The Divorce Process
When people come to a divorce lawyer's office saying they want to discuss getting a divorce, they usually have no idea what to expect. It is helpful for them to have a basic understanding of the process, which they are about to embark upon. This allows them to be more comfortable with it during a time when they are generally feeling vulnerable and unsettled.
Every divorce is different. Each depends upon the issues that can be agreed upon between you and your spouse, arguments over the division of community property, retirement accounts and the custody and support of the children. One thing that is constant is the chronology of the process.
The first step in the proceeding is to determine if you meet the residency requirements under the Texas Family Code, which states that you have been a resident of the state for six months and a resident in the county where the divorce is filed for at least 90 days.
Next, a petition is drafted saying why you are asking for a divorce. Since Texas is a no-fault divorce state, the petition usually reads that the marriage has become insupportable because of discord and conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marital relationship and prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation. The petition is then filed with the court and it is served on the other spouse. The other spouse must then file an answer to the petition for divorce on the first Monday after the expiration of 20 days from the date he or she was served. If you and your spouse are working together, they can sign a waiver of personal service.
Temporary Restraining Orders can be filed at the same time of the Original Petition if there are concerns about threats, harassment, disposal of assets, temporary custody and support of children, among other things. Thereafter, other than hearings on the Temporary Restraining Orders nothing will happen for at least 60 days, since a divorce cannot be finalized for at least 60 days from its filing.
Often times, the Court may order you and your spouse to attend mediation at this stage, or prior to trial, to determine if a settlement can be reached. Mediation is a process where you and your attorney and your spouse and their attorney meet with an independent third party, usually a lawyer, who is trained to help parties come to a meeting of the minds. Mediation can help to resolve issues concerning community property, child custody and support and other stumbling blocks in a divorce. This form of Alternative Dispute Resolution is successful in a vast majority of the cases.
The next process is called the discovery process, where you and your spouse ask the other to answer certain questions and produce certain documents, as well as giving sworn oral testimony. Interrogatories are a series of questions that must be answered under oath and provided within 30 days. Request for Production is a document requiring the production of documents and other things within 30 days. Finally, depositions are the sworn oral testimony of you and your spouse taken by a court reporter in the presence of both attorneys prior to trial.
At this stage, if settlement negotiations have not been productive and mediation has failed, the court will set the case for trial. Both sides will begin their respective trial preparation and when the case is called for trial each side through their respective attorneys will present evidence, both oral and documentary, then argue the case. The judge will then grant the divorce and enter the final divorce decree dividing the property, debts, determining who will pay certain taxes, child custody and support and other determinations as decided by the court.
Allan R. Manka is a Bexar County family law attorney, who has been practicing for almost 40 years. His experience can help you through this difficult and emotional time, as you navigate the divorce process. You can rest assured that his experienced staff will be by your side every step of the way.
Mr. Manka has represented clients throughout the San Antonio area, as well as serving clients in New Braunfels, Pleasanton, Hondo, Bandera, and all of our area Air Force Bases.
To schedule your free initial consultation, contact us at (210) 807-8629 or (866) 621-7085.
Texas Family Code, Dissolution of Marriage