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A Guide to the Steps of a Texas Divorce Process

A Guide to the Steps of a Texas Divorce ProcessIn the state of Texas, going through the divorce process can be a difficult and intimidating journey. Understanding each step and what it involves is essential in making the process as smooth as possible. The first step is to file a petition for divorce, which must include basic information about the couple's identities and marital history. This petition must be filed with a Texas family court, with copies given to your soon-to-be ex-spouse.

The second step is to attend a settlement conference, during which divorcing parties work together out of court or with an attorney or mediator to negotiate an agreement over child custody, property division, spousal support, and other financial arrangements. After any necessary mediation sessions are complete, both parties will sign a settlement agreement that includes all proposed agreements as discussed in the conference. Next, either spouse may need to appear in court depending on their unique situation before their divorce is finalized by the presiding judge. During these proceedings, both parties’ attorneys will present evidence that supports their case against the other party. Finally, once the final decree has been processed by the courts, requested modifications to child support have been made (if necessary), and all agreements have been paid in full or finalized.

Grounds for Divorce

When seeking a divorce in Texas, it is important to first decide what grounds you will claim when filing divorce papers in court. Because you must prove at least one ground for the district court to grant the divorce, knowing which grounds you can legally use and how to prove them can help make the process much easier.

Under Texas law, there are 7 grounds for divorce including supportability (also known as no-fault), cruelty, living apart, adultery, the conviction of a felony, abandonment, and confinement in a mental health institution. Insupportability (no-fault) is by far the most common ground used since either partner can file and no blame needs to be assigned. Generally speaking, if your marriage has become unmanageable and an early resolution is desired then no fault may be an appropriate choice for your situation. Cruelty requires evidence of serious physical or emotional abuse that endangers safety or makes living together impossible. The other five grounds are less often used due to their specific criteria but may be more applicable depending on your particular circumstances.

Before submitting your petition to the district court it is important to understand all of the available grounds so that you choose wisely and have the proof ready if needed.

Submitting the Request for Divorce

The filing of a petition for dissolution of the marriage is the first step to begin the divorce process. In Texas, this document must include claims for divorce as listed in the original divorce petition.

In divorce cases, there are two parties involved: the petitioner, who initiates the process, and the respondent, who is the other spouse. The formal commencement of the case is signified by filing the necessary paperwork, which allows for legal resolution through court proceedings. In order for one to be legally eligible to file for an uncontested divorce in Texas, both spouses must be living in the state of Texas for at least six months before taking action with regard to their marital status.

It is important that when submitting your petition for dissolution of your marriage, all required documentation such as proof of residency and any other relevant evidence such as financial documents are included. You will also need to choose whether or not you would like a judge or mediator involved in your case which should be indicated on your filed form. Working with a legal representative or filing yourself can help make sure that divorcing couples meet all necessary requirements before it can become finalized by law.

Notifying Your Spouse

Providing your spouse with notice that you have filed for divorce is a necessary step in the process. This is a formal notice, and not just letting your spouse know about the process. In order for this to be considered legal and valid it must be done in one of three ways: Your spouse signs a waiver of citation; you hire a process server; or publication or posting.

When signing a waiver of citation your spouse is given the notification of the court proceedings and will accept service without having to use a process server. A process server can be hired to deliver notifications like court summons, subpoenas, or other legal documents related to your divorce if appropriate. Lastly, publication won’t always work but is typically used when you don’t know your spouse's address as long as they can be found within the state limits. The public notice would provide them with adequate enough information so they can contact you directly to take part in these proceedings at a later date. All 3 of these methods are legally accepted forms of providing your spouse with notice once you have officially filed for divorce in district court.

The Document Submitted Is a Response and Counterpetition From Your Spouse

After being informed of the divorce filing, the spouse has the opportunity to respond within twenty days with or without legal representation, depending on their preferences and available resources. An answer acknowledges receipt of the divorce papers, plus it may offer statements concerning the divorce proceedings such as disputes or agreements with particular clauses.

When responding to a petition, your spouse has the option to file a counter-petition that outlines their specific requests to the court, similar to the original petition. The counter-petition states their grounds for filing for divorce, listing any issues your spouse does not agree with in your initial petition along with any requests they would like granted by the court. Your spouse must attend all court hearings related to this matter after filing this form.

The Waiting Period

The waiting period requirement during divorce proceedings serves an important purpose in Texas. In order for a couple's initial divorce request to be approved by the court, it must have been under review for a minimum of 60 days. This waiting period is designed to provide divorcing spouses with some time to cool off and potentially reconcile, although this is not its primary purpose. Most of the time, it serves as a necessary step midway through the divorce process that can be instrumental in allowing couples to reach an agreement on the terms of their divorce – such as child custody, child support, or division of marital assets – so that they may proceed with an uncontested divorce.

The long waiting period may seem tedious and unnecessary but it does have benefits. It provides both parties with adequate time to gather personal information about themselves and each other relevant to the marriage which can help make negotiations smoother during property division proceedings or decisions concerning parenting arrangements. Furthermore, it provides courts with the opportunity to proactively encourage families who are having difficulties adjusting to separated living requirements while still being parents together by referring them for voluntary mediation or practical information sessions if applicable. While this step may seem frustratingly lengthy at its outset, it ultimately provides benefits to all involved in divorcing familial relationships.

Your Divorce Decree

A divorce decree is a document that officially ends a marriage and outlines the agreement between two individuals. It details how any property, debt, child custody and child support will be divided. The decree is usually created after having a final hearing before the court. Depending on if both parties come to an agreement or if there was a trial, the process will differ accordingly.

First, if an agreement has been made either through collaborative law or mediation, then it must be submitted for approval at the final hearing which usually takes place after the 60-day waiting period from when the divorce case was filed. During this hearing, the judge will only ask existing questions about what has been agreed upon in order for them to decide if they approve of it. On the other hand, if no settlement has been reached by this point then there might be either a bench trial or jury trial and everything will be decided by those persons instead. Either way, after all, issues have been sorted out according to what was presented in court and the judge’s ruling on them, you will receive your official divorce decree closing out your marital status altogether.

Talk to a Lawyer

An experienced divorce lawyer in Harris County, Galveston County, Fort Bend County, Montgomery County, Brazoria County, Houston, Sugar Land, Missouri City, and Stafford, Texas at Thornton Esquire Law Group, PLLC, can help you with your divorce case. Contact us today at www.thorntonesquirelawgroup.com for a free consultation.

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