By: Abigail Grieve
1. The first step in any divorce is for an Original Petition for Divorce to be filed. The spouse that files first becomes the Petitioner and the other spouse will be the Respondent. The court will accept this document and assign a case number and court, which officially starts your case with the courts.
2. Following this, the other spouse must receive a copy of your Petition. A process server will serve the Respondent with a Citation and with your Petition. Alternatively, if you and your spouse are on amicable terms, the other spouse can sign a Waiver of Service which will allow you or your attorney to deliver the Petition to them directly.
3. The Respondent will then file an Answer. This Answer addresses the Respondent’s entry into your case and protects their right to be included in hearings and orders.
4. The Respondent can also file a Counterpetition, which will include their requests in the suit.
5. There is a 60-day waiting period to obtain a divorce in Texas, and unless there is already an agreement between you and your spouse, it is likely that the time between filing of the Petition and signing of a Final Decree of Divorce will be longer. As such, you need to have a temporary agreement in place until final agreement can be reached. This temporary agreement would concern handling of joint funds, child custody and support arrangements, living arrangements, etc. If you and your spouse cannot reach a temporary agreement, you and your attorney will request a Temporary Orders Hearing where both parties will appear before a judge who will then issue Temporary Orders in your case.
6. During the pendency of your case, you and your spouse will also exchange Inventory and Appraisements. This document lists every asset and debt of your marriage and from before marriage, including things like real property, loans, furniture, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, insurance policies, and retirement accounts.
7. During the pendency of your case, there will also likely be Discovery done. Discovery consists of each party submitting requests to the other party who will then submit responses. The purpose of this phase is to understand what each party wants to obtain in the divorce and to obtain all relevant documents to determine assets and debts. Discovery can take the form of written discovery such as Requests for Production, Requests for Admissions, Requests for Disclosures, and Requests for Answers to Written Interrogatories. Discovery can also take the form of depositions.
8. It is also likely that between filing for divorce and your divorce being finalized, that you will attend Mediation. In fact, many courts require mediation before they will proceed to a final trial. At this stage, you and the other spouse will attempt to reach a settlement outside of court.
9. If during the pendency of the case, there is no agreement reached between the parties, you and your spouse will proceed to Final Trial where you will each be able to present your requests and evidence and the judge will determine the settlement of your case.
10. Next, a Final Decree will be drafted between you and your spouse and your attorneys which will affect either the agreement you have reached or that has been ordered by the judge. If you have reached an agreement out of court, you will each be required to sign a Prove-Up Affidavit which summarizes your intent to be divorced and that an agreement has been reached concerning division of property and custody and possession of your children, if applicable.
11. Lastly, your Final Decree of Divorce will be entered into the court for the judge’s signature.
The above steps serve as a basic overview of the divorce process, but of course, every case is different, and every family will have a different process. If you have any questions about the divorce process and wish to speak with an attorney about your specific case, please contact us and we would be happy to assist you.