If you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse cannot reach an agreement on one or several issues related to the dissolution of your marriage, you most likely need to pursue a contested divorce in Texas. It means that in the absence of an out-of-court agreement, the court will need to intervene to resolve your disputes and finalize your divorce.
Finalizing a contested divorce can be a complicated process, which usually requires the parties to collect and present tons of evidence. If you are seeking a contested divorce in Texas, consult with a Lampasas County divorce lawyer to find out what evidence you may need during the contested divorce process.
5 Steps of a Contested Divorce in Texas
Seeking a contested divorce is a straightforward process. However, it is still advisable to contact a knowledgeable divorce lawyer to help you navigate the process and protect your rights. Broadly speaking, a contested divorce can be broken down into five steps:
Filing an Original Petition for Divorce. In order to initiate a divorce process in Texas, one of the spouses must file an Original Petition for Divorce. The petition is filed in the county where at least one spouse has lived in the past 90 days prior to the filing. The petition must also specify grounds for the divorce.
Serving the Respondent. After a divorce petition is filed, the other spouse (the Respondent) is served the divorce papers. It is essential to make sure that the Respondent is properly served to move forward with the contested divorce.
Requesting temporary orders. In many contested divorces, spouses request the court to issue temporary orders regarding child custody, alimony, child support, and other issues.
Negotiating a settlement. It is not uncommon for divorcing spouses and their attorneys to try negotiating a settlement throughout the contested divorce process. The parties may eventually resolve their contested issues to obtain a divorce without having to take their case to court.
Preparing for a trial. If the divorcing spouses failed to reach a divorce settlement agreement, their divorce case would most likely go to court. When your case is decided by a family law judge, you have little control over the outcome of your divorce.
It is in your best interests to contact a divorce lawyer to protect your rights and collect the necessary evidence for your contested divorce in Texas.
Two Types of Evidence in a Texas Contested Divorce
Typically, contested divorces involve two types of evidence:
Written evidence, which refers to any paper documents and digital records that can be introduced during a divorce case. The parties will gather and present most of the written evidence early on in the divorce process.
Oral evidence, which is any evidence that comes in the form of oral statements, spoken testimonies, and other types of verbal evidence.
Under Texas law, both written and oral evidence is admissible unless it is irrelevant to the divorce case or was obtained through illegal means.
What Evidence Can Be Used During a Contested Divorce?
Generally, evidence that can be used during a contested divorce is broken down into three types:
Evidence related to property division
Evidence related to alimony
Evidence related to children (child support and custody)
Let’s discuss each category separately.
1. Evidence for Property Division
One of the most contested issues in any divorce case is whether the divorcing couple’s assets are marital or separate. If there is evidence to prove that assets were acquired during the marriage, assets would be subject to division. Under Texas law, any assets acquired by either spouse during the marriage are considered “community property.”
However, if there is evidence to prove that assets were acquired before the marriage or as gifts/inheritance during the marriage, these assets may belong to only one spouse.
2. Evidence for Alimony
In many contested divorces, one spouse will request alimony, which is also known as spousal support. When determining whether or not to award alimony, a judge will consider a variety of factors to determine if awarding spousal support would be appropriate. The judge will rely on the evidence presented by both parties to make a determination, including:
Evidence showing the parties’ wages and income;
Documentation showing the spouses’ employment and education;
Evidence related to spouses’ contributions to the marriage and household; and
Documentation showing the requesting party’s need for alimony and the other spouse’s ability to prove spousal support
3. Evidence for Child Support and Custody
Contested divorces involving minor children often result in disputes regarding child support and custody, which is also referred to as conservatorship in Texas. Courts consider countless factors when determining an appropriate custody order and establishing the child’s best interests. For this reason, the court will need to review all available evidence related to:
The parties’ physical and mental fitness
The child’s needs
Past abuse, violence, neglect, or abandonment
The child’s relationship with each parent
The parents’ financial situation
These and many other factors are considered by Texas courts when ordering child support and awarding custody (visitation and possession rights) in a contested divorce.
You Need Strong Evidence for Divorce Negotiations
Just because your divorce is contested does not necessarily mean that it will go all the way up to court. Not all contested divorces are resolved through litigation. Many spouses who initially have many contested issues when seeking a divorce end up reaching an agreement before their divorce goes to court.
Strong evidence can give you the upper hand in divorce negotiations, which is why it is crucial to be represented by a knowledgeable attorney who can help you strengthen your case and present your arguments in the most convincing manner possible.
The success of your negotiations will depend on the parties’ willingness to compromise as well as the parties’ ability to present compelling evidence. You need a skilled divorce lawyer to help you gather all the evidence you need for your contested divorce to make sure that you can obtain a favorable resolution of your divorce.