There are basically two ways to get divorced in Texas. The easiest method is by agreement, which may be known as a collaborative proceeding or an uncontested divorce. If you can’t agree on the terms of your break up, the alternative method is the old stand-by – litigation. Divorces that require court proceedings to decide matters related to spousal support, property division and child custody and support are known as contested divorces.
While no two cases are exactly alike, the basic steps in a contested divorce are the same for most cases. In this article, we explain the steps usually required to complete a contested divorce in Texas.
A petition for divorce opens the case in court
You may have reached an impasse in your attempts to have an amicable break up. Or, you may be in a situation where even trying to reach an agreement is pointless and you know it. If it’s time to get the ball rolling on the path to divorce, you need to file a petition for divorce to open the case in court.
A petition for divorce gives the court an overview of the case from the petitioner’s perspective and asks the court to grant the divorce. Once the petition is filed, the matter takes on a life of its own and you are bound to follow court orders issued during the course of your divorce proceedings.
Temporary orders address immediate concerns
In most cases, especially those involving children, courts issue temporary orders to govern spouses while divorce cases are pending. If you have minor children, the order will likely address temporary custody, visitation and support. The order may also address spousal support and designate a party responsible for paying the family’s regular bills.
Temporary orders are sometimes referred to as pendente lite orders or status quo orders. Although temporary in name, these orders don’t generally have an expiration date. They continue in full force and effect until superseded by a new order.
Many cases are resolved through mediation
Most disputed family law cases are ordered to mediation and the parties are supposed to make a good faith effort to resolve the matter. If an attorney represents you in your divorce case, which is highly recommended, your attorney can assist you in mediation. Of course, the point isn’t to reconcile with your spouse, but to try to settle on the terms of your divorce. A surprising number of cases are settled, at least in part, during mediation.
Litigation moves to the discovery phase
Attorneys have a number of tools for use in the discovery process, including written questions, third-party subpoenas and depositions, which is where your attorney gets to ask a party or potential witness questions in person under oath.
Depending on the timing of your case, your attorney may be in the midst of the discovery phase when you go to mediation. If your mediation is unsuccessful, your attorney will use discovery tools to continue gathering evidence about your spouse and prepare your case for trial.
What happens at trial?
Unless settled, your case will be set for trial according to the court’s calendar. Each spouse gets a chance to testify, call witnesses and offer evidence. Your attorney will attempt to present your case in a light most favorable to you, while proving the allegations in your written pleadings and attempting to disprove your spouse’s allegations.
He or she will likely interject objections to adverse witness testimony and evidence during the trial and make legal arguments to the court. Your spouse’s attorney is bound to do the same. It is extremely uncommon and ill-advised for a spouse to forego having an attorney at a divorce trial.
Some time after trial, the judge will issue an order containing the terms of your divorce. It can take weeks to get a final order, depending on the complexity of your case. If you are unhappy with the judge’s decisions, you must appeal within a certain number of days or the order will become final.
Call an experienced divorce litigator
At Peterson Law Group, our family law attorneys are prepared to fight for you and your children’s rights. We explain the divorce process in detail and help you navigate the negotiation, mediation, discovery and litigation phases of your case. Schedule a consultation today by calling 979-703-7014 or visit us online to request a meeting.