The Texas Divorce Process

texas divorce process

The one thing every spouse needs to remember is that it takes time to obtain a legal divorce in Texas. Even though the state does not have a mandatory separation period like other states, there are still some built-in speed bumps that slow down the timeline. In addition, couples may want to negotiate a divorce agreement before they actually file for divorce, which could add time to the process. In other words, divorces do not happen quickly.

The Divorce Process Begins with Filing a Petition

The legal process for divorce starts when one spouse files a petition for dissolution with the court. This petition asks the court to grant a divorce, and it is served on the other spouse. The petition could be filed as part of a contested or uncontested divorce.

Before a spouse files a petition with the court, they may have had settlement negotiations with the other spouse. These talks would address issues such as custody and division of marital assets. Oftentimes, spouses do not reach an agreement for many months, especially if they are going through a divorce with complex issues. How long each spouse decides to continue with negotiations depends on their own situation and the advice of their lawyer. If there is a reasonable possibility that they can reach an agreement, they are better off continuing to talk.

If the spouses can reach a settlement agreement on all the issues, filing the petition for divorce comes closer to the end of the process than the beginning. Once the petition is filed, there is a mandatory cooling-off period. The court will not grant a divorce for 60 days after the petition is filed to give the spouses time to reconsider their decision.

If one or more issues remain unresolved, the petition for divorce will be the start of the legal process. Each spouse will get the chance to present their own case, but this will follow a lengthy legal process.

Discovery in Your Divorce Case

In a contested divorce, the discovery process will begin well before trial. During the process, each spouse will be asked to exchange information with the other. Discovery could include the following:

  • Interrogatories where one party has to answer questions from the other under oath
  • Requests for documents, such as documentation of bank and investment accounts
  • Examinations of the parents (in contested custody cases)
  • Requests for admissions to a series of pointed questions
  • Depositions where the spouses and other witnesses are questioned under oath by a lawyer

The discovery process can take months because each side is given time to prepare their responses. In some cases, the parties will have disputes over what documents need to be produced, requiring them to go to the judge with motions to compel. The discovery process may be the most time-intensive part of the case.

The judge will set a schedule or docket control order at some point during the case. They will usually allot a certain time period for discovery. The judge may also require the parties to attend mediation. Most judges will not give the parties a hearing in court until they have first attended a mediation session.

Settlement Negotiations and Mediation

Before the case goes to trial, the spouses may discuss a potential settlement. Most divorce cases will settle before a trial, even if one or both spouses have filed lawsuits. Usually, these talks will get serious after discovery is complete when both spouses have an idea of the evidence and the strength of their case. If the parties reach an agreement, they will file it with the court, and it will become part of a court order granting the divorce.

The Divorce Trial

There will be several months between the conclusion of discovery and a divorce trial. In the meantime, the judge may request briefs from each party before the trial on certain issues. The judge will specify the length of the trial ahead of time, giving each of the parties a certain amount of time to make their case. Each spouse will get to call witnesses and cross-examine those the other side calls to help its case. The judge may issue a ruling right after the case concludes or in the weeks thereafter. If either spouse is unhappy with the judge’s ruling, they have the ability to appeal, which can add several more months.

The General Timeframes for a Divorce

In total, you are looking at a divorce timeline of 6-12 months in most cases. Even if you do not have a contested divorce, you should take the time to negotiate a sensible divorce agreement—a process that could last several months. Before you negotiate, you should consult with an experienced Texas divorce attorney to prioritize what you need from your divorce and to develop a strategy. It would not be wise to rush this agreement because you might wind up living with the choices you make in the heat of the moment regarding your divorce for the rest of your life.

If your case goes to trial, you can expect it to take at least a year. If the issues are more complex, the timeline could be even longer. Texas courts have been running behind since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, so it might take longer for a court to decide certain issues in a divorce case than it did in the past.

When you are contemplating divorce or when your spouse has told you they want one, you should immediately call a divorce attorney to learn about your legal options. A divorce attorney can explain more about the process and what you can expect, as well as prepare you for what is to come.

To schedule a consultation, contact us today. Our Brazoria County, Texas family law attorneys are ready to help.

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