Divorce Process in Texas

Important: To Get Divorced in Texas You Need to Meet the Jurisdiction Requirement First

You cannot file for divorce in the state of Texas unless you meet the residency requirement. Either you or your spouse must be a resident of the state for at least 6 months (that is 6 continuous months ) before filing for divorce. Additionally, one of you must have been a resident of the county at least (90 days minimum) where you decide to file your paperwork.

Filing of Petition for Dissolution of Marriage

One of the initial benefits of filing a divorce petition is that a standing order immediately goes into effect. The standing order will vary a little from county to county but, essentially, it provides a lockdown on asset transfers, debt acquisition and prohibits spouses from removing children from the jurisdiction of that court.

Also, there may be particular rules unique to individual counties. If you have questions about your specific situation, call us for a free consultation. Manuel Diaz Law Firm, PC has successfully tried and settled divorce cases in all major Texas metropolitan counties like Dallas County, Denton County, Tarrant County, Collin County, Ellis County, Bexar County, Guadalupe County, and their surroundings.

Personal Service or Signed Waiver

A waiver of service or summons means that a party voluntarily enters a lawsuit without requiring the opposing party to serve them with a summons and petition. If a waiver of service is not signed and filed by the responding party, then the responding party must be physically served with the lawsuit by a sheriff’s deputy or special process server.

Signing an entry of appearance and waiver of service only means that the party signing the document is giving up his/her right to be served by a sheriff’s deputy. It does not mean they agree with the lawsuit or are giving up their right to notice when any hearings are to be held. It just means they are giving up their right to be served by a sheriff with a copy of the lawsuit.

The disadvantage to the responding party by signing an entry of appearance and waiver of service is that he/she may not understand or know what they are signing. You should never sign a legal document that you don’t fully understand and without consulting an attorney first..

Answer Counter Petition

The Answer to the Petition

When you receive a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce), you need to file a written response with the court. This is basically a written notice of your positions on each paragraph or statement in the original filed Petition. Essentially, it is your opportunity to agree to, object to, admit to, or deny what is being stated or requested by your spouse.

Many people may file the Answer, believing this is enough to protect themselves throughout the divorce proceedings. However, from a legal standpoint, this may not always be true, and it is usually best practice to file both an Answer and a Counter-Petition.

Counter-Petition for Dissolution of Marriage

While the Answer to your spouse’s Petition may allow you to agree to or object to the requests they’ve outlined in the initial Petition, it does not allow you to outline your own requests to the court. This is where a Counter-Petition comes in. The Counter-Petition allows you to outline your requests for “affirmative relief,” or what you would like to see happen in regards to the various issues and categories that make up your case.

If you don’t file a Counter-Petition, and you can’t reach a settlement agreement with your spouse outside of court, your divorce case will go to trial. If this happens, and you have not filed a Counter-Petition, it becomes much more difficult to present your side of the case to the judge, and you may find it harder to make particular requests regarding the issues of your divorce case.

For example, let’s say your spouse requests alimony in their initial Petition. You file an Answer stating that you disagree, and don’t believe you should be paying alimony to them. While this might give you the opportunity to argue against making alimony payments, it doesn’t provide you with the opportunity to request alimony of your own.

Such a request—as well as requests pertaining to possession of the marital home, division of property, and so on—would be made in the Counter-Petition. While failing to file the Counter-Petition doesn’t necessarily eliminate your ability to make such requests, it can make the process much more difficult.

Temporary Orders Hearing or Agreed Temporary Orders

When a couple decides to separate, many issues come up that must be decided. Formal family court decisions can take months or even years, and many issues can’t wait that long. For example, child custody, child and spousal support, possession of the family car, and possession of the marital home are all issues that must be decided quickly, long before the formal divorce or legal separation hearings.

Temporary orders by family courts serve to address these urgent issues in a timely manner. Once the original petition is filed, the petitioner or respondent can request the court for a temporary orders hearing.

Inventory of Debts & Assets

The beginning of the divorce process is one of the first steps into a new future. It’s an emotional and confusing time as you and your spouse begin to separate personal items, as well as finances. It’s more than necessary to list your assets and debts accurately to prevent bigger problems later.

By taking the time to organize your financial information, you’ll have a better chance of negotiating a fair divorce settlement. If you don’t, you risk the consequences of further legal action after the divorce is finalized and the possibility of being held in contempt of court.

It is important to list and identify all assets that you owned prior to the marriage, assets that you inherited during the marriage, or assets that were gifted to you during the marriage, as these assets may be protected from equitable division with your spouse.

If you own a business, it’s recommended that you still document all business properties and accounts. If you’re not sure of the estimated value of your business, then you will most likely need to consult with an accountant. Any questions about listing assets and debts can be quickly answered by our attorneys at Manuel Diaz Law Firm, PC.

Potential Hearing of financial appraisal or child-related experts

Financials

One of the major issues in a divorce is dividing marital or community property, and this is one of the biggest sources of conflict. Before dividing any asset, you need to know what it’s worth by completing a valuation process. Valuation is especially important for real estate, namely the marital home, because it’s often one of the most valuable assets owned by a couple. Being familiar with the basics of valuation methods for real estate and the role of an appraiser can help you reach a fair and reasonable agreement on the value of real estate owned between the spouses and how it should be divided.

Most spouses have a marital home. A home can be a single-family house, a condo or co-op, or even a mobile or trailer home. Some couples may have vacation or second homes, or maybe a timeshare. The non-residential property includes investment property, farmland, and business property used in the owner’s business. The monetary value of all of these kinds of real property must also be assessed during the divorce process.

Custody

In custody cases, the most common expert witness is a psychological expert. These experts have a dual function and can be used to evaluate both parents and children. With respect to parents, a psychological expert may be used to determine if the parent has the parental capacity to have custody. In other words, if that person “fits” to be a good parent. This can involve looking for narcissistic tendencies or other mental health issues that may inhibit a person’s ability to be a suitable parent. Equally important is the role that psychological experts play in the evaluation of children during custody proceedings. After spending time with the child, the psychological expert will be able to provide information about the child’s needs from their parents and the environment.

For example, the amount of stability necessary for a child will depend on factors that can be deduced by the psychological expert. Additionally, these experts can discern the effect of a traumatic emotional or physical injury suffered by a child. For instance, if there is a history of a parent yelling in front of the child the psychological expert would be able to communicate the effect of that on the child’s long-term development. This ability to communicate psychological effects is necessary to ensure the judge makes the proper decision regarding custody.

The Discovery Process

During a divorce, there may be different forms of discovery requests, including Interrogatories, Requests for Production of Documents, Requests for Admission, Depositions, and Subpoenas.
Shortly after the divorce has been initiated, the lawyers for both petitioner and respondent will begin exchanging information with one another. Lawyers often begin by serving Interrogatories, Requests for Production of Documents, and Requests for Admission on the other party. Generally, discovery must be responded to within 28 days. However, lawyers may agree to an extension. Once the lawyers have exchanged these documents (sometimes called “written discovery”) they will schedule depositions.

While some discovery process may not be needed for every divorce, it is always advisable to consult with an attorney regarding your specific situation before starting a divorce process on your own.

Interrogatories

Interrogatories are written questions that must be answered under oath, under penalty of perjury. Interrogatories often ask general questions about a person’s background, such as education, work history, assets and income, a list of personal property, and information about insurance policies, retirement accounts, trust fund information, and any real estate holdings. You will answer Interrogatories in consultation with your lawyer.

Requests for Production of Documents

Requests for Production of Documents are formal requests to provide specific documents, or categories of documents, that contain information related to your divorce. Requests for Production of Documents may seek financial information, photographs, videos, emails, and written or recorded statements made by friends, family, investigators, and anyone else with information about the divorce. They will also seek information relied upon by any experts who were consulted in connection with the divorce.

Requests for Admission

Requests for Admission are a series of short, pointed questions stating facts that you will be asked to either confirm or deny. Requests for Admission are often used to identify issues that are not in dispute. They can also be a powerful tool in a divorce case because once a party has admitted a certain fact, it can be difficult to change their story at trial.

Subpoenas

Subpoenas are used to request information from people or entities that are not parties to the lawsuit. There are two types of subpoenas: a subpoena duces tecum and a subpoena ad testificandum. A subpoena duces tecum commands the person or entity receiving the subpoena to provide the documents requested in the subpoena. A subpoena ad testificandum commands the person receiving the subpoena to appear to testify.

A lawyer could issue a subpoena to a bank or financial institution commanding them to produce certain financial statements or to compel a witness to testify for a deposition or at trial.

Depositions

Once the lawyers have exchanged documents, they will schedule depositions.

A deposition usually takes place in a lawyer’s office with a court reporter present. The witness swears to tell the truth, the lawyer asks questions, the witness answers, and the court reporter types everything that is said. In some cases, the deposition will also be recorded on video.

Lawyers will schedule depositions of the parties to the lawsuit, fact witnesses, and witnesses who will be called to testify as an expert. Depositions of parties to the lawsuit are scheduled through a Notice of Deposition. Depositions of non-parties can be scheduled by agreement of the lawyers, or by using a subpoena ad testificandum.

Mediation/Settlement Conference

Mediation is a process in which a third-party facilitator works with both parties to have a meaningful discussion about the disputed issues and helps the parties to explore possible options for resolution. The mediator does not tell the parties how to solve the disputed issues, nor do they offer legal advice or their opinion about the issues. Instead, they bring the parties together (sometimes in the same room, sometimes in separate rooms) and help them to talk about the issues and possible solutions. The mediator works with the parties until the parties are able to come to a mutually agreeable solution or until it is clear no agreement can be reached. If an agreement is reached, the mediator will write up a non-binding memorandum of understanding which the parties use to draft a stipulation and order for the court. If no agreement is reached, the mediator will report the party’s participation to the court and they may move on to a trial on the issues.

Pretrial Hearing

A pretrial hearing is a key event in a family law case. It’s the point at which many cases are either resolved or placed on the track toward a trial, which is typically the most time-consuming and expensive phase of a case.

Leading up to the pretrial hearing, the parties are expected to have met beforehand. This is referred to as the “4-way meeting,” which is an out-of-court meeting between the parties and attorneys, usually at one of the attorneys’ offices, at which the parties discuss and try to narrow the issues. Some judges take this requirement so seriously that they will refuse to hold the pretrial hearing if the parties have not met outside of court before the hearing date.

Once you arrive at court on the hearing day, the attorneys typically check in with the clerk of the session, who is essentially an assistant of the judge in the courtroom.

The next step is that the attorneys usually take some time to negotiate the remaining unresolved issues in the case if they believe any of the issues can be resolved short of a hearing. The attorneys may or may not ask the parties to join the discussion, depending on their judgment of whether this would be helpful. For example, if the parties’ relationship is strained, it may be best for the attorneys to work among themselves on the contested issues.

Also, for the hearing, both sides are expected to submit a detailed pretrial memorandum that outlines the key information and arguments in the case. The judge will typically read these before hearing the case.

If both sides are able to resolve the remaining issues, the case can move toward resolution. This sometimes requires scheduling a status or uncontested divorce hearing date for the parties to return to finalize the case. This additional time is usually used for negotiating the fine details of the case and drafting and editing the divorce agreement.

If however, there is any significant unresolved issue, the parties have the opportunity through their presentations of the pretrial memorandum and arguments from the attorneys, to present the uncontested issues to the judge.

Judges will sometimes provide feedback on the key issues in an attempt to move the parties toward resolution. For example, a judge may say that given the facts of the case, if the case were to go to trial, a particular result would be likely. Judges usually preface these comments by reminding the parties that the judge’s feedback at the pretrial stage is not a final decision and that if the case were to proceed to trial, depending on the state of the evidence, there may be a different outcome.

Agreed Decree of Divorce Prove Up or Trial

Trial

Although most divorces are settled through mediation or agreement outside of court, this is not always the case. Sometimes the relationship between people becomes so broken that they are unable to reconcile on anything. Whether it’s because of disputes over high-value property or simply because the divorcing parties find compromise impossible, it can become necessary to get a courtroom and a judge involved.

One option to consider before going to trial to settle your divorce is a partial settlement, where you and your ex-spouse settle some, but not all, of your disagreements through mediation and leave the rest up to a judge. This would give you more control over the outcomes than if everything were settled in the courtroom. Additionally, if your case does end up going to trial, it’s likely that you will also have to attend hearings throughout the process so the judge can make temporary decisions on how things will be handled until the time comes for your official trial.

Prove-Up

A prove-up is the final day in court when couples get divorced. Once both parties have reached an agreement, they submit their final marital settlement and parenting plan to the judge for review and approval and to put the terms of the final decree of divorce on the record.

Final Decree of Divorce

A final decree of divorce is the court’s formal order granting a termination of a marriage. If the case goes to trial and the judge issues a judgment, the judgment is confirmed when the decree is signed and dated by the judge and court clerk.

Other key facts:

    • There is a common misconception that involving attorneys in a Divorce will make the process more difficult. After many years of experience handling all kinds of divorces, we can assure you this is not the case. This is specifically wrong in divorces where there are children, properties or other assets to be separated. In fact, not having an attorney who can help you navigate the legal complexities of the Texas Family Code can make the process slower, more tedious, and could result in getting an unfair settlement.
    • It does not matter where you were married, if you’ve resided in Texas for 6 months or more, you can petition for divorce in Texas (some restrictions apply).
    • Each party will need to retain their own counsel, one attorney cannot represent both parties as this would constitute a conflict of interest.

If you have more questions or would like to inquire more about the divorce process in Texas, do not hesitate to call us at 855-900-3429 for a free consultation with one of our experienced family attorneys.

𝙏𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙞𝙣𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙢𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙞𝙨 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙖𝙙𝙫𝙚𝙧𝙩𝙞𝙨𝙚𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙜𝙚𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙡 𝙞𝙣𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙢𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙥𝙪𝙧𝙥𝙤𝙨𝙚𝙨 𝙤𝙣𝙡𝙮. 𝙉𝙤𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙨𝙝𝙤𝙪𝙡𝙙 𝙗𝙚 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙨𝙞𝙙𝙚𝙧𝙚𝙙 𝙖𝙨 𝙡𝙚𝙜𝙖𝙡 𝙖𝙙𝙫𝙞𝙘𝙚 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙖𝙣𝙮 𝙞𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙫𝙞𝙙𝙪𝙖𝙡 𝙘𝙖𝙨𝙚 𝙤𝙧 𝙨𝙞𝙩𝙪𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣.