An uncontested divorce is a divorce where the parties do not agree on the issues and require Court action and litigation to resolve the case. This process begins with the filing of a petition for divorce.
Beginning the Divorce
The start of a divorce is when you file a petition for divorce in the county where you reside. You must have resided in that particular county for at least 90 days and in Texas for the last 6 months. The petition is the legal document that lets the court know it has the legal ability to hear the case and what you are looking for in the divorce case. The next step is to serve the other party with process. Once the other spouse has been served, they are required to answer the case and make their appearance.
Temporary Restraining Order
You may want to request a Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”). A TRO is a common part of the divorce process. The purpose is to preserve the status quo and make sure the parties don’t engage in bad conduct regarding the other spouse, the property and the children. One of the most common reactions to a suit for divorce is major changes or retaliatory actions by the other spouse. A TRO legally prohibits that type of conduct and gives you legal recourse if the other spouse violates the order.
Temporary Orders may be the next step in the divorce process. The hearing is typically a few weeks from the filing of the request for the hearing. At the hearing, the judge will determine “the new normal” for the parties while the divorce is pending. This might include child support, child conservatorship, possession and access to the children, and rights and duties and rights and duties pertaining to the children. Property issues such as possession of the marital house, temporary use of other assets, and attorney’s fees may be decided as well.
Discovery is one of the most important tools available to you and your lawyer when going through a divorce. Often times, divorce lawyers will not engage in discovery, but it should be strongly considered and encouraged. Discovery is the method used by attorneys to learn information about the spouses, the children, and the property at issue in a divorce. These methods can include written questions, depositions, and subpoenas. Failing to engage in the discovery process in a divorce action can mean that you may not have all the information you need to make the best decision in your case. Make sure you hire an attorney who is experienced with and understands the complex issues of discovery.
Mediation is often times required by the Court. It is a valuable process for the parties to come to a peaceful and inexpensive resolution of the issues in the case. In essence, the parties meet at the mediator’s office and confidentially discuss the issues involved in the case. If a settlement can be reached, a binding mediated settlement agreement is signed by all parties and filed with the court.
If the parties are unsuccessful in resolving the case informally, a trial may be necessary. Often times, these cases are heard before a judge only, but certain circumstances may allow you to have the case decided by a jury. At the trial, the parties will offer evidence to support their case and their request for relief to the court.
Timeframe for a Contested Divorce
A divorce can be finalized 61 days from the date of filing at the earliest. A contested case can last longer than year in some circumstances. It is important that you understand the time frame for your case.