As if a divorce wasn’t tough enough, you’ll probably end up facing a whole load of unfamiliar legal processes, forms, and new terminology as part of your separation. Even if you’ve been divorced before, there’s bound to be something different and unexpected this time around.
Once you or your partner formally decide to separate, filing a divorce petition is the first step in the process. That might sound like a straightforward exercise, but in practice, it’s a little more complicated. There are all sorts of questions, like what information needs to be included in the petition, whether both partners need to agree to it, how long you have to respond, and if it can expire.
Our concise and easy-to-read guide has the answers to these critical questions. An understanding of the key concepts and procedures can help to facilitate and smooth your separation. So read on for helpful, practical, and trustworthy advice on divorce petitions in Texas.
A divorce petition - officially named the “Original Petition for Divorce” - is the legal document that formally initiates your separation. In it, you’ll need to include basic information such as your names and date of birth, date of marriage, children, and residency details. That’s not too difficult, but it’s much more complex to meet the requirement to list all your individual assets, debts, financial investments, and jointly-owned community property.
You can apply for a restraining order at this stage and also include the grounds for divorce. Although Texas is a no-fault divorce state, the courts may consider faults like abuse or criminal convictions when deciding on the final settlement.
There are two distinct sides to a divorce petition. The petitioner is the spouse who files the paperwork, and the respondent is the one who’s delivered (or personally served with) a copy. Note that the petitioner must utilize a third party to serve the petition on the respondent.
If your divorce is amicable, you can both agree to a waiver on the papers being served personally. Indeed, an amicable, uncontested divorce is usually in the interests of all parties, especially where children are involved. Mediation is almost always preferable to the confrontation associated with a contested separation.
The importance of mediation should be underlined because it’s a required part of the divorce process. A family law lawyer can help in this respect, either to represent you or as an independent, third-party negotiator.
In any divorce, you need to adhere to specific guidelines and time frames. So, for example, the respondent has 20 days plus until the following Monday to reply once the papers are served. There’s also a 60-day cooling-off period after the initial filing.
Legally speaking, a divorce petition doesn’t expire. However, if there’s no movement over a length of time, a judge can process it as a DWOP (dismissal for want of prosecution). That effectively means that the petition has expired, so if you want to reactivate the process, you’ll be obliged to start again from scratch.
In any divorce petition, there are various elements of paperwork. There’s the petition itself, but supplementary documentation is also required, plus a citation to tell you about time frames.
In general, a citation is a court summons. In a divorce case, it’s used to inform you of how many days you have to submit your response to the petition. It’s important to respond because if you don’t, your spouse will receive a default judgment; plus, the judge won’t get to hear your side of the story before ruling on the final settlement.
At first glance, the petition is a fairly straightforward form. Commonly referred to as “the divorce papers,” the petition lists all the relevant information required for a divorce.
While much of this form is simple enough, some areas are open to debate, such as listing who owns what. Indeed, where there are significant assets, the section covering property and debt recommends that you seek advice from a lawyer.
People sometimes forget just how much work is involved in a divorce. To back up or support your petition, you or your spouse may both need to submit tax returns, details of pensions and loans, bank and mortgage statements, asset valuations, and more. Furthermore, before you can split the contents of your house, you’ll have to produce an inventory.
If you’re hoping to prove a fault, you’ll also need to provide supporting evidence. Making an allegation is one thing, but proving it is another. You might feel your spouse is guilty of abuse, but you’ll need to provide compelling evidence to the court to support your case.
Divorce isn’t just hard work emotionally - it also requires a lot of effort to handle form filling, listing assets, and fine-tuning your settlement. Most people conclude that the safest and most practical option is to work with an expert divorce attorney. The best divorce attorney will provide top-drawer legal counsel, share your workload, and ensure you don’t miss deadlines or file incorrect documentation.
Divorce lawyers can also be of assistance in many other ways. A dedicated family law attorney can advise on timelines, legal requirements, and alternatives to divorce, plus provide counsel when exceptional circumstances arise, like divorcing when pregnant.
No divorce is ever easy, but having a professional on your side can make things much easier. At Marble, we pride ourselves on our fresh and innovative approach to everything legal. We take a refreshingly different approach than other divorce lawyers, so call us now for a free divorce or separation consultation to see how we can assist.