You've decided to get a divorce, but what do you do after that initial decision?
We all know the rituals and procedures of getting married, but the divorce timeline is a mystery to most people. Let's face it; divorce has a certain hush-hush nature. Most people don't broadcast to friends and family the visits to their divorce attorney, or meetings to hash out financial and child support agreements, and although we have all heard the term "filing for divorce", most people would be at a loss to know where to file, or what the term really means. As a result, many people who decide to divorce have no idea where to start.
So here's a beginning: The first step you probably should take is deciding whether to use a divorce attorney or proceed alone in ending your marriage. But how do you decide which path is best for you? Here are some suggestions to guide you:
You probably need a divorce attorney if:
- You have dependent children.
- You have finances you wish to retain.
- You own property or have assets of significance to you.
- You feel overwhelmed by the divorce process and/or the prospect of going to court.
You may not need a divorce attorney if:
- You expect an uncontested divorce; have no children and no assets or finances to divide.
You've decided to hire a divorce attorney. Great!... Now what?
Now that you have decided to hire a divorce attorney many of the following steps in the divorce timeline will be handled by your lawyer, however make a point to know these steps, as it is always a good idea to be aware of what your attorney will be doing on your behalf.
After deciding on an attorney, you will both need to complete an Original Petition for Divorce from your county clerk's office and file one copy with the clerk. You will also send a copy to your spouse and keep one copy for your records.
In Texas, once this is done, you must wait 60 days to take your final Divorce Decree to court and have your divorce finalized by a judge. These 60 days not only give you time to rethink your decision to divorce, but also to come to an agreement with your spouse on the terms of your divorce.
At this point it will be time to sit down with your spouse and divorce attorney and work out the details relevant to your divorce. These may include division of your assets and debts, child support and custody arrangements and spousal maintenance (known in other states as alimony). No two marriages are the same, and divorce is no different. The process of your divorce is not going to mimic that of your neighbor. During your 60 day waiting period you will want to prepare, in writing, all of the following applicable to your divorce. You need to be aware that if you can't agree on these items, the court will decide these things for you.
If children are involved in your divorce case:
- The submission of a joint parenting plan with your soon to be ex-spouse.
- Completion of parenting classes.
- Deciding upon joint or sole custody.
- If sole custody is decided on, a visitation schedule.
- Child support & child care arrangements.
Money and Property issues:
- Division of property and assets.
- A decision regarding ongoing financial "maintenance" (alimony).
- Division of debts.
Some research says that 95% of divorces are uncontested and spouses come to most of these agreements amicably and quickly, so hopefully a lot of these steps will be moved through fairly rapidly as you prepare to finalize your divorce.
Once the 60 day wait has passed after filing your Original Petition, and you and your divorce attorney feel confident that you are ready to proceed, it is time to head to court. Both you and your spouse file a final Divorce Decree with all the detailed agreements and arrangements attached, and the judge will then sign off on the divorce.
This is the basic timeline to expect for an uncontested divorce. A contested divorce follows much the same schedule, although it can take a much longer period to be settled, up to a couple of years. The majority of this time is not spent in the preparation for court, but is time spent in court after the final Divorce Decree has been filed. If you believe this is likely in your situation, do seriously consider using a divorce attorney.
Whether you do retain a family law attorney or file for divorce without legal advice, we at Nichols Law want you to know that being aware of the timeline and process of divorce in Texas will help you move through the steps of your divorce with a clear path, vision and focus. We know that being aware of the legal process will be a valuable tool in leading you to an outcome that suits you, and leaves you with a sense of relief during a period that for many, can be incredibly stressful.
DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.