The party filing for a divorce must file a Petition. The filing party is referred to as the Petitioner. The Petition is a document that states the names of the people that are getting divorced, jurisdictional claims, the grounds for divorce, whether there are children involved, property division issues, and the relief sought. This is the document that gets the divorce started. The document is filed in the county where either party has lived for at least ninety days. Also, one of the parties has to have lived in Texas for the past six months.
There are three no-fault grounds for divorce:
- (1) insupportability
- (2) the spouses’ living apart for three years and
- (3) the respondent’s confinement in a mental hospital for three years.
Additionally, there are four fault grounds for divorce:
- (1) cruelty
- (2) adultery
- (3) the respondent’s conviction of a felony
- (4) the respondent’s abandonment of the petitioner for one year.
After the divorce is filed the clerk will issue a citation which must be served upon the other party, referred to as the Respondent. This gives that party notice of the pendency of the divorce. The Respondent may then file an Answer to the Petition. In this document the Respondent will claim any defenses to the action, any denials of claims in the Petition, and any claims the Respondent has against the Petitioner.
After these initial pleadings are filed there may be a hearing for temporary orders. This is when a court enters orders to stabilize everything during the pendency of the divorce action. The temporary orders generally focus on preserving property and, if children are involved, the temporary orders state with whom the children will reside, when visitation will occur and how much child support will be, if any.
During the next phase of the divorce the parties will conduct discovery. During discovery the parties are required to produce documents to each other and may even give depositions. Property is valued and home studies may be conducted if custody of children is an unresolved issue. How much discovery is needed depends on how involved the case is.
During this phase of the case, many divorces will settle. Settlement occurs through a number of methods. Collaborative procedures provide the parties with a team of professionals which may include legal counsel for each party, a family counselor, a financial advisor, and any other professionals needed to resolve the issues involved. Many cases also settle through mediation. This is a process whereby the issues are discussed and a mediator works with both parties to try to reach a settlement of the issues. The vast majority of cases settle during the discovery stage through informal settlement discussions as the parties focus on what is really important for them. The remainder of the cases go to trial.
A divorce must be on file for at least sixty days before a divorce can be granted. How long it takes to get a divorce after the sixty day waiting period is up to the parties. Whether the case is settled or goes to trial the end of the divorce comes with the filing of a Decree of Divorce. This is the document that resolves all of the issues. This document is very important and should be drafted very carefully by a skilled divorce lawyer. It takes a certain amount of future thinking to anticipate what all situations might arise and how they should be resolved. The more precise the Decree of Divorce the less likely future litigation is.