How Do I Get Started?
If you’ve weighed the pros and cons and know that you’re ready to file for divorce, please feel free to reach out to our law firm. We will have you fill out a short intake form, and we will then review your information to make sure we can represent you. If no barriers to representation exist, you will sign an engagement letter to retain us on your behalf. After that, we will draft and file an Original Petition for Divorce for you as early as the same day, depending on the complexity of your case. We understand that once the decision is made it is important that the process move along as efficiently as possible, and we will do everything we can to make sure that it does.
Depending on whether your case is contested or uncontested (agreed), we will then move forward with getting the opposing party served with notice of the lawsuit. For more information on whether or not to have the other party served by a process server with the lawsuit, please see Contested vs. Uncontested (Agreed) Divorces below.
What if I’ve Been Served With Divorce Papers?
If you’ve been served with divorce papers there is a statutory time frame in which you have to respond to the lawsuit. We know that time is of the essence, and if you do not file a response the opposing party can enter a Default Judgment against you and enter an order that includes everything they want. Once you retain our firm, we can draft and file an Answer on your behalf, usually in the same day.
In addition to filing an Answer on your behalf, we can file a Counter-Petition for Divorce and/or any other necessary pleading and have the other party served with that pleading.
If there is a pending hearing or if an order has already been issued against you, there are certain actions we can take to protect your interests. Depending on the specifics of your case, we can represent you at a later hearing, file a Motion for Continuance, or take steps to modify the order.
How Do I Know Whether It Is a Contested Divorce or an Uncontested Divorce?
Contested vs. Uncontested (Agreed) Divorces
Contested divorce: A contested divorce is a divorce where the parties cannot agree on one or several of the issues needed to terminate their marriage. Typically a contested divorce is when the parties cannot reach an agreement on any of the following:
* Division of assets (i.e., retirement, 401(k)s, military retirement, checking accounts, bank accounts, savings accounts, mutual funds, cash on hand, etc.)
* Division of personal property (i.e., clothing, cars, jewelry, gifts, appliances, electronics, collections, tools, furniture, household goods, etc.)
* Child issues (i.e., custody, who has the right to designate the child’s primary residence, visitation schedules and possession, who has what rights with respect to the children, who designates what school they attend, pick-ups and drop-offs, holiday possession, etc.)
* Child support (i.e., who should provide child support and in what amount, what amount is fair, what percentage of their income is required to support the children, should child support include additional expenses, day care, after-school care, tutoring expenses, pregnancy expenses, medical expenses, etc.)
* Infidelity or adultery (i.e., there is a reasonable suspicion of infidelity, one party has given or contracted an STD to the other party, e-mails, text messages, Facebook, websites or other communications have provided clear evidence that adultery has been committed, or the other party has admitted to committing adultery)
* Inability or unwillingness to terminate the marriage: Oftentimes one party has a simple unwillingness to end the marriage and continues to stall or delay in order to prevent divorce. In this circumstance, sometimes simply filing for divorce is the first step in getting the other side to accept what is happening.
Uncontested divorce: An uncontested divorce, also known as an agreed divorce, is when the parties reach an agreement on all of the issues in their case and there isn’t the need for litigation. In an uncontested divorce either one or both parties can be represented by an attorney, but (with few exceptions and outside of the collaborative law process), both parties cannot be represented by the same attorney.
How Long Is the Divorce Process in Texas?
In an uncontested divorce the issues are agreed to, and it can take anywhere from three to six months, (including the waiting period), but may take less time depending on the complexity of issues in your case. In this scenario, it is common for an uncontested divorce to take the following steps:
1. Original Petition for Divorce is filed.
2. The other party is either served by a process server, or the party is sent a Waiver of Service. A Waiver of Service is a document the other party signs agreeing to waive the need for a process server to personally serve him or her with the lawsuit.
3. A Final Decree of Divorce is drafted which encompasses all of the parties’ agreements. The parties circulate the decree to ensure that it reflects their agreements. At this point revisions, if necessary, are made. After a final version is agreed to, both parties sign off on the document.
4. The Final Decree of Divorce is proved up and entered with the court. The divorce is granted on the grounds of insupportability.
In a contested divorce the issues are highly contested and the parties cannot reach an agreement, which usually results in litigation. A typical contested divorce may take anywhere from 6 to12 months or longer, depending on the complexity and contentiousness of your case. In this scenario, it is common for a contested divorce to take the following steps:
1. Original Petition for Divorce: The Original Petition for Divorce is filed and the other party, or Respondent, is served, usually via a process server.
2. Answer or Counter-Petition is filed: The opposing party, or Respondent, has a set amount of time to file an Answer and/or Counter-Petition in response to the Original Petition for Divorce.
3. Temporary Orders Hearing: One party requests a hearing on Temporary Orders. After the hearing the court makes a ruling entering Temporary Orders which typically establish the orders the parties must abide by in the interim, i.e., what expenses each party will pay (which may include temporary child support and spousal maintenance), who will live where, and what visitation schedule the parties must follow while the divorce is pending.
4. Discovery: Either party may then send discovery to the other side. Discovery is the formal process that allows each party to request certain documents and evidence during the pendency of a divorce. Discovery documents seek to clarify the issues, gather information about assets and debts and prepare both parties for final hearing or settlement.
5. Mediation: On motion of either party or by court order, the parties may be required to attend mediation. Mediation is a process whereby the parties are represented by attorneys and try to reach a settlement agreement (called a mediated settlement agreement), through the help of a third-party mediator, which resolves all of the issues in their divorce. At a mediation, a third-party mediator, who does not represent either side, helps each party weigh the pros and cons of reaching an agreement and gives their opinion on either parties’ potential success in court.
6. Final Hearing: A final hearing is the last step in a contested divorce. This can take place before a judge or jury depending on the circumstances of your case. At the final hearing the judge or jury makes a final disposition of all of the issues in the case and issues a ruling that will later be converted into the Final Decree of Divorce.
7. Final Decree of Divorce is drafted: The Final Decree of Divorce is drafted based off of the final order of the judge or jury. Typically, one side drafts this document and then circulates it among the parties and lawyers for their approval and/or revisions. If there is a dispute as to the language used in the Final Decree of Divorce or as to the meaning behind the judge or jury’s ruling, an additional hearing may be necessary before the Final Decree can be entered.
8. Final Decree of Divorce is entered with the court: After disputes regarding the specific language in the Final Decree of Divorce have been resolved, it is signed and entered with the court, usually during a brief prove-up hearing. Once entered, the Final Decree of Divorce represents the final order of the court and reflects the judge’s or jury’s ruling. It is also the document used to prove that the parties are divorced, effect a name change and establish legal and fiduciary obligations of each party. Oftentimes, a wage withholding order for child support or other documents are entered and signed at the same time the Final Decree is entered to fully effectuate the order of the court and transfer property.
Whatever path your divorce may take, keep in mind that each case is unique. Your divorce might follow this path or take a different route. Oftentimes, a divorce can start out contested, but then down the road the parties may reach an agreement without the need for litigation. Sometimes the reverse is also true, even parties that think they have reached an agreement on all of the issues may realize they have a sharp disagreement when they attempt to paper the details.
To schedule a free initial divorce consultation with our experienced attorneys, call us at 512-478-0006.