Fortunately, most divorces are uncontested. However, if you are in a situation where you and your spouse can not agree on asset division or child custody, you’ll need a lawyer who has handled divorces that actually are contested.
The Lonestar State is one of the few community property states, meaning marital assets are split evenly in the event of a dissolution of marriage. To file your divorce here, it is not required that you were married in the state of Texas, nor do you need to file in the state where your marriage occurred. You simply must live in Texas for six months before you file your divorce, nothing more.
Texas divorces take a minimum of two months to finalize. Texas offers “no-fault” divorces, so it is not necessary to prove adultery or cruelty. You may be entitled to receive regular spousal maintenance payments if you can not support yourself on your own and also have a disability, were a victim of domestic violence, or have been married for over a decade.
The process begins by filing an Original Petition for Divorce with the court. You must specify why you are seeking to dissolve your marriage. You may also specify if you need the court to grant a “temporary order,” such as an emergency child custody order, a restraining order, or something along those lines.
The next thing that will happen is the family law judge will get your documents, review them, and, if appropriate, sign any temporary orders. Your spouse may be served the signed temporary order after that. Your spouse will receive instructions as well confirming what next steps he or she needs to take, such as filing a response.
The next step is for your spouse to be served (that means for a designated individual to personally hand them the court papers). You or your legal team may not be the one to serve your spouse. It must be a registered process server, a law enforcement officer, or another uninvolved third party. After your spouse has received the divorce petition, Texas law states that he or she has until the first Monday at 10:00 a.m. after the 20 days have passed to respond. Generally, this involves denying any allegations presented in the petition.
Around this point, typically, the responding spouse will seek out a Southlake Contested divorce attorney to represent him or her. Your spouse has the option to file a counter-petition, which–like a counter-lawsuit–makes allegations against you as well. This can be intimidating, so this is why most respondents hire lawyers at this point. Both petitions are handled with equal weight and validity by the court. A counter-petition is not “less important.” Your spouse, for example, may allege claims against you.
You and your spouse may seek to battle out your contested divorce with a mediator and/or an arbitrator. Both are excellent options. The decision of an arbitrator is binding, just like a judge’s would be. Mediation is more of a collaborative process in which an objective, professionally-trained third party will help you and your spouse come to a mutual agreement, if possible. It is the least formal of all the dispute resolution options.
At Mims Ballew Hollingsworth | Family Law, we know that mediation can be effective in resolving contested issues for some – but not all – divorcing spouses. If mediation is unsuccessful for one or more issues, the divorce will remain contested and move to court.
If mediation and/or arbitration do not work for you and your spouse, the last resort is litigating in open court with a judge. Just like you see on TV, evidence will be presented (witness testimony, phone records, photos, police reports, etc). Your lawyers will make arguments, and the judge will make a decision considering all of this information. Again, virtually all contested divorces are settled before reaching this point, so it is a rare occurrence.
If you are dealing with an uncooperative spouse, Mims Ballew Hollingsworth | Family Law understands your position all too well. In our office, we have over 75 years of family law experience between us. Furthermore, two of our divorce litigators are board-certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. We come prepared and ready to fight for your best outcome. Contact us for a free legal consultation.