Filing for divorce is a big step. Whether you’re the petitioner or the respondent in a divorce case, you need to know the major steps of the Texas divorce process so you can put together a strong case, so you can prepare legal assistance, and so you can enter this process ready for any development or outcome.
Below, you’ll find a breakdown of each major step in a typical divorce case. We’ll also explain what’s needed to run the divorce process from initial filing to finalization.
First Steps in the Divorce Process
Whether you are filing a contested or uncontested divorce, the first steps are the same.
Petitioning for Divorce
Firstly, the petitioning party (called the petitioner) files for divorce with their local family court. They file a document called the “Original Petition for Divorce” and pay a small court fee, which kickstarts the divorce process from a legal perspective.
Once this petition is filed, the filing spouse receives a distinct number from their local court clerk.
Providing Legal Notice
Next, the petitioner must provide the responding party (called the respondent) with legal notice of their intent to divorce. This is the official moment at which both parties are aware of the divorce process’s start.
In the event of an uncontested divorce, the other spouse may sign a “Waiver of Service” if they do not wish to be legally served the divorce notice. Alternatively, they will be served the notice unwillingly, which is more common with a contested divorce.
Hearings and Negotiations
Once the respondent party has been served or has received divorce papers, hearings and negotiations can begin formally. In any contested divorce case, at least one hearing is required to make final decisions regarding the many issues in a divorce, such as how marital property will be divided, how child-support payments will be made if necessary, and so on.
In an uncontested divorce, a hearing may not be necessary and both parties may simply visit a court to receive their final decree of divorce after 60 days have passed following initial filing. A divorce settlement agreement may be signed at such a “no-fault divorce” hearing.
Many divorce cases revolve around the proper division of property. According to Texas state law, all property accumulated over the course of a marriage is “community”, meaning it is subject to division during divorce proceedings.
This can include material assets like a house, a car, and other physical property assets, as well as immaterial assets like bank accounts, retirement accounts, stocks, and more. Because many couples may disagree on how property should be divided, property division hearings may take weeks or months to settle.
Some divorce cases may require one spouse to pay money to the other via alimony. Alimony negotiations can also be long and complex and are based on factors like:
- The education of both parties in a divorce
- The relevant income of both parties in a divorce, especially if one party makes significantly more than the other
- The current standard of living or quality of life for the lower-paid party
- And so on
In such circumstances, an experienced family law attorney may be of invaluable assistance to both sides in a divorce case. They can help make accurate and compelling arguments for their clients and ensure that the situation is resolved fairly for all involved. You can find good attorneys from a lawyer referral service or paid attorney advertising.
Child Custody and Child Support Decisions
If the divorcing couple has one or more children, matters of child custody and child support payments must also be settled before the divorce can be finalized.
Child custody decisions will involve things like:
- Which party, if either, has primary custody
- Which party will have visitation rights and when those rights may be exercised
- How much time does the child(ren) spend with one or both parents
- And more
If one party was the primary breadwinner or earner in the family, they may be required to pay child support to the other party, even if they are not the primary caregiver to the children post-divorce. This is typically the man, though it may also be the woman depending on the specifics of the case.
Once again, legal experts like family law attorneys can provide major help for both parties in a divorce case when these decisions are brought up. Both parents likely want to spend as much time with their children as possible, and divorce attorneys can help ensure that both parties get what they want and what is best for the children.
Final Divorce Decree
After any hearings are finished and all issues are decided, your case’s judge will sign a final divorce decree at a final divorce hearing according to Texas law. Depending on whether your divorce is contested or uncontested and which issues involved debate, this may take weeks or even months from start to finish.
Regardless, you cannot get your divorce finalized sooner than 60 days after the initial filing of the divorce paperwork. This is a state-mandated “cooling off” timeframe that gives both members of a marriage time to reconsider or change their minds if appropriate.
How Family Law Attorneys Can Help
No matter the circumstances of your divorce case, the steps involved and the amount of paperwork you need to file can be tough to keep track of. Even worse, the emotional turmoil inherent in divorce makes it easy to forget filing deadlines and may make it difficult for you to represent yourself fairly and accurately during your court hearings.
Maynard Law Firm can help with all of these issues and more. As experienced and local family law experts, we’ve helped many people just like you over the years with sound legal advice and are ready to hear your case specifics or assist with your divorce petition. We offer a free consultation and promise to have your back during this trying time. Please don’t hesitate to contact us today for more information.