From Negotiations to Courtroom Battles
Hundreds of thousands of divorces happen in the U.S. each year, and when a marriage falls apart, most people turn to a divorce attorney. Divorce lawyers are experts at skillfully guiding clients through an unsettling time and acting in their best interests. Their job is often challenging, involving everything from representing spouses during a divorce to assisting in resolving child custody issues. However, a divorce lawyer’s job often goes beyond assessing and advising clients on their legal rights and can be incredibly rewarding.
These trusted professionals are primarily responsible for helping an individual through one of the most challenging times in their life. At Mims Ballew Hollingsworth | Fort Worth Family Law, we understand how difficult the end of a relationship is, and our attorneys have the skills and dedication required to get you through the ups and downs of the process.
Behind the Scenes: A Day in the Life of a Divorce Lawyer
A typical day as a divorce lawyer involves constant and unexpected challenges. From resolving new client issues to handling custody disputes, each day brings something new, and no two days tend to look the same. A divorce attorney will spend most of their mornings in the office, returning phone calls, checking and answering email correspondence, completing drafting work, researching a case, and preparing pleadings for court.
The rest of the day is often spent gathering and communicating with clients. Divorce attorneys will interview new clients as well as meet with clients whose cases are ongoing to discuss the outcome of hearings or the next best steps in their case. In some of these meetings, a divorce lawyer may talk to their client and their ex-spouse about how they want to proceed with the divorce. They may also have meetings dealing with child custody, the division of assets, and property.
Like most other attorneys, divorce lawyers work within a team. They might lunch with their colleagues on a typical day to swap discussions of case issues and receive input on especially complex matters. Family lawyers also spend a fair amount of time attending hearings on divorce cases and arguing their client’s cases before a judge. Court hearings can range between ten minutes to several days, and occasionally a divorce attorney may have to wait in court only to find out that the hearing date has been moved.
Divorce lawyers who manage several clients at once must carefully plan their days out for this reason and think about the needs of each client to avoid conflict. Possessing excellent time management skills is essential as a divorce attorney as well as being able to communicate effectively with individuals going through an emotional time. In the evening, a divorce attorney may have to attend seminars or other socializing events within their firm.
Navigating the Emotional and Legal Terrain of Divorce Cases
While the two often proceed independently of each other, divorce is an emotional process as much as a legal one. By understanding the emotional landscape of a divorce, a divorce attorney can better comprehend a client’s emotional state, anticipate their needs, and help them work through legal issues. For example, those who are not emotionally divorced but have a divorce judgment that evenly distributes property and child custody might still end up in court multiple times.
When both sides seem committed to mutual destruction by shutting down any attempt to reasonably negotiate solutions, a divorce lawyer’s job is to recognize the emotional undertones of their client’s behavior and steer them toward better choices that will help finalize their emotional divorce as much as their legal one.
Coping With the Emotional Process of Divorce
A divorce takes an emotional toll on everyone involved. It can cause you to experience a wide range of complex emotions like sadness, regret, anxiety, and grief. The range of emotions a couple may experience typically depends on whether the divorce was mutually agreed upon or if one person initiated the process. In most cases, one person feels the marriage is no longer working and has already begun to mourn the relationship.
For divorcing couples whose communication patterns weren’t very effective to begin with, this can lead them to blame each other and fail to take responsibility for their part in the breakup. These feelings can make it hard for couples to maintain perspective and make decisions that serve their best interests.
In situations where one spouse stayed home during the marriage and will no longer benefit from their ex-spouse’s income, for example, they may have to take steps to re-enter the workforce. Conversely, if one spouse is entitled to spousal support, the payee may experience an impact on their income and have to re-evaluate their financial situation. When these emotions about changing circumstances become overwhelming, even in amicable divorces, it can make it nearly impossible to reach an agreement.
Whether you were the one who initiated the divorce or served the papers, learning how to cope with your emotions in a healthy way is crucial as you prepare to face these changes. Seeking the support you need, whether it be in the form of professional help or a network of family members and trusted friends, is one way to work through all the feelings you’re experiencing. Trained therapists can provide guidance and help you start thinking about and preparing for your new life. Finding the encouragement you need will give you renewed confidence and make you much stronger.
Texas Divorce: What You Should Know
When two people decide to get married, they don’t expect that it will end in a divorce. Understanding the legal landscape, types of divorce, and grounds for divorce can prepare couples to navigate the complexities of the divorce process. If you’re going through a divorce, your best option is to have an experienced divorce lawyer on your side who can protect your rights and fight for you to receive a fair settlement.
Texas Residency Requirements for Divorce
Under the Texas Family Code, couples may not file for divorce unless either the filing party (the petitioner) or non-filing party (the respondent) has been living in Texas for the preceding six-month period and are a resident of the county in which the suit is filed for the past 90 days. Time spent outside the state while serving in the U.S. armed forces or as an accompanying spouse of someone serving is still counted as residency in Texas.
In some situations, one spouse will move out of state after a breakup. According to the Code, a Texas court can still hear the case if the last marital residence of the parties was in Texas and the divorce was filed within two years of the other spouse leaving the state. For example, if one spouse lives in Oklahoma and the other lives in Texas, the spouse in Oklahoma could still file their divorce petition in Texas.
Before filing any documents, you should consult a qualified Texas divorce attorney. If your ex-spouse lives outside of Texas, the process is never as simple as it seems, and before filing any documents, you should consider consulting a qualified Texas divorce attorney with experience handling interstate divorces.
Different Types of Divorce in Texas
Because so many factors can disqualify couples from certain forms of divorce, like mediation and collaboration, choosing the right type of divorce is often less complicated than a couple might expect. Litigation, for instance, might be the only option when one spouse refuses to compromise or is untrustworthy. The following are some of the most common divorce types and what each means.
Before 1970, fault divorces were a lot more common. During this time, proving fault was an integral part of getting a divorce; however, by today’s standard, this no longer applies. Fault divorces involve one spouse alleging in their filing that their partner was responsible for the end of the marriage. The alleging spouse should understand that while either spouse can allege fault, it tends to be a double-edged sword that can make the divorce process last longer and become more expensive.
The responsibility for proving lies with the accusing party, and the only legal grounds on which an individual can allege fault in a divorce in Texas are as follows:
- Abuse or domestic violence
- Mental incapacitation
- A felony conviction
When they apply, these grounds are very specific. For instance, abandonment requires that the non-filing spouse stay gone for at least a year and leave with the “intention of abandonment.” In cases involving felony convictions, the convicted spouse must have been imprisoned for at least one year. The most common grounds used in fault divorces is adultery.
Proving that your spouse was unfaithful doesn’t require you to record the infidelity on video. In fact, bank statements or receipts showing purchases for gifts like jewelry or trips will suffice. In some cases, proving fault may be beneficial, and a judge may award the accusing party more assets, higher alimony, or shared custody of children. Most commonly, however, couples opt to apply for and receive “no-fault” divorces.
In a no-fault divorce in Texas, the spouse seeking the divorce is not responsible for proving that their ex-spouse did something wrong. Even though there is no legal blame to assign in no-fault divorces, the couple must still give a reason for the dissolution of the marriage. The most common grounds for these divorces are irreconcilable differences and separation. In cases where couples cite irreconcilable differences, this means that either discord or conflict of personalities has made the marriage insupportable and destroyed any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
When couples cite separation, this legally means they have lived apart for at least three years without cohabitation. No-fault divorces are usually shorter and cheaper. Many couples in these situations choose to work out their own terms for divorce and often quickly reach agreements on matters like child custody arrangements and the division of property. Typically, no-fault divorces result in an equal split of marital assets.
In contested divorces, couples often disagree on matters typically addressed in a divorce, like the distribution of assets, child custody, and support. The legal process to resolve differences between spouses who can’t agree to the divorce terms can be lengthy and expensive.
In these types of divorces, a judge may need to decide on one or more issues that a divorcing couple struggles to agree upon.
Sometimes called an “agreed divorce,” this type of no-fault divorce is a good option for couples with no disputes to resolve in court. In an uncontested divorce, spouses agree on details of the divorce, such as spousal support or property division, without mediation or litigation. These types of divorces are often less complicated and expensive than contested divorces. Couples seeking uncontested divorces must draw up their own documents and submit them to the court for approval. The court will review the agreement and grant the divorce if everything is in order.
In Texas, not all no-fault divorces are uncontested. A couple can agree to jointly file for divorce and not assign legal responsibility to either spouse but still have disagreements over usual divorce issues. Failure to consult an attorney in uncontested divorces often results in a failure to conduct due diligence. Doing this puts a couple at higher risk of unknowingly giving up their rights or losing assets. Regardless of the type of divorce you’re going through, the process can be challenging and emotional. Working with an experienced divorce lawyer who can help you understand your legal options is one of the best things you can do to ensure you’re making the right decision for you and your family.
From Mediation to Litigation: A Comprehensive Guide to Divorce Proceedings
The divorce process for many spouses is the most challenging aspect of moving on. Once the decision is made, the next step for a couple is to file. From filing your petition in Texas court to receiving your final decree, an experienced divorce attorney can help you avoid serious legal and financial pitfalls.
When filing for divorce in Texas, the general steps include the following:
Step 1: Determine the Grounds for Divorce
Before you start looking for legal paperwork, you will need to determine the grounds for divorce. Under Texas law, a couple must select and prove at least one ground for the district court to grant the divorce. Acceptable grounds for divorce in Texas are adultery, abandonment, cruelty, and felony criminal conviction. Common grounds for a no-fault divorce are the marriage becoming unsupportable due to conflict and living apart for at least three years.
Determining which type of divorce you qualify for is another critical step to take before filing. You can do this by asking yourself whether you and your spouse can agree on matters such as how to divide assets, the type of custody each of you will have, and who will pay child support. If you are able to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement, you may file for an uncontested divorce; however, you will have to file for a contested divorce if there is no way you can reach an agreement on your own or through mediation. Filing for a contested divorce will necessitate hiring lawyers and can make the process lengthy and costly.
Step 2: File the Petition for Divorce
Once you’ve determined the justification that you will present to the court for your divorce, either you or your attorney will need to start the process by filing a petition for the dissolution of the marriage. In order to file for divorce in Texas, you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months before filing and file in the county that either of you have lived in for at least 90 days. To file in Texas, you should understand the type of case you’re filing for and what documents are required.
Some of the most common forms to file include:
- Original petition for divorce
- Civil case information sheet
- Standard possession order
- Information on suit affecting the relationship
Consulting with a divorce lawyer is the best way to determine what forms you need to gather for your case. Once you’ve gathered all the necessary documents, you’ll want to make copies of each form and bring them to the county court clerk. The court clerk will assign a number to your case once the petition is filed, take the original versions of your documents, and provide you with stamped copies to serve to your spouse.
Step 3: Provide Your Spouse with Legal Notice
Even if you have already discussed your plans for filing with your ex-spouse, you must officially provide them with legal notice. The easiest way to serve your spouse with divorce papers is through a Waiver of Service. In this situation, your spouse will sign the waiver, and by signing, they agree to receive the notice of divorce without the hassle of being physically served with papers. The waiver is only valid if your ex-spouse signs it after filing the original petition with the court. Additionally, signing the waiver does not mean the signer agrees to the allegations in the divorce petition.
If your spouse is unwilling to sign the waiver, you may need to hire a court-authorized neutral third party, like a process server. You can also ask the county sheriff, county constable, or court clerk to hand the documents to your ex-spouse in person. If you know where your ex-spouse resides, the clerk or constable can mail them the initial divorce papers with a return receipt requested.
They will need to fill out the return receipt and send it back to the clerk or constable once they receive the papers and complete a Return of Service form. When you have done everything possible to locate your spouse but cannot contact them, you can post a notice about your divorce via a public forum like the local newspaper. This method requires you to file an Affidavit for Citation by Posting and is typically utilized as a last-resort effort.
Step 4: Your Ex-Spouse Must File Their Response to The Divorce Petition
As soon as your ex-spouse (the respondent) has been notified that you filed for divorce, they have twenty days from the service date to respond by filing a Respondent’s Original Answer or Original Counter-Petition for Divorce form. In an Answer, the respondent can either agree to all the provisions in the divorce petition or request changes.
The respondent may file a counter-petition if they wish to make their own claims against the petitioner. Filing a counter-petition tells the judge what orders you want to make in your divorce. If the respondent doesn’t file an answer, a “default judgment” will be made, and
the divorce can still be finalized. The bigger advantage in these situations is often granted to the petitioner, and the respondent won’t have any say in matters such as child custody, support, alimony, and property division.
Step 5: Texas Divorce Waiting Period
In Texas, there is a waiting period requirement during divorce proceedings. The court can only finalize a divorce once it has been pending for at least 60 days. Exceptions to the waiting period can be made in cases involving domestic or family violence.
Beyond providing spouses with a chance to cool down, the waiting period gives spouses time to try to reach an agreement on the terms of the divorce. While your case is pending, the court may grant temporary orders. These orders are made by the court on how to handle some situations concerning your children or the use of your property. The temporary order will remain in place until a judge signs a final order.
Step 6: The Final Hearing for Divorce
Making a final decision on all issues in a divorce generally requires at least one hearing. If the divorce is uncontested and the spouses can agree on all issues, the final hearing will be relatively quick, and the non-filing party may not even need to attend the hearing. When a settlement cannot be reached, and a case is contested, you and your spouse’s lawyers will present evidence, call witnesses, and do everything they can to safeguard their client’s best interests.
In an effort to speed up the process, lawyers may try to settle certain disputes before trial. The final hearing may be set anytime after the 60-day waiting period. Regardless of whether you and your spouse have reached an agreement in writing or had a trial, as soon as the Final Decree is signed by a judge and filed with the court clerk, your marriage is officially over.
The Art of Balancing Client Needs and Legal Strategy in Divorce Cases
The divorce process can be frustrating, slow-moving, and often filled with disappointment. You may find yourself dealing with the complexities of your emotions, like anger or anxiety about facing the unknown. Finding a divorce lawyer to develop a strategy on your behalf at the start of the process can make you feel more comfortable going into this next chapter of your life.
Your divorce attorney should understand your case and have the background and knowledge to represent you effectively. They should make you feel more confident about the process by providing clear guidance and an understanding of your legal rights and responsibilities.
During a difficult life change, there is no substitute for individual attention, and the best lawyers know that balancing their client’s needs with crafting a solid legal strategy in divorce cases requires them to address the emotional turmoil they may be experiencing.
Communication goes a long way, and having a responsive lawyer on your side who you know is working to address your needs can make you feel more secure during the process.
Information about new developments in a case, like the possibility of the marital home being sold, may be difficult for some to hear. However, hiring a divorce lawyer who is honest and unafraid of having truthful conversations can help you make better, more informed decisions.
Along with focusing on a legal strategy that will resolve your disputes efficiently and as soon as possible, your divorce lawyer can also assist you in overcoming any fears you may have about life post-divorce. Your lawyer might achieve this by providing you with resources like referrals to mental health professionals, support groups, and mediators that can assist you beyond the divorce process.
Ready to Hire a Divorce Lawyer?
While divorce can be an aggravating process, it’s not something you should rush or take lightly. Once you sign a divorce agreement, it is challenging and expensive to amend it, which is why it’s so important to take your time. At Mims Ballew Hollingsworth | Fort Worth Family Law, our divorce lawyers have over 75 years of experience tailoring legal strategies to each of our client’s unique situations.
We understand that when a separation occurs, it is essential to approach each situation with compassion, understanding and treat our client’s cases with the utmost care. We’re prepared to diligently review the circumstances of your case and advise you on your best options. Contact us to request a consultation with one of our family law attorneys today.