Filing for divorce can be a complex process in Texas, even if the divorce is uncontested. There is paperwork that must be done correctly in order to avoid delays. The process can become more complicated when the two parties do not agree on key financial or custody issues.
The First Step Is Hiring a Family Law Attorney
The first step in the divorce process comes before you file anything with the court. If you are considering divorce, you should first consult with and retain an experienced family law attorney. Given the emotions and stakes of your divorce, you should not attempt to handle matters on your own. An attorney will give you objective advice about your situation and point out future considerations you may otherwise overlook.
Next, you should extensively and objectively assess your own situation. You will likely need to negotiate temporary orders to govern separation from your spouse while the divorce is pending. Accordingly, you should take stock of what you may want in these orders, recognizing that you will need to compromise with your spouse.
Attempt to Negotiate a Marital Settlement Agreement
Before you file for divorce, you should determine whether or not you can agree with your spouse on all key issues. If the answer is yes, the divorce can proceed as uncontested, which will be far easier. In order to reach that point, however, you and your spouse may need to undertake extensive negotiations; and, the help of an experienced family attorney can definitely steer you toward that point. If the answer is no, you should prepare beforehand for what could be a difficult and time-consuming process. While an uncontested divorce might be simpler and easier, it is rarely possible. You and your spouse may simply not be able to see things the same way. If so, you should consider a collaborative divorce. Even if you do not go that route, family court judges will require you and your spouse to go to mediation to try and resolve your issues without a trial.
File for an Uncontested Divorce if You Can
If you are able to file an uncontested divorce, you must make sure you meet the legal requirements. The main legal requirement is a marital separation agreement. In addition, the parties must also agree that the differences between the two spouses are irreconcilable, and the marriage is unsupportable. Finally, the filing spouse must have been a resident of Texas for six months before filing.
If the divorce is uncontested, there are forms you can file with the court depending on your situation. You should check with the particular county in which you’ll be filing to see if it has its own forms you must file. The spouse who is filing for divorce will fill out these forms as the petitioner in the case.
While uncontested divorces seem simple, there may be a great deal of work necessary to reach the point where there are no unresolved issues between the spouses. If there are children and/or property in the picture, each spouse will start out with their own position about how the case should be settled. In other words, most divorces do not start out uncontested but may reach that point after some effort.
You should also review your situation to see whether you have grounds for a fault-based divorce. This will make your divorce more complicated, and you will need to prove the grounds for the divorce. Even if there are fault grounds, many spouses will opt for an uncontested divorce because it is simpler and less confrontational.
File the Proper Forms Correctly with the Court
Regardless of whether a divorce is contested or uncontested, you must still file divorce papers with the court. Then, you must give your spouse notice of the divorce by serving them with the papers. You must find a third party with no interest in the divorce (usually a process server) to give the papers to your spouse. Depending on the nature of the divorce, your spouse may waive the service of the process.
There are two different ways that your spouse can respond to the divorce filing. If the divorce is contested, they will need to file an answer with the court stating their version of the facts and why they oppose what the filing spouse is seeking. If the divorce is uncontested, both parties will sign a Final Decree of Divorce form. This form may be submitted with the original paperwork to save time.
In an uncontested divorce, the judge will review the paperwork to ensure that it is in order. They will review the terms of the marital separation agreement. Only rarely will they disapprove of the terms. They might do so when, for example, child support is far less than the state guidelines without a compelling reason. Then, the judge will hold a court hearing to grant the divorce. The parties must wait at least 60 days after the petition is filed for the divorce to be granted.
If the divorce is contested, the filing will begin the litigation process. The two parties would begin the process by exchanging financial disclosure forms and filing them with the court. Then, the spouses would engage in a discovery process where they exchange more information about finances and answer questions in a deposition. Eventually, the judge will hold a divorce trial where each side presents its case in court before the judge reaches a final decision about the contested issues. Most divorces are resolved before they reach the point of a trial.
To schedule a consultation, contact us today. Our Brazoria County, Texas family law attorneys are ready to help.