For those that are considering dissolving their marriage, having a step-by-step guide to divorce can be useful in preparing for what may lie ahead. The divorce process can often be physically and emotionally draining, but by knowing what to expect before you get to that point, it can help relieve some of the pressure. The divorce process requires much documentation and a whole host of legal actions that must be filed in a certain way, at a certain place, and at a certain time. By working with a reputable Houston lawyer from the beginning, those who end up pursuing divorce may be better equipped for the task ahead.
Whether divorce is something you have periodically considered, or it is something you are certain about, a step-by-step guide to divorce can be quite useful in anticipating what the process involves. For this reason, we have put together the below guide to help you each step of the way:
- Be sure a divorce is what you really want. It is not unusual for couples who find themselves simply growing apart or disagreeing to begin contemplating divorce. Even just saying the word out loud can set someone on an irrevocable path. Do not put divorce on the table with your spouse unless you truly mean it.
- Consult with a reputable divorce lawyer. While divorce attorneys are there to help individuals through the milestones of divorce, their job also includes educating and guiding clients about divorce before filing.
- Confirm eligibility for divorce in Texas. Before an individual can officially file for divorce in Texas they must confirm they are indeed eligible to do so. If you do not meet these eligibility requirements, you may have to delay filing for divorce in the state of Texas.
- Retain a divorce attorney. If one or more parties are eligible for divorce and decide to pursue it, it is essential to retain an experienced and successful divorce attorney.
- Know the grounds for filing for divorce in the state of Texas. Your divorce attorney will guide you on how you can file, especially if you have more than one of these grounds for divorce.
- Prepare to file for divorce. A person can file for several different types of divorce, such as collaborative, contested or uncontested. If the filing party is not yet sure which type of divorce they should file for, an attorney will go over critical points with them such as the anticipated division of assets and debts, child custody plans and child support payments.
- Safeguard important information. During the divorce process, especially a contested divorce, it is possible for things to get a little sticky. Secure the originals of important documents in a safe place and have several copies stored in another. Digital files may also be helpful, but it is very important to be sure that the law is followed with respect to electronic communications.
- Make a list of items in the household. While this can be beneficial in the division of assets during the divorce, it may also become essential for you to secure possession of items of value to prevent them from going missing or becoming damaged after your intention to divorce is announced. Should either spouse move out of the home during the process, note which items stayed with whom.
- Protect your credit. Secure, protect or change passwords on your accounts but care must be taken to follow the laws related to electronic records.
- Gather documentation needed to file for divorce. Dissolving a marriage requires a great deal of paperwork and sharing of personal and financial records. The more prepared you can be the faster the process may go. Most filing parties will need to have easy access to documentation regarding driver’s license, social security number, vehicles, real estate, employment, and financial records and accounts. If there are children involved, documentation of their personal information will also be required.
- Determine if collaborative divorce is possible. In a collaborative divorce, the parties and their attorneys agree to collaborate on the dissolution process rather than to fight it out in court as adversaries.
- Have the divorce papers accepted by agreement or served. These papers should be served soon after the official filing.
- Wait for a response to the divorce petition. Waiting for a response to the divorce petition can be challenging. Consult with your divorce attorney about it. There is much to be done and using the time constructively can be of great benefit in the process.
- Be prepared to have your lawyer file for Temporary Orders. The purpose of Temporary Orders in relation to dissolution of a marriage is to dictate how certain things such as asset management, child custody, and the safety of all involved will be handled before the final divorce decree. With few exceptions, mediation is required before both Temporary and Final Orders.
- Prepare for initial disclosures and for mediation and discovery. In a divorce case, the parties involved are typically asked to provide the initial disclosure of information regarding assets, liabilities, finances, medical records, etc.
- Enter the Discovery Period. Discovery allows each spouse to get information and proof from the other.
- Have your attorney begin drafting a final Inventory and settlement terms for mediation and final trial. It should cover the division of assets and debts (items in the home, vehicles, bank accounts, retirement accounts, electronics, debts, etc.) and all pertinent issues involving the children. A good divorce attorney will walk you through each step.
- If you are not able to settle the case on final orders through negotiation or mediation, then prepare to go to court for a final trial. Determine with your lawyer whether you want a jury trial or whether a court trial would be better.
- Once a determination of the case is made at a final trial, get a copy of the final decree and take all the necessary steps to secure the final records and implementing documents necessary to finalize the conservatorship and property division orders of the court.
- If there is Client dissatisfaction with the Decree, discuss options to appeal the trial Court’s decision. If your spouse is unhappy and decides to appeal, discuss how to defend the judgement on appeal with your attorney.
The divorce process typically takes months to complete, with some taking effect sooner than others due to special circumstances. In order for the divorce process to move as seamlessly as possible, it is wise to enlist the help of a reputable and trusted divorce attorney to assist with advocating for your rights, handling the necessary paperwork, and filing the proper motions.
At Connolly & Shireman, LLP, our Board Certified and experienced family law attorneys deal with these issues and cases every day. If you are contemplating a divorce, the firm of Connolly & Shireman can help you through the divorce process