The Divorce Process: How it Works?
In many ways, it's easy to forget that behind every divorce there are people involved — both parties and lawyers. In fact, while divorces often seem like a one-sided battle, everyone plays a role. Below we take a closer look at what happens during the course of a typical divorce case.File the Divorce Petition
The divorce process begins with filing a divorce petition. This document asks the court to dissolve the marriage. At this stage, it doesn't matter whether either party wants out of the relationship; each person needs to file a separate petition. If you don't want to go through the formalities of a divorce, you can ask a family law attorney to help you negotiate a settlement agreement.Request Temporary Court Orders
If you want to avoid lengthy legal battles over property division and alimony, you'll want to request temporary court orders while you are still married. This way, you won't have to wait weeks or even months for a judge to rule on your case.
You can request temporary orders when you file for divorce, but you must do so within 30 days of filing for divorce. For example, if you file for divorce on July 15, you must request temporary orders by August 14.
If you don't request temporary orders when you initially file for divorce, you can ask the judge to issue temporary orders later. However, you cannot amend your original petition once you've already asked for temporary orders.
The judge will consider your requests based on what he or she thinks is fair and reasonable.File Proof of Service
When you file for divorce and ask the court to issue temporary orders, you are required to send a copy of the papers to your spouse. If you do not follow proper procedure, the judge won't hear your case. You must prove that you served your spouse with the papers. This is done by filing a document called proof of delivery.
The law requires you to deliver copies of the papers to your ex within ten days of filing your complaint. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, if your spouse lives out of state, you may be able to serve him or her via certified mail.
If your spouse refuses to acknowledge receipt of the papers, you must take additional steps to ensure that he or she receives them. One option is to personally hand-deliver the papers to your spouse's residence. Another alternative is to use a process server to deliver the papers. A third option is to hire a lawyer to serve your spouse and file proof of service.Negotiate a Settlement
Unless you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse agree on matters like child custody, support, and/or property division, you will likely have to go through a formal legal separation called a "divorce." If you are unable to reach an agreement on those topics, the court will appoint a special master to mediate the matter and make recommendations about what needs to happen next. This step typically occurs before the actual trial begins.
The court may schedule a settlement hearing at which you, your ex-spouse, and your attorney meet to discuss the matter. You'll probably want to bring along any financial information you've collected over the course of the marriage, including income tax returns, bank statements, credit card statements, pay stubs, etc. In addition, you may want to bring along evidence of assets owned separately by each of you, such as deeds to real estate, stock certificates, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, jewelry, artwork, collectibles, vehicles, boats, motorcycles, antiques, etc.
If there are children involved, don't forget to bring pictures of them. And if you're planning on moving out of state, keep in mind that many states require that you provide proof of residency prior to granting a divorce.
Once you arrive at the settlement hearing, your lawyer will present the mediator's findings and recommendations to the judge. After weighing the facts and making his own decision, the judge will usually issue a written ruling that sets forth the terms of the final divorce decree.
In some cases, the judge may decide to hold a separate trial to determine how much alimony, child support, and/or equitable distribution of marital assets you and your ex-spouse owe one another. These trials are often referred to as "equitable distribution" hearings because they involve determining whether one person has been unjustly enriched by taking advantage of the other.Go to Trial, if Necessary
If you want to end your marriage, there are five steps to take. First, you need to decide whether you want to file for divorce. If you do, you'll need to talk to a lawyer about what happens next. Second, you'll need to gather documents related to your finances. Third, you'll need to make sure you're ready financially. Fourth, you'll need to think about how you'd like to proceed with the divorce process. Finally, you'll need to go ahead and file for divorce.
While most people don't realize it, there are actually several different ways to get divorced. You can choose one of three types of divorces: uncontested, contested, or collaborative. An uncontested divorce involves no legal action; simply sign the paperwork and the divorce is done. A contested divorce requires litigation; both parties must agree to certain terms, and each side presents their arguments to the court. A collaborative divorce is similar to a contested divorce, except that the couple works together to reach an agreement on issues like child custody and visitation.
A divorce proceeding isn't just about getting divorced. It's also about dividing up assets and liabilities. This includes things like retirement accounts, real estate holdings, cars, and other items. Depending on the state where you live, you might even be able to divide your home equity. And while you won't always receive alimony, you might be entitled to spousal maintenance, which is basically money paid out over a period of time.
There are many reasons why couples split up. Some people find themselves unable to work together anymore, others feel trapped in unhappy marriages, and still, others simply don't see eye to eye on important decisions. Whatever the reason, it's important to remember that divorce is never easy. But if you've been thinking about ending your relationship, now is the time to act.Finalize the Judgment
The final step in the divorce is when the judge signs the document. This marks the end of the marriage and specifies the terms of custody and visitation, child and spousal support, and the division and allocation of property.
If you and your soon-to-ex negotiated a settlement, the attorney representing the filing spouse usually drafts the judgment. However, the judge issues a final order if the case goes to trial.Should I Hire a Divorce Attorney?
In most states, you don't have to hire a divorce attorney unless you want to go to court. But it can still be the best way to ensure that your interests are protected. If you have a history of substance abuse or domestic violence, it might be wise to consult with a lawyer, even if you aren't planning to file for legal separation. A good attorney could help you avoid costly mistakes and make sure that your rights are protected.
An experienced family law 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 explain your rights and obligations and help you navigate the entire divorce process. Contact us today at Thorntonesquirelawgroup for a free consultation.