Contested Divorce – What to Expect
Going through a divorce is rarely easy; however, it is considerably more difficult when the divorce is a contested divorce. If your marriage is headed for divorce and you have reason to believe it will be less than amicable, you are probably also concerned about what that means from a practical and financial perspective. To give you an idea, Fort Worth contested divorce lawyer Jon Boyd discusses what you can typically expect during a contested divorce.
The Texas Divorce Process
The divorce process begins when one spouse files a Petition for Divorce. The spouse who initiates the divorce process is known as the “Petitioner,” making the other spouse the “Respondent.” The Petition must be served on the Respondent who then have a statutory time period within which to file an official Answer with the court. If the Respondent does file an Answer, that Answer may deny allegations in the Petition. The Respondent could also file a separate Counter-Petition for Divorce that also contradicts allegations in the original Petition. Typically, this only happens when both parties allege fault grounds for the divorce. Texas is one of many states that has a “no fault” grounds, referred to as “insupportability.” Texas also continues to recognize six “fault” grounds, including adultery, cruelty, and abandonment.
What Is a Contested Divorce?
It is possible to get through the divorce process relatively quickly and easily – but only if the parties agree on every issue. Divorce involves the division of marital assets and debts as well as a determination of conservatorship if there are minor children of the marriage. Possession and access as well as child support must also be agreed upon for minor children. Spousal support may also be an issue in a Texas divorce. While these are the major categories of issues that must be addressed in a divorce, for a divorce to be “uncontested” the parties must agree to every minute detail within each of those categories. If they are able to do that, a Marital Settlement Agreement and Parenting Plan can be drafted and submitted to the court. Once accepted by the court the terms of those agreements become part of the final order of divorce. If the parties are unable to agree on any of the details, the divorce is considered a contested divorce.
What Happens in a Contested Divorce?
If your divorce is contested, both sides will begin the discovery process. Discovery involves both sides attempting to obtain information from the other side by filing requests for production of documents and/or interrogatories (written questions) and conducting depositions (oral statements made under oath). Depending on the value of the marital assets and/or the degree to which the parties cooperate (or not), the discovery process can take months, even years, to complete. During and after the discovery process the attorneys for both parties will try to negotiate an acceptable agreement. If those efforts are unsuccessful, the court may order mediation. Mediation involves a trained mediator (usually an attorney) working with both sides of a lawsuit (in this case a divorce) to try and reach common ground that could result in a resolution. If contested issues remain after mediation, the court will set the matter for a trial. If your case goes to trial, a judge or jury will decide all remaining contested issues in your divorce.
The emotional and financial toll a contested divorce takes on everyone involved can be substantial. While there are times when protracted litigation cannot be avoided in a divorce, it is crucial to ask yourself whether it can be avoided in your divorce. One way to avoid a contentious divorce is to consult with an experienced divorce attorney before the divorce process gets underway. Often, disputes that would otherwise lead to costly litigation can be avoided by getting a lawyer involved from the start of the process instead of waiting until those disputes have turned into a full-blown battle.
Contact a Fort Worth Contested Divorce Lawyer
If have additional questions or concerns about a contested divorce in Texas, contact an experienced Fort Worth contested divorce lawyer at Boyd Family Law to schedule your appointment today.