I'm going to cover some of the basic divorce information and discuss the overall divorce process in Texas. To begin with, there is no legal separation in Texas. You are married until you get a divorce.
If you want to file for divorce in Texas, you must meet the jurisdictional requirements. Either you or your spouse must have lived in Texas for the previous 6 months and in the county you're going to file in for the last 90 days. Once you've filed your Petition for Divorce, you can move, but you must meet the jurisdictional requirements before filing.
Grounds for Divorce
In Texas you can file for divorce based on fault grounds or no-fault grounds. Most of the divorces that we see are based on no-fault grounds or insupportability.
The fault grounds are as follows:
- Cruel treatment (domestic violence)
- Abandonment for more than 2 years
- Commission of a felony that puts your spouse in jail for 2
- Commitment to a mental institution
Adultery is probably the most common fault ground that we see used, but it's also possible to file based on more than one ground.
If you are in the military and you are deployed, you can file for divorce based on where you lived prior to being deployed.
Filing for Divorce
You start the divorce process in Texas by filing an Original Petition for Divorce. This is basically just a request for a divorce. It's generally a very simple 1 page to 1 1/2 page document if you're filing on a no-fault ground.
If it's a more complex case where there's been domestic violence for instance, or if there is a significant amount of conflict, we may have more complicated initial pleadings.
Filing the Original Petition for Divorce starts the clock on the 60 day "cooling off" period. This means that the divorce cannot be finalized until 60 days have passed.
Waiver of Service
If we're trying to do a more or less amicable divorce, we will usually send a letter to your spouse with a Waiver of Service. The letter explains that a divorce has been filed and asks them to sign and return the Waiver. The Waiver that we send allows your spouse to acknowledge that they understand a divorce is underway and that we do not need to have them served.
Our Waiver specifically states that the person is NOT waiving their rights to their children, their property, or to be notified of a final hearing.
It's important to understand that not all waivers are limited like this. You should read any Waiver carefully or have it reviewed by an attorney before signing.
If there is a lot of conflict in the case, we may have to have the opposing party served by a private process server or a constable. If your spouse decides to hire an attorney to represent them, that attorney will often file an Answer which eliminates the need for them to sign the Waiver of Service.
We often need to establish Temporary Orders after the divorce is filed. Basically Temporary Orders says who will pay what bills, who the children are going to be with at what time, who is going to remain in the family home, etc. They're called Temporary Orders because they only stay in place while your divorce is pending.
The important thing to understand about Temporary Orders is that they can often establish the "status quo." In many cases, the way things are handled with the Temporary Orders are the same way they are handled when the divorce is finalized. This isn't always true, but if the Temporary Orders are working well, the court may not want to change them.
The thing to take away from this is that Temporary Orders are important because they can often predict how things will be decided at the end of the divorce.
I also want to mention that in most cases, we are able to come to an agreement between the parties related to Temporary Orders. Most of the time, we don't have to go to court to make these decisions. In fact, in a lot of agreed cases, we don't even have Temporary Orders. The parties are able to come to an agreement on the issues without formal Temporary Orders.
After the Petition is filed in a litigated case, the discovery period begins. This is the time where we start gathering information about what the community property is, if there's any separate property, if there are any claims for reimbursement, etc.
Basically, the discovery period is where we start looking at what you have to divide, how you're going to divide it and what is going to be in the best interest of the children.
Final Decree of Divorce
Once you have reached agreements on the issues related to your divorce, we will draft a Final Decree of Divorce. This document specifies exactly how your property will be divided, who will have possession of the children and when, who will make decisions for the children, and other details related to your divorce.
This is a very general overview of the divorce process and it's intended to give you an idea of how the divorce process works. When you come in to meet with me, we can talk about how it will all apply to your specific situation.