A divorce in Texas can be one of two things – contested or uncontested.
In an uncontested divorce, the parties are in agreement on how to divide assets and debts, as well as how to handle child support, alimony, and whatever other items may be before the Court.
In a contested divorce, the parties cannot come to an agreement, and the Court will then have to make a decision for them based on the Texas Family Code.
The procedure for a contested divorce begins with a party – the Petitioner – filing a petition in the Court requesting divorce. The other party is then by default called the Respondent. The Respondent is served with a copy of the divorce petition, and has the first Monday after twenty days from the time they were served to file an answer.
Emergency orders are also something which can be requested at the time of filing, which may be signed by the Judge and will restrict one or both parties from certain conduct (such as wasting assets, harassing the other party, or in some cases, even being ordered to leave the marital home).
Often, the Respondent will eventually counter-sue, thus becoming a Respondent/Counter-Petitioner, whereas the Petitioner then becomes Petitioner/Counter-Respondent.This begins the divorce. Discovery normally follows, which means an exchange of legal theories, evidence, financial information, and other relevant items in the case (unlike television, there is seldom a surprise, and parties mostly know what each is going to argue well before most hearings).
Once Discovery is concluded, then mediation is often the next step. Mediation is often required by the Court under local rules, although it is not mandated under the Texas Family Code. Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution which is often used to settle legal disputes, and because of its high success rate, it is often used in family cases.
If mediation is unsuccessful, then temporary orders is the next option, if so desired by either party. Temporary orders are important, in that hearing, the Court temporarily can divide assets and debts, award custody and child support, alimony, and make whatever other temporary orders the Court feels is necessary. If this occurs, the temporary orders control the matter unless they are modified, or, until the final trial.
About six months to nine months from the time that the divorce petition was filed, the Court will finally have its final trial, also known as “trial on the merits,” or “final hearing.” At this time, all the matters are placed before the Court (again, if they have already been ruled on before on temporary orders) for a final decision from the Court.
It is not unusual for the parties to agree to some things in the divorce, but not all, and leave whatever they have not agreed to, to be decided by the Court.
Texas is a little unique in that unlike most states, most decisions in a divorce – including even that of custody – can be put before a jury instead of a judge. However, the vast majority of cases end up before the judge, although sometimes a party can have reasons to go before a jury, instead.
A divorce is a complex legal matter in Texas. Ilionsky Law, PLLC has experienced, aggressive attorneys standing by to help you with your case from beginning to end. Give us a call at (713) 482-1974 to discuss your options and how our divorce lawyer in Houston may help you.