As a family law attorney in Texas, I am often asked, “What’s a contested divorce?” You may have the same question if you’re just starting out in the divorce process.
In simple terms, if you and your spouse can’t agree on the terms of your divorce, then it’s considered a contested divorce. However, there’s much more to it than that. In Texas, specific laws govern how a contested divorce works. Here’s what you need to know about contested divorce in Texas.
Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce
A divorce proceeding in Texas will fall under one of two categories: contested or uncontested.
– An uncontested divorce occurs when both spouses are in complete agreement about the terms of the divorce. This includes things like property division, who will receive access to certain assets, and spousal support. An uncontested divorce can be finalized relatively quickly and without going to court.
However, if you have been married to your spouse for a good length of time, then it is highly unlikely that your situation will qualify for an uncontested divorce. Numerous elements usually need to be sorted through, which is where a contested divorce comes into play.
– A contested divorce is a type of divorce where the spouses can’t agree on one or more key issues. This means that the areas of disagreement will have to be decided by a judge. And the number of disagreements that need to be worked out will have a major impact on how long it takes to finalize your divorce and what the process looks like.
The First Steps of the Texas Divorce Process
In Texas, a divorce starts with one of the spouses filing a Petition for Divorce. This petition allows the spouse filing for divorce to specify the reasons for the divorce and the type of relief they would like to request from the court. It also allows them to specify whether they need any temporary protective orders from the court.
Once the court receives the divorce petition, there will be a short period where the divorce is processed, and the other spouse is served with divorce papers. The divorce papers will notify the other spouse of the divorce proceedings and give them the opportunity to file a response. These papers will be served by a process server or law enforcement officer at a location requested by the filing spouse.
According to Texas law, the non-filing spouse has until 10:00 a.m. on the first Monday after 20 days have passed since the divorce petition was filed to submit a response. In their response, they can disagree with the points made in the petition.
If the non-filing spouse does not file a response, the court will assume that they agree with everything in the divorce petition and will move forward with the divorce proceedings. In this case, the divorce is considered uncontested until further notice.
How Contested Divorce Works in Texas
The other spouse can also choose to file their own counter-petition. When this occurs, the divorce is considered contested. The counter-petition document is used to state what the non-filing spouse wants from the divorce. It can also be used to request temporary orders from the court.
The first major step in a contested divorce is usually a preliminary hearing. The purpose of this hearing is to allow both sides to present their evidence and make their arguments.
After the preliminary hearing, the court will decide the next steps in the divorce. They may order the parties to attend mediation or set a date for a final hearing.
In mediation, both sides will meet with a neutral third-party mediator who will help them try to reach an agreement on the terms of their divorce. If they can reach an agreement, the mediator will prepare a document outlining the terms of the agreement. This document will then be submitted to the court for approval.
If mediation is not successful or is not ordered by the court, the next step is usually a final hearing, also known as a trial. This is where both sides will present their evidence and make their arguments in front of a judge. The judge will then make a decision on the terms of the divorce, such as child custody and visitation.
Work With an Experienced Divorce Attorney
A contested divorce can be a long and stressful process, but there is hope for a positive outcome. If you are preparing to go through a contested divorce in Texas, it is vital to have an experienced divorce lawyer on your side from the beginning.
Fortunately, I have the experience and knowledge to help you get the best possible outcome for your divorce case. I have helped numerous clients in your position in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County.
If you’re facing the prospect of a contested divorce in one of these counties, then call my offices at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to discuss your divorce situation. I am ready to provide expert legal advice and support from the beginning to the end of the process.