What are the ten steps of a divorce in Texas?
1. The Decision.
First, you must decide whether you need a divorce. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds. You think that a divorce will solve some problem that you have. If your spouse is abusive or cheating on you, then divorce is likely to be the better option in dealing with it. But if the problems are financial, emotional, or something else, you may have better ways to solve your problem. Even if you think you have “tried everything,” chances are you haven’t tried anything half as emotionally and financially draining as a divorce.
How are you going to survive for the first seven years after your divorce? You may not have thought that far ahead. Do you have a budget and a plan for how you are going to meet your needs post-divorce? How are you going to pay child support, rent, insurance, and all the other expenses in a divided household? Do you want to try Collaborative Law? Who are you going to hire to be your attorney? How are you going to pay attorney fees? Where will you live while the divorce is pending?
3. The Petition.
The first legal step in a divorce is to file the Original Petition for Divorce and paying the filing fee. The petition states the grounds for the divorce and the relief that the petitioner is requesting from the court.
4. Service of Citation.
After the petition is filed, it along with a citation must be served on the respondent. The citation is a document prepared by the clerk under the seal of the court that has information that the respondent needs to know in order to respond to the divorce suit. The citation and petition must be served on the respondent by a sheriff, constable, or licensed process server. The respondent can sign a waiver of service of the citation to avoid this expense.
5. The Answer.
The respondent has until the Monday following twenty days of receipt of citation to file an answer. The answer can contain a general denial, denials of specific allegations, and counterclaims. A typical answer contains a general denial and a request for attorney fees.
6. The Counter-petition.
Counter-petitions are optional. A counter-petition is a petition filed by the respondent of the original petition. Counter-petitions are filed when the respondent has claims to make against the petitioner. They can also be filed to keep the suit alive in case the petitioner dismisses his own case.
7. Temporary Orders.
Temporary orders are also optional. Parties request them to preserve assets while the divorce is pending, or to make orders regarding the children until the divorce is final. They may include a temporary restraining order or temporary injunction to make sure the parties behave themselves during the divorce process and may include an order to mediate. Temporary orders can be agreed, or a judge can decide on temporary orders after a hearing.
The discovery process is where the parties exchange information necessary to determine what will go into the final order. Discovery can start as soon as the divorce is filed and can be informal or formal. Informal discovery consists of requests between the parties or between their attorneys for information that they think they will need to finalize the divorce. It is usually cheaper than formal discovery. In formal discovery, the parties serve each other requests to produce documents, disclose certain information about the lawsuit, answer interrogatories, answer depositions, and make admissions or denials. Third parties can also be subpoenaed and deposed during the discovery process.
9. The Final Trial.
Almost every divorce ends in a final trial. If the divorce is agreed, only the petitioner typically shows up for the trial, gives evidence, and asks the judge to sign the order. Some courts allow the petitioner to file an affidavit with the final order so that no one must go to court and there is no trial. If the parties can’t agree on the terms for the final order, then either the judge or a jury will decide after a contested hearing.
10. Motion to Enter.
Unfortunately, even after the final trial is held and the judge or jury rules, sometimes parties still can’t agree on language for the final order. When that happens, the parties must appear before the judge at least one more time to have the judge rule on the language and sign the order.