The timeline for a Texas divorce depends on a number of factors. You can expect that it will take some time after you file for divorce for it to be finalized. When two parties are able to agree on the terms of the divorce, it can be resolved relatively quickly. Otherwise, they could go through the trial process, which could take up to a year or more.
Unlike many other states, Texas does not have a mandatory separation period before you file for divorce. There is no requirement that spouses live apart for a certain period of time. What Texas does have is a “cooling off” period that keeps a court from granting the divorce until 60 days after the petition for dissolution is filed. This time period allows people to change their minds if they choose not to divorce.
Every Divorce Will Take Time to Resolve
You can expect your divorce to take longer than the 60-day period. After all, filing the petition with the court is usually the first step of the divorce process. Typically, spouses will try to work out the issues between them regarding custody and finances through negotiations. These issues are rarely straightforward, and they often require back-and-forth between the spouses’ divorce attorneys.
If you decide to try for a marital settlement agreement, your timeline depends on how long it takes for you and your spouse to agree. You can expect more complex cases to take longer. Here are the general steps:
- You meet with your attorney and devise a strategy for handling the divorce.
- You exchange financial information with your spouse through your attorneys.
- The two parties negotiate the terms of the potential agreement through their attorneys.
- If there are any sticking points, you may try mediation to help bridge the gaps.
Negotiating a Marital Settlement Agreement
In some cases, spouses will try to reach a written agreement before filing for divorce. This will be filed with the court, along with the petition for dissolution, and will become part of the court order. This would begin the 60-day cooling-off period.
Some spouses may file for divorce without all the issues being resolved. They will request the court decide contentious issues. This would begin the divorce trial process. The spouses may have reached an agreement on some issues but cannot decide on others. Alternatively, they may be on two completely different pages and need the court to get involved.
The Process for a Texas Divorce
Divorce trials are like any other court case in that there is a formal process that must be followed. Trials only happen after a lengthy pretrial process. Since the legal process can be long, one spouse may need some interim relief before the final trial decides the issues. Many will apply for temporary orders for custody, child support, and/or alimony.
In the meantime, the two parties will prepare for a divorce trial like they would any other court case. There is a discovery phase during the case where the two spouses will obtain information from each other that could be used in their case. This could include the following:
- Information about financial accounts they hold
- Mental health examinations
- Depositions where one spouse will answer questions from the other’s attorney
- Discussions with parenting experts
The Road to a Divorce Trial
The discovery phase could take, on average, around six months. One spouse may not receive the information they feel they deserve, and they may need to go to court to have the judge compel production of that information.
In the meantime, both parties will likely continue to discuss a possible settlement of the divorce case. These discussions may intensify after discovery is completed. This may be the time for both spouses to have a mediation session to reach an agreement. A judge may even order the two parties into mediation, although the mediator can only facilitate an agreement and cannot force anyone to settle. The settlement phase of the case could last up to two months.
There is still some time between discovery and trial if settlement negotiations are unsuccessful. The court will have likely set a trial date in the case. The attorneys must prepare for trial based on the information they have gathered during discovery. You would be working with your attorney during this time, preparing for your upcoming testimony in court.
After many months of motions, discovery, and preparation, it is time for the trial. This could last between one day and two weeks (or in extremely complex cases even longer), depending on the issues to be decided. Each side will have an allotted amount of time to call witnesses and make their case in front of the judge. Each spouse can count on testifying and being cross-examined by the other’s attorney. The judge may issue a ruling at the conclusion of the trial or sometime afterward. At this point, the judge would grant the divorce and issue a court order granting the divorce and deciding the terms.
As you can see, divorce can be a complex and often contentious process. It is one that is best navigated with the help of an experienced Texas family law attorney. You can take comfort in knowing that very few divorces ultimately head to trial. However, resolving a divorce takes compromise from both spouses.