Every Texas divorce follows these steps from start to finish:
- Petition for Divorce — this is the document that opens your case at the courthouse. The legal document ranges from two to 20 pages in length, depending on the circumstances. Every petition will include the basics such as names of the parties and children, dates of marriage and separation, grounds for divorce (usually insupportability). The petition tends to be general and is not the place for a recitation of detailed grievances. To file for divorce in Texas, you must have six months’ residency. The petition gets filed in your county of residence.
- Proof of Service — a divorce is a lawsuit, like any other, and specific legal rules apply. Foremost is that the other party (Respondent) must be given legal notice that you’ve filed for divorce. Either a constable or private process server hand-delivers the petition and citation to the Respondent, or the Respondent agrees to sign a Waiver of Service. Remember, no service, no divorce.
- Waiting — sorry, it’s the law! In Texas, you must wait 60 days prior to approaching the Court to finalize your divorce. Many clients petition the Court for temporary orders during this time to ensure expenses are paid and children remain safe. And, no, Texas does not have a legal separation law.
- Final Decree of Divorce — this is the legal document your judge will sign. It contains orders for conservatorship and support of your children and orders for the division of your marital assets and debts. Sounds easy enough, right? Maybe, or maybe not: divorce decrees can be agreed to by both spouses or signed by a family court Judge after a final trial. Most divorce cases settle prior to final trial — it’s just a matter of when.
- Transfer Documents — there are a number of “closing” documents created after a divorce such as wage withholding orders, real estate title documents, powers of attorney, and qualified domestic relations orders. These important documents carry-out the orders of the divorce decree.
Now that you know a little of the divorce vocabulary, you can call us for a free consultation at (817) 923-9999, or take the Deep Dive into Divorce Law prepared by Family Law Specialist Gregory L. Housewirth.