The Texas Divorce Process — What You Need to Know to Get Started
If you have come to the difficult conclusion that your marriage is coming to an end, the next step is to prepare yourself for the divorce process. The process of divorce can be relatively simple and amicable, or it can be extremely complex and adversarial. While a number of factors will determine the tenor of your divorce, the attitude of the parties involved will be the most important of those factors. Given the highly personal nature of a divorce, it is certainly in your best interest to consult with an experienced Texas divorce attorney as soon as possible. It may also be helpful, however, to go over some basic pointers on getting started with the Texas divorce process so you have a better idea of what to expect from your upcoming divorce.
Texas Divorce Process – Pre-Filing Considerations
Before a divorce can be filed, you must consider some basic requirements first. For example, you will need to decide which spouse is filing the divorce. The spouse who files is known as the “Petitioner” and the other spouse becomes the “Respondent.” In order to file for divorce in the State of Texas, either the Petition or the Respondent must have lived in the state for at least the preceding six months. In addition, the Petitioner may file the divorce in the county in which either party has lived for at least the last 90 days. Neither spouse may be pregnant at the time the divorce is filed. Finally, the Petitioner must decide on the grounds for the divorce. Texas allows you to file a no fault, or a fault, divorce. If you file a no fault divorce you are simply admitting that the marriage has become “insupportable due to conflict between the parties and that there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.” Nothing else need be proven. Fault grounds in Texas include: cruelty, adultery, conviction of a felony, abandonment, living apart for at least three years, and confinement to a mental hospital. If you file based on one of these grounds you must be prepared to prove the grounds during the course of the divorce.
Filing the Divorce
In Texas, a divorce proceeding is initiated when the Petitioner files a Petition for Divorce in the appropriate county. The original Petition for Divorce includes basic identifying information about the parties and the marriage and asks the courts to grant the divorce. A copy of the Petition must be served on the Respondent. Service may be perfected by personal or mail service or by publication if you are unable to locate your spouse after making a diligent effort to do so. The Respondent may also waive service. The Respondent then has a limited amount of time within which to file an official Answer with the court. The amount of time varies, depending on the manner in which service was accomplished; however, under no circumstances does the Respondent have less than 21 days to file an answer. If the Respondent does not file an Answer, and you have not already worked out an agreed upon Marital Settlement Agreement, you may file a motion for summary judgment which effectively asks the judge to give you everything you asked for in the original Petition.
Contested or Uncontested?
If you and your spouse are able to agree on a resolution to all of the issues in your divorce it is considered an uncontested divorce and can be wrapped up fairly easily. You must, however, wait at least 61 days after filing the Petition to submit a proposed Final Decree for the judge’s approval. If you do not agree on how to resolve all issues in the divorce, the divorce is contested. In that case, you will proceed to the discovery phase wherein both sides share pertinent information and attempt to negotiate resolutions to issues. You may be required to attempt mediation if a marital settlement agreement does not appear to be forthcoming. If all attempts to resolve the outstanding contested issues are unsuccessful, the matter will proceed to trial.
If you have additional questions or concerns about divorce in Texas, contact an experienced Fort Worth father’s rights attorney at The Law Office of Jon R. Boyd to schedule your appointment today.