“How do I start the process?” This is the question you will most frequently ask if you consider filing for a divorce. Know that every state in America has a different set of requirements and applicable laws in divorce proceedings. As for the state of Texas, there are steps to follow to complete the filing of divorce. This blog will break down the steps in brief and concise points to assist you in the divorce process as required in the Lone Star State.
If you are the Petitioner, a.k.a. the filing spouse, you are required to initially file an Original Petition for Divorce with the local court. Right after filing your petition, you will be issued the necessary divorce papers. The court will then personally serve these papers to the Respondent, or the other Spouse in the relationship. During the filing, either of the spouses is allowed to request a restraining order from the court.
Take note that under Texas divorce laws, one of the spouses must be a continuous resident of the Lone Star State for the last 6 months. Moreover, one of the spouses must also be a resident of the county where the divorce is filed for at least 90 days.
Waiting for the Judge
Usually, the court may consider issuing temporary orders, effective while the divorce procedure is pending. These temporary orders commonly involve matters such as temporary use of conjugal property, servicing of debt, spousal support, and payment of attorney’s fees. Take note that it is important to document and collate everything during the initial filing procedures, as the court is likely inclined to ask for proofs of assets, purchases, payments, or debts. During the process known as “Discovery,” both parties must exchange copies of all these documents, either between spouses or among legal counsels.
Divorce courts in Texas mostly attempt to settle such cases with as little in-court sessions as possible. When all documents are in, the spouses then discuss settlement of the divorce case, either directly or through mediators or attorneys. Once a mutual agreement has been reached, one of the spouses or attorneys will then prepare an Agreed Decree of Divorce, containing all of the terms of the agreement. After the spouses and their attorneys sign the agreement, the judge signs it as well. But if the parties are unable to reach an agreement, then court will then set a trial date to resolve the issues.
If spouses cannot absolutely come to an agreement, Texas Law requires them to participate in a mediation process. Mediation is an informal process allowing the divorcing couple to work with a neutral third party. The third party is usually a court-appointed therapist or counselor, tasked to negotiate and settle all terms of the conflict. However, if mediation is still unsuccessful, then a divorce trial is set. The courts then draw up a Final Decree of Divorce, which contains the trial ruling, as well as the rules and stipulations that both parties must adhere to.
Fast or Furious
The divorce process can either be swift and relatively fast and easy, or the complete opposite, with anger or fury on one or both sides. It is all up to both parties and how willing they are to work smoothly with one another and the courts. When the settlement fails, it usually takes about 6-12 months or longer to finalize a divorce in Texas, based on how complex the issues and the degree of conflict are.
If you are the Petitioner in a Texas divorce proceeding, you have at least 60 days before the court finalizes your union after you file the petition. This cooling-off period is supposedly to help you as divorcing spouses if ever you want to change your mind.