How Long Does a Divorce Take?
In Texas, there is a 60-day waiting period before a divorce can become final (unless an exception is granted due to family violence. Even if both spouses agree on everything, there must be at least 60 days from the date you file with the Court until the date the Court grants your divorce. If you and your spouse have an agreement, the divorce attorneys at Mims Ballew Hollingsworth | Family Law can help you finalize your divorce on the sixty-first day after filing. This is the fastest possible outcome.
If you and your spouse do not have an agreement before filing, the time it takes to finalize your divorce depends on many factors including whether children are involved, whether is there a business to value, whether discovery is needed, and the amount of conflict between spouses. Most cases reach a final resolution through an agreement at some point, but if your case goes to final trial, it can often take more than a year to resolve (especially in larger counties where court dockets are backed up).
While some contested divorces can be resolved in a few months, others can take years to finalize. If your divorce involves significant contested issues (i.e. which parent the children will live with, whether one spouse will receive alimony, who will be awarded the marital home), it is best to plan for anywhere between six months to eighteen months to get to the finish line.
If you are considering a divorce and have concerns about the processing dragging out, it is a good option to schedule a consultation with a divorce lawyer at Mims Ballew Hollingsworth | Family Law to discuss your options and develop a game plan to reduce the time it takes to get you divorced.
Does it Matter Who Files for Divorce First?
Being the first to file a case (the Petitioner) provides strategic advantages throughout the litigation. At trial, the Petitioner makes their opening statement first, calls their witnesses first, can delay the other party (the Respondent) from speaking until after all the Petitioner’s evidence is presented, and in closing arguments speaks both first and last.
While the Petitioner and Respondent have the same rights and often share the same burden of proof, filing first can certainly help with persuading the Court. Letting the Court know your side of the story first can help when it comes to decisions such as why your children should live primarily with you, why you deserve alimony or why the other party does not need it, or who gets to keep the marital home. If there are facts harmful to your case, filing first allows you to get in front of these and take the sting out of the Respondent’s argument.
Aside from benefits at trial, filing first provides an opportunity to send a message to the Respondent and direct how the case proceeds. Your first filing can indicate a desire to be amicable or can let the other side know you are prepared to fight. Your first filing can also be used to obtain a restraining order or set a hearing before the Respondent even knows a case is filed. Even how you notify the Respondent can impact your case, whether it is with a formal process server at their place of employment or through providing them the opportunity to avoid this scenario and voluntarily accept the filing.
If you are considering filing a family law case, there are benefits to filing first. Schedule a consultation with a family lawyer at Mims Ballew Hollingsworth | Family Law to discuss these benefits and develop a game plan for your case.
How are Divorce Papers Served?
Texas is a community property state. This means when you file for divorce our Courts assume that all property you and your spouse have is owned by the marriage and can be divided. However, if you can prove separate property (e.g., what you had before marriage, gifts you received during the marriage, or inheritance), then you will have a property that the Court cannot take away from you in a divorce.
When a property is divided, the Court does so in a manner that the Judge deems “just and right,” considering the rights of each party and any children of the marriage. This does not necessarily mean an equal division between spouses. What one Judge believes is “just and right” may differ from what another Judge right across the hall in the same courthouse believes.
At Mims Ballew Hollingsworth | Family Law, one of the first things we do in your divorce is finding out what property exists for division. We work with you to obtain information on homes, bank accounts, vehicles, business interests, retirement, stock accounts, debts, and separate property claims. If you are concerned your spouse may be hiding assets we will work with you to find this information and ensure all property is accounted for.
After determining divisible property, the next step is valuation. With some assets, it is not as straightforward as looking at an account balance. Business interests can be difficult to value, home prices are constantly changing, and there may be certain tax implications (capital gains) that need to be assessed.
The process of determining what property is divisible and assessing values can be extremely complex, especially in high-asset divorces. The divorce attorneys at Mims Ballew Hollingsworth | Family Law are experienced in dividing high-asset estates and will work with you and financial professionals to protect your financial interests.
Can I stop a Divorce Once It Has Been Started?
A contested divorce or family law case does not require costly litigation in a public courtroom. You can resolve contested issues through alternative dispute resolution, such as collaborative law, mediation, or arbitration.
These alternatives are often more cost-efficient when compared to going to court, and can result in a faster resolution to your case (in large counties it is not uncommon to wait over a year before having a final trial due to the court’s docket).
Alternative dispute resolution methods, including mediation, are also confidential and do not take place in a courtroom that is open to public viewing. This can be beneficial for divorces and family law cases involving high-profile individuals (e.g. athletes, celebrities, politicians, etc.) or topics of a sensitive nature (i.e. business trade secrets or high-asset divorces).
Collaborative law is a confidential method of resolving a divorce of child custody case where parties work together through joint sessions with the help of specially trained professionals to assist with resolving financial and parenting issues. The focus is on finding mutually beneficial solutions and with sharing information that would normally be kept confidential during litigation. Collaborative law is unique and may not be right for everyone, but for some, it is an effective method to lessen conflict.
Just because your divorce or child custody case is contested does not mean it needs to become high conflict and involve costly public court hearings. The family law attorneys at Mims Ballew Hollingsworth | Family Law can talk you through these options and develop a plan for resolving your case through alternative dispute resolution.
How Will Custody be Decided?
When parents can agree on who their children will live with, how to share in rights and decision-making, and a parenting time schedule, the Court will often approve this agreement. If parents cannot agree, then the Judge will make custody decisions based on what they believe is in the best interest of the children.
The following factors are frequently considered by Courts in determining a child’s best interest: parenting abilities, plans for the child, home stability, your child’s desires, your child’s emotional and physical needs, and whether there is a concern for emotional and physical danger to your child.
Custody orders in Texas are referred to as a parenting plan. The parenting plan addresses issues such as who your child will live with, what rights each parent has, where your child will go to school, and how the parents will share possession. The parenting plan can be very detailed and address concerns or issues unique to your child. If a parent has problems with drugs or alcohol, this can be addressed in your parenting plan to assure the safety of your child. If your child has special needs, these can be addressed in your parenting plan to assure that your child is properly provided for.
If you are involved in a child custody case, you need an attorney who will fight to protect you and your child’s future. The child custody lawyers at Mims Ballew Hollingsworth | Family Law have more than 75 years of experience helping families navigate through the family law system, and we will work with you to develop a customized game plan for your case and for reach your goals to protect your child.