You and your spouse have finally reached an agreement on all the terms of your Houston divorce thus completing the most difficult part of the divorce process. Although the most challenging part of your divorce is complete, there are still several steps that need to be taken to finalize your agreement. In every case, after an agreement is reached, a written form of your agreement must be submitted to the Court, along with several supporting documents. Additionally, one party must appear in front of the judge to ‘prove up’ the agreement.
A ‘prove up’ occurs when one, or both, parties appear before the judge to finalize their agreement. Only a few moments are spent before the judge. Each party is sworn to tell the truth. After being sworn in, your attorney asks you a series of questions. These questions establish the identity of you and your spouse, that jurisdiction is proper in the court, the legal reason why the divorce is to be granted, and that you and your spouse have reached a fair agreement regarding your children and property. It is important to have a highly qualified attorney present for your prove up, because if any questions are missed, the judge may not grant your divorce.
If all of the legal requirements are met, and the judge is satisfied that your agreement is both fair to the parties and in the best interest of the children, your Houston divorce will be granted immediately. If the agreement was reached in mediation, the mediated settlement agreement can be used for the prove up, prior to the completion of the final decree. Even if you have only submitted a mediated settlement agreement or rule 11 agreement, the judge can orally render your Houston divorce. That means even if you have not completed the final decree of divorce yet, you can be officially divorced as of the day of the prove up. The judge will then set an entry date or date by which all of your documents must be submitted to the court.
On some occasions, the judge will not grant your Houston divorce based on the documents you have presented. This does not mean that you will never be able to get a divorce; it usually means that something is amiss in your paperwork, or that the judge wants more information about your case. If this occurs, do not be upset. Your are allowed to attempt to prove up your case as many times as necessary prior to trial setting. Having to come to court a second time will not affect the outcome of your case.
Prove ups often occur ‘off-docket’, which means that your case is not set on the formal trial docket when you appear to do your prove up. Each court is different when it comes to scheduling prove ups. Some courts require attorneys to sign up before hand; other courts have sign-up sheets in the court rooms. Various courts have various time requirements by which you must appear and some courts limit the amount of prove ups they will hear every day. Different courts require different documents, some courts require parenting classes to be completed before attending a prove up, many courts require all documents to be e-filed several days prior to the prove up, but the number of days prior varies from court to court.
An experienced Houston family law attorney can help you navigate the requirements of your court, and prevent unnecessary delays.