Getting a divorce is not a one-size-fits-all process. It can vary from case to case, depending on the grounds for divorce and whether either party will contest the petition. Below is a brief summary of the divorce process in Texas.
Filing for divorce
The first step of the divorce process is filing for divorce with the Texas family court. The document is the original petition for divorce. The spouse who files for divorce is the petitioner while the other spouse is the respondent. The petitioner will also have to pay the court a filing fee.
Providing legal notice
Once the petitioner files for divorce, they must provide the respondent with a legal notice. It is different from just telling your spouse that you filed for divorce. The petitioner can serve the divorce papers with the citation to their spouse personally, via email, public publication or through a representative. They can also have their spouse sign a waiver of service.
Issuance of temporary orders
The divorce process can take a while to finalize. You might want to file a motion for temporary orders if you want custody of the children or need financial assistance. A spouse may also ask the court to issue a temporary restraining order in divorces involving domestic violence. The spouse requesting temporary orders can file the petition with the original petition for divorce or after.
The respondent’s response
If the respondent refuses to sign the waiver of service, they have 20 days to file a response to the divorce papers. When a respondent does not file an answer on or before the deadline, the court can make a default judgment and finalize the divorce without them.
After the respondent officially gives a response, they can file a counter-petition.
Discovery of evidence or disclosure of financial matters
Before the divorcing parties can negotiate, they must lay all the cards on the table. They need to know who gets custody of the children or if they will have joint conservatorship. They need to identify and divide the property they acquired during the marriage. They might also want to discuss child and spousal support. Each spouse should give the other full disclosure regarding their financial matters and circumstances to reach a fair settlement. The discovery process can help either party uncover hidden assets in a contested divorce.
Negotiating the terms and conditions or going to trial
The goal of negotiating a divorce is to reach a mutually beneficial settlement. An uncontested divorce will speed things up considerably. A contested divorce will involve motions, court hearings and even a trial. However, in some cases of divorce, litigation is necessary. It becomes beneficial when high stakes are involved and neither party wants to give way.
Final Decree of Divorce
After reaching a settlement or agreement, a judge must file and sign the final decree of divorce. Only the final decree of divorce can legally finalize a divorce.