File a Petition
Even when both spouses want a divorce, one of them must file a petition for divorce with the court that details the grounds for the divorce. In Texas, most divorce are filed under a “no-fault” ground called “insupportability.” In addition, a party may request a divorce on fault grounds such as adultery or cruelty.
Service of Process
The Petitioner is the person who files for divorce and he or she must provide proof that the petition was actually served to their spouse. Service of process may occur by having a third party (a process server) handle the delivery of the petition for divorce to your spouse and document the delivery. Your spouse may also sign a waiver of service which would be filed with the court. If your spouse has retained counsel, your attorney may send the petition to your spouse’s attorney, if he or she agrees to accept service.
The Respondent in a divorce after receiving the petition for divorce, must timely file an answer, which is due the Monday following 20 days after service of process. They also typically file a Counter-Petition for Divorce.
Initial Required Disclosures/Discovery
Under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure 194.2, certain initial required disclosures are required in every divorce, which are due within 30 days after a Respondent files his or her answer.
(1) In a suit for divorce, a party must, without awaiting a discovery request, provide to the other party the following, for the past two years or since the date of marriage, whichever is less:
(A) all deed and lien information on any real property owned and all lease information on any real property leased;
(B) all statements for any pension plan, retirement plan, profit-sharing plan, employee benefit plan, and individual retirement plan;
(C) all statements or policies for each current life, casualty, liability, and health insurance policy; and
(D) all statements pertaining to any account at a financial institution, including banks, savings and loans institutions, credit unions, and brokerage firms.
(2) In a suit in which child or spousal support is at issue, a party must, without awaiting a discovery request, provide to the other party:
(A) information regarding all policies, statements, and the summary description of benefits for any medical and health insurance coverage that is or would be available for the child or the spouse;
(B) the party’s income tax returns for the previous two years or, if no return has been filed, the party’s Form W-2, Form 1099, and Schedule K-1 for such years; and
(C) the party’s two most recent payroll check stubs.
Additional discovery can occur, such as interrogatories, requests for production of documents. Discovery is the process of documenting facts that are relevant to your case. Information about the community estate is exchanged typically through sworn Inventories and Appraisements which list all property owned by the parties, whether separate or community and all liabilities owed by the parties. This is a crucial step in your divorce case.
Temporary Orders may be necessary in a divorce to address who lives in the marital residence while a divorce is pending, to address child support, temporary support, how bills are paid, and temporary custody and possession of your children. Temporary Orders establish the “ground rules” for the conduct of the parties while the case is pending. Depending on the complexity of the case, a divorce may take many months before an agreement is reached or a trial occurs. A hearing on temporary orders may need to be scheduled to address these matters.
Temporary Orders are often agreed upon or may require a hearing before a family law judge. Temporary Orders are important as they set a precedent in your case and typically stay in effect until a final trial.
Your attorney will advise you on the best way to negotiate all contested issues. Typically, this occurs by the drafting and exchanging settlement offers and preparation for mediation. Mediation is a settlement proceeding lead by a third-party neutral, called the mediator. Mediation is required in Travis, Hays, and Williamson Counties before a final hearing or trial on the merits may be held. The majority of family law cases resolve at mediation.
Final Hearing or Trial on the merits
Issues that cannot be settled through negotiation or mediation will proceed to trial. The trial is an evidentiary proceeding where the judge or jury hears testimony from witnesses, consider the facts, and make rulings on the contested issues in the divorce.
Final Divorce Decree
The divorce decree is the court order dissolving the marriage. If the parties reached an agreement at mediation or through settlement negotiations, it addresses the terms of settlement for such issues as custody, support and the division of property and debts. If a judge or jury heard the case, the divorce decree will state the final ruling.
Whether you choose to amicably settle or seek the intervention of the courts, contact divorce attorney Amy Gehm who can guide you through the process, while diligently working to protect your rights, interests and assets.