One of our most frequently asked questions amongst our divorce clients and potential new clients is, “What does the divorce process look like and how long is it going to take?” Let’s discuss the divorce process in Texas, beginning to end.
Original Petition for Divorce
The first step in the divorce process is to file an Original Petition for Divorce. In order to get divorced in Texas, you or your spouse must live in Texas for at least the previous 6 months and in the county in which you file for at least 90 days. If you and your spouse are currently separated and you reside in different counties, you can file in either county. If this is the case, we recommend speaking with your divorce attorney to discuss if one county would be better strategically over the other.
Signed Waiver or Service of Citation and Petition
Once you file the petition for divorce and it gets accepted by the clerk’s office, the next step would be to either have your spouse sign a Waiver of Service or have them be served with a citation and petition.
A Waiver of Service can be drafted and signed if you and your spouse are in somewhat of agreement during the divorce process, meaning you come to us and your spouse knows about you filing for divorce and “waives” the requirement of being served. If your spouse is not in agreement and needs to be served, a constable or private process server will go out to their home, residence, work, or wherever you think they’re located and serve them with the Original Petition for Divorce. Once they are served, they have a deadline to file an answer with the court.
Under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, once a party is served, they have until the first Monday at 10:00 AM following 20 days from the date they are served, to file an answer. If the opposing party does not file a response or a counter-petition within that deadline, there can be a default order entered against them.
However, there's an exception to every rule. In the state of Texas, there is a 60-day waiting period for divorce. So, if the other party’s answer filing falls before the 60-day waiting period, you cannot finalize the divorce until 60 days after the Original Petition for Divorce was filed.
Once the petition is filed, standing orders go into effect immediately. Standing orders are attached to the Original Petition for Divorce and outline the conduct of the parties during the divorce process before going to court. For example, no bank accounts or insurance coverages should be changed or divided once the petition is filed. They are general orders that go into effect right away.
Temporary Orders Hearing
Following the petition being filed, a party can request a temporary orders hearing. This hearing is so that the Court can rule on anything related to:
Possessions, Vehicles, and Homes
- If you're wanting to remove your spouse from the marital residence, you can request that at the temporary orders hearing. If you want to obtain certain personal items that your spouse may have, you can also request those possessions at temporary orders.
- During the hearing the court can determine that you may have exclusive use of the home pending the divorce, but the court is not going to determine ownership issues until final trial.
- Furthermore, if the parties want to sell a home, the court can order the sale of a home on a temporary orders basis, but both parties must agree.
Ordering Drug Testing, Psychological Evaluations, and or Child Custody Evaluations
Inventory of Assets and Debts
Following the temporary orders hearing the parties usually agree to exchange n Inventory Appraisement. An inventory is a very detailed list that outlines anything you own that is in your name or that is held for your benefit – including both separate and community property, such as:
- Real property,
- Personal property,
- Retirement assets,
- Bank accounts,
- Any and all debts,
- Stocks or bonds,
- Vehicles or boats
- Agricultural property,
- Investment Accounts,
It is extremely important to fully disclose ALL of your assets. Leaving something off the inventory could potentially harm your case. Once the inventory is complete, it will need to be signed before a notary. Your spouse will also complete and sign an inventory and then the inventories will be exchanged between the parties.
The next step, assuming the case does not settle, is the potential hiring of financial appraisal experts, child-related experts, or psychologists.
If one of the parties is claiming that certain properties or assets should be considered separate property, the attorney may need to hire a forensic accountant to research that claim.
In the event that there are still child-related issues, experts such as a counselor or a child custody evaluator could be utilized. Also, if mental health concerns are an issue during the divorce, custody evaluations and/or psychological evaluations can be requested. Keep in mind that these requests can also sometimes be done at the temporary orders hearing as well, described above.
After the inventories are completed and if no experts need to be hired, you and your attorney can come up with a settlement proposal. This is a detailed proposal of who gets what in the divorce. The settlement proposal can be for both the children's issues as well as the property, or just one or the other.
You and your spouse have two choices in divorce: either to agree or to go to trial.
Before the Court will let you go to final trial, they typically require both spouses to go to mediation. Mediation allows both parties to work with a neutral third party to negotiate the terms of the divorce and hopefully reach an agreement.
We find that mediation is a highly effective way to avoid the time, cost, and stress of a final trial. The majority of divorces settle either at or before mediation. The mediation process consists of you and your attorney in one room, the opposing party and their attorney in another room, and a mediator who goes back and forth to try and reach an agreement among the parties.
If an agreement is reached, a MSA (mediated settlement agreement) is signed. This agreement is binding and cannot be changed. Once both parties sign the settlement, an Agreed Final Decree of Divorce is signed, and the parties do not have to go to trial.
If a settlement is not reached during mediation, the divorce will go to trial.
Discovery is an important part of litigation in the event your case goes to final trial. Discovery is a step further than the inventory and appraisement. If you believe that the other party isn't fully disclosing an asset or information, your attorney can serve them discovery and vice versa.
There were several different types of discovery requests, such as:
- Discovery for production,
- Requests for disclosures,
- Requests for Admissions,
- Requests for Business Valuations,
Typically, attorneys will start with requests for production, requests for disclosure, and interrogatories. If your attorney does not feel they have received the information needed, they will then do depositions, subpoenas, and business valuations before going into a final trial.
Remember, parties can decide to settle at any time during the divorce process to avoid going to trial.
Some courts require a pretrial setting before they will give you final trial dates. This is something that typically only the attorneys attend to address the contested issues with the court and to schedule an appropriate amount of time to be sure your case is heard.
How Long Will The Divorce Process Take in Texas?
The divorce process can take anywhere from 3 months to a few years, depending on the agreement (or disagreement) of the parties. But for the most part, a typical divorce in Dallas County takes anywhere from 3 to 9 months.
Due to the multitude of specifics that are involved during the divorce process, we recommend speaking with a qualified divorce attorney in your area.