.
The Carlson Law Firm handles divorces in Bell, Coryell, Milam, Lampasas, Williamson, Hays, Travis, Bastrop, and Burnet Counties. Our family law attorneys have the resources and know-how to get the best resolution for you and your children.
Our attorneys will make the process easy and seamless. Contact us today to schedule a free phone or virtual consultation.