There are several steps to the divorce process in the state of Texas. These steps are outlined below. The information provided is intended to offer a general overview of the divorce process in the state of Texas, and not all portions will be applicable to your particular situation. Generally, the divorce process takes at least 61 days to complete in the state of Texas.
Filing of the Original Petition for Divorce
- Filing the Original Petition begins the divorce process. One spouse files the Petition with the court, requesting that the court dissolve their marriage partnership with their spouse. The Original Petition is the document that communicates this request to the court. The spouse requesting the divorce is referred to as the Petitioner and the spouse receiving the Petition is the Respondent. Divorces in Texas may be either no-fault or with fault. A no-fault divorce is when the marriage has become insupportable because of strife and there is no chance for future reconciliation of the parties. If both parties cannot agree on the terms of the divorce, it is up to the court to divide the assets within the marriage. The court will do so based on a standard referred to as “just and right distribution”. Fault assigned within the divorce can affect how the court interprets what is a “just and right distribution”.
Service of Petition on Opposing Party or Waiver of Process
- As soon as the Original Petition for Divorce has been filed with the court, the Respondent will be notified. The Petition will be officially delivered to them by either a Constable or a private process server. This can be avoided if the Respondent signs the “waiver of process”.
Filing of an Answer and/or a Counter Petition
- Once the Original Petition for Divorce has been filed and the Respondent has been served, the Respondent has until the Monday after 20 days from the date of service, to file an Answer. The Answer will either accept or deny the allegations set forth in the Original Petition. At this time, the Respondent has the opportunity to file a Counterpetition. This is the Respondent’s opportunity to present their requests for the divorce.
Temporary Orders and Entry of Injunctions
- If a Temporary Restraining Order was issued at the time of the filing of the Petition, a hearing will be set fourteen days after the date the Petition was filed. At this hearing, the spouses usually agree to a set of rules that they will abide by during the divorce process. If the parties cannot agree, the Court will hear evidence and set the rules in the Temporary Orders. These rules provide guidelines for the behavior of the divorcing spouses and protect their joint estate from being diminished in value during the divorce process.
- The discovery process allows each spouse to question the other regarding events which occurred during their marriage. They may also request documents and records, which are used to determine the value of the combined estate. In addition, witnesses may be retained and have their depositions taken. This information is also used to support the grounds for the divorce.
- The court may require that the couple and their attorneys enter into a mediation. The mediation process takes place with a mediator who will work with the couple to come up with a final settlement agreement. If the couple enters into a Mediated Settlement Agreement, it is usually nonrevokable. If all disputes are resolved during this mediation, the divorcing couple can avoid a trial.
- If there are still disputes that the couple cannot resolve through mediation, a trial may be necessary. This trial will be presided over by a judge and possibly a jury if any party requests and pays a jury fee. The parties have the opportunity to present evidence through testimony by witnesses, in order to prove their case. Based on these presentations, the judge and/or jury will make a final determination in regard to the final order of the divorce.
Entry of Final Divorce Decree
- The Final Decree of Divorce is the legal document that dissolves the marriage partnership. This document outlines the distribution of assets and liabilities, the terms of child custody and visitation, and any agreement as to child and/or spousal support. The Final Decree of Divorce may either be agreed to by both parties or the result of a judge and/or jury’s verdict if a trial was necessary.