Divorce comes with many life changes. It can be challenging if you haven’t braced yourself for those changes or if you don’t know what to expect. While dealing with clients at Paula Lock Smyth Law Offices, I’ve frequently been asked several common questions about what to expect when filing for divorce.
Where do we start?
The process starts with my asking the client how they want to proceed. I leave the ball primarily in their court and give my advice along the way. If I disagree with any of the client’s decisions, I step in. Usually, we start by filing the Original Petition for Divorce, and then we have the Respondent (their spouse) served with the Petition and often with a Notice of Temporary Hearing. Another option is to file the Petition to start the 60-day waiting period, but not have the Respondent served and instead ask if they will sign a Waiver of Service, avoiding the cost and embarrassment of having them served.
How long does a divorce really take to become final?
Even though 60 days is the minimum waiting period in Texas before a divorce can be finalized, don’t be surprised if it takes much longer. It really depends on how cooperative each party and their attorney are in handling the divorce. If there is not a dispute over the division of the marital estate, the process moves more quickly. Disagreement concerning child custody arrangements can also become an issue that prolongs the case. We might also have a wait for the judge to set a trial date. All these factors can result in a case taking between six months or even a year to complete. It is unrealistic to assume that every case can be completed immediately after the 60-day waiting period is complete.
How do clients handle property and custody agreements before the divorce is final?
First, the parties must make decisions about where the children will live after the divorce. They also have to decide who will remain in the primary residence and who will move out. If they can’t decide these issues amicably, the courts will have to make those decides for them. When the divorce is filed, most counties have a “Standing Order” that immediately goes into effect, keeping the parties from changing the children’s place of residence without agreement from the other parent, disparaging the other spouse, hiding or moving the money, etc.
When presenting these issues to the Judge, the children play a large role in the court’s decisions about awarding temporary use and possession of the marital residence. Most courts will temporarily award the house to the spouse who will maintain custody of the children, unless that party can’t afford to maintain the house. Later in the process, if the divorcing parties can’t agree, the judge may order that the house be sold. In some cases, the parent with primary custody is allowed to reside in the house until the children reach age 18. These issues are all fact-specific.
What to expect when filing for divorce?
In summary, when filing for divorce, expect the unexpected. Never leave things to chance. Get everything in writing and filed properly. If you have shared assets, like property or a family business, expect a longer process. Most importantly, hire solid and experience legal counsel like Paula Lock Smyth Law Offices so you can have the best support and advice along the way.