It is never an easy decision to get a divorce, but once you come to that decision, the first step is to file a petition with the court. Not everyone is aware of what the divorce process requires, so these steps will help you understand what the steps to filing for divorce are.
Not all jurisdictions are the same, procedures and laws will differ in different states, but regardless of where your divorce is filed, it is typically complex and it is recommended you seek experienced legal counsel to protect your future and your rights.
The general steps in the divorce process in Texas include:
1. File Divorce Petition
One of the spouses has to file a petition for divorce known as the Original Petition Divorce. There will be a court fee attached to filing this document. This petition will begin the divorce process.
It will depend on what jurisdiction you are in as to where you will file the petition. The jurisdiction is decided according to where the parties live and how long they have lived there. Once you file the petition, the district/county clerk will assign you a case number.
When the Petitioner is filing for divorce, but does not have all the information they need, such as financial information, they can engage in divorce discovery. The divorce discovery process is when the two spouses exchange documents and information. It is a formal process and important changes went into effect in 2021 that have mandatory disclosures of much of this information soon after the divorce is filed.
When the Original Petition for Divorce is filed, the Petitioner can request a Temporary Restraining Order to be put into place. This restraining order can require that no assets can be sold, transferred, hidden or damaged before they can be divided by the court, and it will require the two spouses to act civilly toward one another. This request means there can be no harassment or threats made to each other. The Temporary Restraining Order falls under Texas Family Law 6.501.
2. Legal Notice
The spouse who files for the divorce is known as the Petitioner, and the other spouse is known as the Respondent. The Petitioner is responsible for giving legal notice to the Respondent. Verbal notice is not acceptable. Neither can you yourself just hand the papers to the other spouse. Depending on the specifics of the case, the Respondent often served with papers by an authorized person under the law (typically a sheriff deputy or a process server). The other choice is to have them sign a Waiver of Service if they are agreeing to receive notice. This process is found under Texas Family Law 6.402.
3. Court Hearing
Most divorce cases typically require at least one hearing before a final decision is reached on all issues listed in the divorce document. The first hearing can include temporary orders on child custody and support, debt distribution, property, or other issues between the two spouses. At the hearing, both parties can present evidence to the court supporting their needs.
4. The Final Divorce Decree
Once all issues between the two spouses are settled, the final divorce decree can be signed. How long this takes really comes down to the complexity of the case and whether or not the parties are able to reach an agreement on all matters. In Texas a divorce cannot be finalized until at least 60 days have passed (there is minimal exception with court approval).
If the spouses cannot agree on all issues, the court will have to set a trial date. Before the trial, both spouses may attempt mediation (this might be required by the court) as a final attempt to resolve their issues. If this process fails, the case will move on to trial.
At the end of the trial, one of the spouse's attorneys will prepare the final Decree for Divorce, and the judge will sign it.