30,000 FOOT OVERVIEW – THE PROCESS
If you have made your decision to divorce (read 3 critical questions to determine if you are ready to divorce), then it is time to know and understand the legal process.
In most cases, the minimum amount of time, from the filing of the petition to the prove-up day in court, is 60 days. This is considered the cooling of period. The thought behind the cooling off period is to give both parties a chance to really think through their decision to divorce.
The reality of most divorces is that they will not be completed so quickly.
Even with a divorce with no children and no property, the normal divorce will last about 90 days. If there are children or significant assets or if there is a major dispute, the time frame for divorce is much longer.
Normally, a court in Harris County, Texas will assign a Trial date about 9 months after the original petition was filed. Other counties can take longer.
Even at the 9 month mark, it is unlikely that you will actually go to trial as there are so many cases ahead of your case.
After the initial filing, the papers are usually served on your spouse. When the parties get along fairly well, the other party may decide to waiver service. When children or significant assets are involved, I typically recommend setting the case for Temporary Orders.
This involves setting up a Temporary Restraining Order (not a Protective Order) that basically says to both parties not to hide the kids, not to hide or dispose of any property and not to take any action that could hurt the other spouse.
In most instances, there will not be an actual hearing as the attorneys can often come up with a temporary solution.
Sometimes the solution will be to attend Mediation.
Mediation resolves well over 90% of family cases. It is usually a money, time and stress saver. It may hurt to compromise, but it is much better for the parties, who know each other and their unique situation, to make a decision for themselves instead of having to live with a decision that the Judge decides with limited information.
As a side note, couples who have previously attended marital or individual counseling may be in a better position to settle a case as they usually have learned communication techniques to assist them in resolving conflict.
If the case does not settle at mediation, a trial by Judge or Jury would be the next step.
A trial by Judge is the normal course of action, but a Jury might be the right decision depending upon the facts of the case and also depending on the Judge hearing the case.
Before the trial, Discovery would be completed by both parties.
Discovery is a set of documents that asked for certain documents to be provided or that asks the party certain questions to be answered. Discovery is very time consuming, which means more attorneys’ fees.
Once an agreement has been reached or a decision by the Judge or Jury has been reached, the last step is to finalize the divorce.
This is probably the easiest step as there are some basic questions to be asked, under oath, and in front of the Judge.
Besides the basic personal information of the parties, there also would be some testimony about the parenting plan for the children, child support, health insurance, conservator-ship, visitation, and the division of assets and liabilities.