I often have people ask me about the divorce process in Texas. After practicing in the area of family for the past eight years I can tell you that every divorce is different, but they all follow similar patterns. The general timeline of a normal divorce in Texas is something like this:
Someone files a petition for divorce. This is essentially a document that tells the judge, and the world, that the person filing it wants a divorce. It can be specific as to why they want the divorce or it can be based on no fault. A lawyer can prepare it (that is what I suggest) or the person filing can create and file it themselves (known as being pro se or representing one’s self).
Once the petition is filed the clock starts. In Texas the courts cannot grant a divorce until 60 days have passed from the date the petition was filed. This cooling off period supposedly helps couples who change their mind.
The non-filing person must receive a copy of the petition. This is done either by service of process by an official process server or by signing a waiver of service before a notary. The waiver of service basically says that they received the petition and don’t need to be served by an official.
At this point the party that filed is the Petitioner. The non-filing party is the Respondent. The Respondent must file an Answer denying the claims of the Petitioner or the Petitioner will be able to take a default judgment and get whatever they want.
This is the part where things start to get fuzzy. There are several key things that can happen during at this stage. There is no required order and occasionally none will occur.
Negotiations: Like anything a deal can be made in a divorce to settle everything. These negotiations can occur between the parties alone, between the lawyers or with parties and lawyers present.
Discovery: This is the process of sending written requests for information that must be responded to as well as taking depositions.
Filing Motions and having hearings: motions for temporary orders regarding every aspect of the divorce may be filed and if agreements can’t be reached will have to be heard before the judge.
Mediation: most courts require mediation to occur before a final trial can be set. Mediation is a type of negotiations in which a neutral third party, generally a lawyer, assists the parties in coming to an agreement.