What is the process for divorce in Texas?

Bedford divorce attorney discovery rulesDivorce in Bedford, Dallas and Fort Worth is a judicial process to dissolve a marriage. It requires the help of the courts. Divorce in Texas can be a fairly simple process though. The family courts in Tarrant, Dallas, Collin and Denton counties can make the divorce as painless as possible. There are two ways a divorce can go before the courts: uncontested or contested. In both cases one spouse must file a petition for divorce to the family courts.

Service of process must occur upon the other spouse and he or she must have an opportunity to answer. (Process is the legal term for the combination of a copy of the petition and a citation.) A court cannot grant divorce until at least the 61st day after filing the petition. (But it could be longer depending on when the other spouse is served.) When the court grants the petition for divorce, the court will sign an order dissolving the marriage.

Uncontested divorce in Texas

Uncontested divorce is simple. The spouses agree how to separate assets, child custody and what maintenance payments (child support or alimony) each may pay, before they go to court. The two spouses then present a joint agreement to the court. As long as the agreement does not require the judge to do something the judge cannot do, the court will follow the agreement.

An uncontested divorce is definitely the cheapest route. It normally requires the least work from divorce attorneys and the least amount of time in the courthouse. The obvious problem is that divorce tends to be an emotional event and there is often a lot of disagreement about how to divide property and how to divide custody of children. When the parties can agree on an uncontested divorce they can usually save a lot of the heartache and divorce attorney costs. One uncontested divorce lawyer can draft the documents. The other party may or may not hire an uncontested divorce lawyer of their own.

Contested divorce in Texas

If the spouses cannot agree how to divide everything, then they can pursue a contested divorce. A contested divorce is one that requires the court to decide how to divide property, arrange child custody, child support and alimony. Everything can be contested or the spouses can agree to some issues and leave others contested for the court to resolve. Contested divorces may resolve before either a jury trial or a bench trial – decided by the judge alone.

Either way, litigation is very expensive (it can easily run $20,000 for each spouse). It is frequently the least desirable option from a financial perspective. Typically neither spouse walks away from the trial feeling like they got what they want. Sometimes one or both spouse wants to go to trial to have their day in court. At $20,000+ that is an expensive day. So there is a lot to consider in pursuing a judicial resolution to the dispute. Litigation is great for divorce lawyers because it causes large legal bills. It’s usually not a great idea for the parties because it causes large legal bills.

Another problem with litigating a contested divorce in Texas is that there is a high probability of uncertain results. Juries–and even judges–can be unpredictable in how they decide cases. Even with divorce lawyers advocating beautifully for your case, a jury can make an unpredictable decision on the most unusual basis.

Additionally, even if the jury or judge agrees with your divorce lawyer you put your destiny in the hands of twelve total strangers. They do not have a deep understanding of you or your kids. They will make lifelong decisions about you and your family after a handful of days of watching the divorce lawyers presenting competing cases.

It is certainly possible that a jury or judge will split the difference and give both sides something they dislike. This is often why alternative resolution forums that allow the parties and their divorce lawyers to control the terms of resolution is often a better path.

Non-litigation options for divorce in Texas

Spouses seeking divorce have options beyond litigation or sitting at Starbucks hashing out the furniture and weekends dad sees the kids. The spouses can submit to a mediation process, which is an informal negotiation process in which a neutral third party goes between the spouses to help them negotiate a fair agreement both sides can accept. (Think the beginning of the movie “Wedding Crashers” but more civil.) Mediation can be done with or without attorneys. Sometimes when divorces come to courts contested they will require mediation before setting a trial date.

In addition to mediation, there is also collaborative law gaining popularity for resolving divorce disputes. Collaborative law is similar to mediation except the spouses hire divorce attorneys with the specific goal of reaching an agreement. There is also less formal negotiation between attorneys or between spouses.

Schedule a consultation with divorce lawyers in Texas

If considering filing divorce or already served with divorce papers, contact a lawyer to discuss your situation. As a divorce lawyer I represent clients in Tarrant County and Dallas County in all types of divorces. These range from simple, low cost uncontested divorces to divorces with complex property issues to divorces with complicated custody issues. During a consultation we can discuss possible options for divorce resolution and how to accomplish your goals. Contact my office to schedule a consultation by completing the contact form below.

If you are still looking for information about the divorce process and not ready to contact a divorce attorney then check out these two videos on divorce in Fort Worth and Dallas:

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