Attempting to navigate the legalities behind a divorce can be difficult and failing to understand the process required can create even more confusion. In this blog we cover a general overview of what the divorce process looks like.
“Dealing with my divorce was a difficult and emotionally draining ordeal, attempting to understand the legalities behind it on my own made it more excruciating.”
Jurisdiction by a Texas Court Over a Divorce:
To file a divorce in Texas a court must ensure that a court has the jurisdiction, the power, to hear your divorce case. Two things must be established before a Texas court can have jurisdiction over a divorce. First, one of the spouses must have lived in Texas at least six months before filing for divorce. Second, the filing spouse must file a divorce case in the county in which the spouse in Texas has lived in for more than 90 days. If you do not meet the jurisdiction requirements, then you must either file in another state where a court has jurisdiction over your divorce or wait until a Texas court can exercise jurisdiction over your divorce.
Beginning the Divorce Process:
Once you establish that a Texas court can hear your divorce case, you may begin the divorce proceeding. To begin a divorce proceeding the first thing that must occur is the filing of the Original Petition for Divorce or “Petition.” The Petition is where a spouse seeking the divorce, also known as the petitioner, asks for the dissolution of the marriage. Further, it is where a petitioner may request their relief, which may include division of property, payments of debts, child support, custody, and/or spousal maintenance.
Notifying the Other Spouse:
The petitioner must always notify the other spouse of a pending divorce once the Petition has been submitted to the court. The responding spouse who a divorce is sought from is known as the Respondent. Under Texas law, notification of divorce is needed, which is referred to as service of process. There are three ways to notify a spouse of a divorce, all of which vary depending on the situation.
One way to satisfy service of process is to hire a process server or a county constable to personally serve, or deliver, the spouse with the citation, which is the formal notice of the divorce petition prepared by the court. This is the most common way in which someone is notified of a divorce. This is easiest accomplished when the location of the spouse is known, such as a home or work address. This process does have a fee associated with it.
Another way to serve the spouse is by publication or posting, which is done after a diligent search and the inability to locate the spouse. This is the best option for a person who is unable to locate their spouse because they are simply unaware of the spouse’s location. This process requires actions from the court and has court fees associated with it.
Finally, the third way to serve a spouse with the divorce is through waiver of service. This is where the responding spouse signs a waiver and agrees to be served the petition. This step simply requires a signed waiver by the spouse and the notarization of the waiver. This process typically does not have a fee associated it with.
Responding to a Divorce Petition:
Once the spouse has been served with the citation and petition of divorce, via one of the ways listed above, they must file an Answer, which is a response to the allegations in the Petition. The responding spouse must file an Answer the next Monday following the expiration of 20 days after service of process. In practice, the deadline to respond can be found by counting 20 days (including weekends and holidays) after the day of service then going to the next Monday. The Answer must be filed by 10:00 a.m. on the deadline day. If the 20th day falls on a Monday, then the deadline to answer is the following Monday. If the courts are closed on the day the Answer is due, then the Answer is due the next day the courts are open.
Length of a Divorce:
The most common questions is, “how long will a divorce take?” The answer varies from situation to situation. A court can only grant a divorce after the divorce Petition has been pending for 60 days. Thus, once the petition has been submitted, the absolute earliest a divorce can be granted is 61 days after the filing of the petition. This waiting period is referred to as the “cool-down” period. The purpose of the wait period is two-fold. First, the wait is to account for the possibility of reconciliation between the spouses. Second, it allows time for the spouses to come to a mutual agreement regarding property or custody of children.
Most divorces will take longer to finalize than just 61 days. Divorces that involve property and children can take well over a few months to finalize. The reason being is because of the complexities and disputes that come with both the division of property and custody of children.
If you find yourself in a divorce proceeding or expect one, you may need more than a quick overview. For a free initial consultation visit or contact:
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