Texas is a community property state, which means that there is a presumption that assets are community property, not separate property of a spouse. To overcome this presumption, one must be able to definitively show to a court that an asset was acquired before the marriage and has maintained its characterization as separate property. The key to maintaining the character of your property as separate is to avoid commingling the property with community property.
- Prove up MSA (Mediated Settlement Agreement) in front of Judge
- Schedule an entry date for the final order
- Drafting Final Documents
- Enter signed final order and supporting documents with the court
- Post-Divorce Checklist (Not optional)
Process After Mediation
In Texas, many cases are settled during mediation. A mediation agreement is a binding agreement signed by all parties and their attorneys that resolves all of the issues in case. Once an agreement is reached, the most difficult part of the case is over, but there are still several steps that need to be taken to finalize the agreement.
First, the mediator files the agreement with the court. In most cases, the agreement is filed within twenty-four hours. In many courts, especially in cases involving child custody, one party must “prove up” the mediated settlement agreement in front of the judge. This means that one party appears before the judge and briefly explains that the parties have reached an agreement and what that agreement contains. The judge will then examine the agreement to ensure that it comports with Texas law and in most cases approve the agreement. Following the “prove up”, the attorney will request an entry. An entry date can also be requested in instances where a “prove up” is not required. An entry date is a date by which the final decree or order must be signed by all parties and submitted to the court.
Once an entry date is set, one of the attorneys begins drafting the decree or order. Generally, mediated settlement agreements are only a few pages long. They contain all of the agreements of the parties, but not the legal language necessary for a final decree. For example a mediated settlement agreement may state simply that the parties agree to a standard possession order, the final draft will then need to specify over several pages the exact terms of visitation in standard possession order. One attorney must to draft a longer document with the appropriate language. Once the draft is completed, all parties and their attorneys have an opportunity to review the document prior to entry. Sometimes, one party does not agree to the final language. If there is a dispute regarding drafting, in most cases the parties will return to the mediator, who will then act as arbitrator, and make a final decision regarding which language best reflects the agreement of the parties as written in the mediated settlement agreement. If the parties still disagree then the judge will hear the parties’ arguments on the entry date and make a final determination regarding the decree or order.
The final decree order or order is not the only document submitted to the court. Several supporting documents must also be filed. In most cases involving minor children child support withholding orders and medical support orders are generally required. Personal information sheets must be filed with the Bureau of Vital Statistics. In cases involving property division, special warranty deeds, which transfer interests in real property, titles, and qualified domestic relations orders, which are used to divide retirement accounts, must be filed as well. In addition to filing documents regarding the division of property and payment of support, depending on the terms of the agreement, the actual exchanges of property and payment must be made. Often the entry date is used a deadline for the exchange of property or money, however, parties may agree to other dates of exchange as well.
After the judge signs the final order or decree the lawsuit is complete. However, if this is a divorce, then you still have many outstanding issues left to address. Please use the linked post-divorce checklist to help sort through any outstanding matters.