process for a divorce in houston
*Important Tip*: Consider the entire divorce process a business transaction. This approach can make a different between spending a few hundred dollars with an uncontested divorce to spending over ten thousand for a highly contested matter.
Filing an Original Petition for Divorce
The first step toward the dissolution of the marriage in Texas is to file an original petition for divorce in the county where you or your spouse has resided for the previous 90 days. Additionally, one party must have lived in Texas for the past 6 months to qualify for a Texas divorce. This is the legal document that tells the court of your intention to seek a divorce. At this point, it is possible one party or the other will request certain restraining orders and ask that a temporary hearing be set to resolve issues while the divorce is pending.
Temporary Restraining Order - TRO
Once a party has filed for a Houston divorce, the next step in the divorce process is to request a temporary restraining order. A temporary restraining order in Texas divorce law is a standard and a normal part of the divorce process. The purpose is to make sure that both parties "do the right thing" in regards to each other, marital assets during the pendency of a divorce, provisions regarding children, mail, bank accounts, credit cards, and personal property to name a few.
A temporary restraining order should not be confused with a protective order which addresses family violence and is enforceable by the police. Temporary restraining order language is almost always standard and mutual to both parties.
Once you have filed for divorce, the next step is to notify the other party that a divorce suit is pending. This is usually done through formal service of process by a constable or process server. The other party will receive what is called a service of citation, which informs them that they have been served and of any impending hearings or trial dates.
If a temporary orders hearing is requested, it is typically held within two to four weeks of the filing. At the temporary hearing, a judge will address such issues as possession of the children, child support, use of property, and payment of debts during the course of the divorce proceedings. These temporary orders will be in place until your divorce is finalized.
Discovery and Property Division
The time between the temporary hearing and the final houston divorce trial is the "discovery" phase. Discovery is the process through which each side learns information from the other. Discovery does not necessarily occur in every divorce proceeding, but it can be a useful tool in acquiring information about the other side.
For example, during discovery, each side may learn the other's position concerning division of property, the existence and value of the marital estate, or custody/possession of the children or income, for the purpose of establishing child support. Discovery includes written discovery, such as interrogatories or requests for production, oral depositions, and the Inventory and Appraisement, which contains each parties' position on the character and value of the marital estate.
Many family law courts require that parties attend mediation prior to going forward in final trial. Mediation is a process where a neutral third party, typically someone who is very well versed in family law, facilitates negotiations between the parties in an effort to come to a resolution rather than going to trial. Mediation allows the parties to come to agreements that may otherwise not be available in court and has a very high success rate in all Houston divorces.
Once mediation has been attempted and/or the discovery process is complete, the case will be set for final trial. Typically, trials are held in front of a judge, who will decide the contested issues involving children and property division.
The Texas Family Code provides that a party is entitled to a trial before a jury in certain circumstances involving child custody and characterization and valuation of property. A request for such a jury must be made in a timely fashion prior to final trial but it is always an option for a party to consider.
Most Houston Divorce judges prefer that the parties attend mediation in an attempt to settle their issues without the need of court intervention.
*Important Tip*: Settling in mediation gives both parties an opportunity to have input on how child custody, property division and all other issues are addressed. Handing the entire case to a Judge may not have the desired result for either party. Remember, the Judge will only hear a case for a very limited amount of time so it is in the best interest of both parties to make some consession and settle the case without the need for a Judge or a Jury Trial.
How long does a divorce take in Texas?
There is no set amount of time; it really depends on the parties involved and the circumstances of the case. For an uncontested Houston divorce, the total time from filing to finalization could be as short as 61 days. For a contested divorce trial, it depends on how litigious the parties are and how busy the Courtís docket is but can average approximately six to eight months.