Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce

Residency Requirements and Divorce Procedures

How long should I live in Texas before I can file for divorce in a Texas court?

Either you or your spouse should have lived in Texas, at least in the past six months. You should be a resident of the county where the court is located for at least 90 days.

What are the terms used in the divorce proceeding to identify the parties involved?

Petitioner refers to the party who files for divorce. The other party is then referred to as the Respondent.

What does ‘venue’ mean?

Venue refers to the court and locality where the divorce case is filed. In Texas, divorce cases must be filed in the District Court. However, if available, your case could be assigned to a Family District Court.

What are the documents related to the divorce?

To initiate the divorce, you will have to file an Original Petition for Divorce. Once the divorce is finalized, the court will release an order called Decree of Divorce.

What are the waiting periods associated with a divorce?

There are waiting periods associated with a divorce. The court will grant a divorce after 60 days from the day a petition was filed in court. Some divorce proceedings can last more than 60 days, but the minimum waiting period is 60 days. There are no waiting periods when it comes to annulments, however.

How does a divorce procedure go in Texas?

First, one spouse who is the petitioner will file the Original Petition for Divorce in court. The papers will be personally served to the other spouse who is the respondent. If the divorce is a mutual decision and both parties are working together, the respondent spouse can sign a waiver to give up the rights to be personally served. Upon filing, the petitioner can request a temporary restraining order to prevent the spouse from causing assets to disappear before the court can divide it. Another type of restraining order can be requested to make sure that there will be no threatening, harassment or violence between the parties. The court will schedule a hearing within 14 days if a TRO was issued.

If a Temporary restraining order is not issued, the respondent will have 20 days to file an Answer. An ‘Answer’ is a legal document that can be made in response to the petition filed by the Petitioner. There will be temporary orders from the court while the divorce is on process. This will include orders regarding custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, use of property and debts.

If not enough information is presented, both parties can engage in ‘Discovery’, a process where both parties will have to exchange documents and information.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a process wherein both parties meet with a neutral third-party, referred to as the ‘mediator’. A mediator is trained professionally to mediate disputes. While meeting with the mediator, both parties can agree on various things related to the divorce. This is an option to solve disputed issues and reach a settlement. Mediation can be used in most family law cases such as divorce, paternity cases, child custody issues, spousal support and post-decree modifications. Opting for mediation is voluntary, it is not required for the divorce. It can also occur even without an attorney present. The agreements made during the mediation will not be valid and binding until both parties sign a legal agreement.

What is a Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative divorce aims to assist people who want to end their marriage without breaking up their family. It resolves disputes wherein spouses work together with their respective attorneys to negotiate settlements without taking the case to court. A collaborative divorce is different from traditional divorces because it does not provide a financial incentive to the lawyers to pursue contested issues. If a lawyer involved in a collaborative divorce believes that it is necessary to pursue certain disputes, he or she must withdraw from representing the client. Only the parties involved in the collaborative divorce can go forward with disputable issues, but when they do, the collaborative divorce will end and the lawyers will not be able to represent them anymore.

Is it possible to receive medical insurance benefits from my ex-spouse’s employer after the divorce has been finalized?

It could be possible for you to receive medical insurance benefits from your ex’s medical insurance plan. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 requires employers who have more than 20 employees to provide medical insurance coverage for three years after the divorce. This is known as a ‘continuation coverage’. Your ex-spouse can be charged for this, however, the employer cannot charge him or her more than 2% of what is charged to the employees usually. This is not automatic, so you will have to contact the employer directly, request the forms and file your application with the employer within 60 days from the date your divorce was granted.

Should you hire an attorney for your divorce?

It is possible to represent yourself in court and not hire a lawyer especially if your divorce is uncontested and there are no children involved. You will always be entitled to that option, even if you have children and there are fault grounds in your divorce. However, if you are pushing through your divorce with many issues and you are representing yourself, it is possible that your divorce will not end the way you had hoped. Some of the issues you have might not be resolved and you could even make mistakes that would impact you for the rest of your life. Hiring an attorney is easy and cost-effective if you think about the risks involved.

How can I reduce divorce costs?

Preparation is the key to reducing divorce costs. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your divorce, you can prepare many things. For instance, for separation of property, your attorney can help you prepare the necessary documents such as a list of your assets, income, debts, mortgages, bank accounts, insurance policies, cars, real estate and business. You need to list everything including the ones you own individually and the ones both you and your spouse own. You will also need to list when the properties/assets were acquired, as well as your income tax returns.

Grounds for Divorce

What does ‘grounds for divorce’ mean?

Grounds refer to the reasons for divorce. There are reasons for divorce that are recognized judicially in Texas, which must be used to justify a divorce.

What are the recognized grounds for divorce in Texas?

In Texas, courts can grant a divorce due to conflict of personalities and marital discord. There are also ‘fault’ grounds for divorce. Fault grounds are grounds which one party is responsible for. These grounds can include adultery, cruelty, conviction of a felony, living apart for more than 3 years, confinement in a mental hospital for at least 3 years, and abandonment.

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Mr. Hutton is a Divorce and Custody Lawyer based out of Round Rock, TX. His background is with child psychology at Arizona State University where he received a B.S. in 2006, and he continued this by working with the Children’s Right’s Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law where he received his J.D. in 2009. Throughout his practice, he has been a strong proponent of utilizing modern technology to improve his practice and the representation of his clients. He currently is the technology chair of CAFA of Travis County and is committed to improving and modernizing the practice of law in Texas. If you have any questions you can contact him at timothy.hutton@austintexaslegal.com

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