Whether you have been married for two years or 20 years, accepting the fact that the marriage is over is never easy. Even if it was your decision to end the marriage, that decision was likely an emotion filled decision. Now that it is clear, however, that divorce is imminent, you should start focusing on what that means. If you have never been through the divorce process before, it probably sounds like a daunting prospect. Navigating the judicial system can be difficult under the best of circumstances. When your emotions are heightened during a divorce, it is hardly the best of circumstances, making it even more challenging to navigate the legal system. The following 10 steps in a Texas divorce will give you a little bit of a head start by letting you know what to expect during your Texas divorce.
Making the decision. The first step in any divorce is making the decision to end the marriage. Hopefully, the decision is only made after careful contemplation and as a last resort.
Contested or uncontested? Some divorces are clearly going to be antagonistic from the start. Many divorces, however, are actually fairly amicable. This is also no guarantee that a divorce that starts out as an uncontested divorce will remain that way – and vice versa; however, it helps to decide whether an agreement appears likely from the outset so you know which way to proceed.
Hiring counsel. It actually helps to consult with an attorney as soon as the idea of divorce comes up; however, once the decision has been made with certainty, it is definitely time to hire an experienced Texas divorce lawyer.
Preparing and filing the initial documents. To initiate the divorce proceedings, one spouse must take the lead (the “Petitioner”) and prepare the requirements documents, including a petition for Divorce. The Petition includes basic information about the marriage and asks for the court to dissolve the marriage and grant the Petitioner the relief he/she seeks. Along with the Petition, a Summons must be prepared that is served on the Respondent (the non-filing spouse) along with other initial documents that might be required.
Serving the Respondent. The law requires the Petitioner to serve a copy of the Petition and accompanying documents to the Respondent using a method authorized by law, such as service by Sheriff or personal service. The Summons will let the Respondent know you have filed for divorce and explain that the Respondent has a limited amount of time within which to file an official Answer with the court.
Answer or Counter-claims. The Respondent is not required to file a written response to the Petition; however, if he/she wishes to answer the allegations contained in the Petition, an official Answer must be filed with the court within the statutory time period. The Respondent also has the option to file a Counter-Petition at this time.
Negotiating a Marital Settlement Agreement. If the parties have agreed to keep the divorce amicable, now is when the terms of a mutually acceptable Marital Settlement Agreement are negotiated. Once all potential issues are resolved the Agreement is signed and submitted to the court for approval.
The discovery process. If an agreement is not forthcoming, the Discovery process is next. During Discovery, each side “discovers” relevant documents and information with the other side. Tax returns, income verification, and appraisals of major assets are examples of documents that might be shared during discovery.
Mediation. The parties may voluntarily agree to, or the court may order, mediation in an effort to resolve as many issues as possible outside of the courtroom. If the parties resolve their disputes through mediation, the terms of that resolution will be reduced to writing and submitted to the court for approval.
Trial. If all efforts to come to an agreement resolving all issues in the divorce outside of the courtroom fail, those issues will have to be resolved at trial.
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding the Texas divorce process, contact an experienced Texas father’s rights attorney at The Law Office of Jon R. Boyd to schedule your appointment today.