If you are facing a divorce, you are naturally concerned about how long it is going to take and about what the process is going to look like. Understanding the Texas divorce timeline can help you move forward with greater purpose while helping to alleviate some of the stress. If you have been served with divorce papers or have come to the difficult determination that you need a divorce, the most important first step you can take is consulting with an experienced Killeen divorce attorney.
The Bottom Line
In Texas, there is a mandatory 60-day waiting period between the time you file for divorce and the time your divorce is finalized. Therefore, your divorce cannot be obtained any sooner than 60 days after you file (barring very exacting exceptions). In truth, however, it is very challenging to resolve all the terms of a divorce in less than 60 days, and many – if not most – divorces require more time than this to be finalized. Your divorce determines your financial and parental rights and, as such, should not be rushed.
Your Divorce Terms
Your divorce will reflect your unique marriage, but the terms that need to be resolved remain the same across the board.
The Division of Your Marital Property
Those assets that you and your spouse acquired when you were a married couple are considered marital property, which is distinct from the assets you brought into the marriage with you (your separate property). It is important to note, however, that the line dividing the separate property from the marital property is often blurred. In the event of divorce, you and your divorcing spouse will need to divide your marital assets between you in a manner that is equitable, which means that the division is fair in relation to a wide range of relevant factors.
Your Child Custody Terms
In Texas, child custody is addressed in terms of both legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody determines who will be taking on the overarching parenting decisions, such as those concerning the following:
Your children’s schooling
Your children’s healthcare
Your children’s extracurriculars
Your children’s religious upbringing
You and your children’s other parent can continue making these decisions together; you can divide them between yourselves according to the kind of decision that needs to be made, or one of you can shoulder the responsibility on your own.
Physical custody determines how you and your ex will divide your parenting time between your shared children, and the basic approaches you can utilize are:
One of you becomes the primary custodial parent, which means the children live primarily with this parent (while the other parent has a visitation schedule).
You and your children’s other parent share your parenting time evenly or nearly evenly.
Child support is calculated according to the state’s exacting guidelines, which consider wide-ranging factors. Generally, however, the number of overnights each parent has with the children, and each parent’s income play the most important role in the determination of child support. You can typically expect the higher earner among you to pay child support to the other (even if you divide your parenting time straight down the middle).
Alimony is set up to help balance a financial discrepancy that is brought on by divorce. Alimony is considered appropriate in those circumstances in which one spouse experiences a financial setback with divorce and in which the other has the ability to help offset it. Alimony is typically intended to last only as long as the recipient needs to gain greater financial independence (such as through education or job training).
If You and Your Divorcing Spouse Are in Complete Agreement
If you and your divorcing spouse are in complete agreement regarding every divorce term that applies in your situation, you can expect your divorce to proceed as smoothly as a divorce can. Even if this is your situation, however, it is important to recognize that the court’s dockets are often clogged, and divorce after only 60 days may not be a possibility. Ultimately, your divorce will be finalized on your scheduled court date, which will depend entirely on availability within the court’s schedule.
Finally, if you and your spouse do not see eye-to-eye regarding every term of divorce that applies to your situation (which is far more common), you can expect your divorce to take considerably more time. To begin, you, your divorcing spouse, and your respective divorce attorneys will attempt to negotiate terms between yourselves; from here, you can look to a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), such as mediation. If you exhaust your options outside of court, you will need the court’s intervention to resolve those terms that remain at odds. The amount of time it takes to finalize your divorce in this situation will depend upon varying factors, but the more contentious your divorce, the more likely it is to drag on.
The Basic Schedule
The basic schedule for divorce involves specific steps.
Before you file for divorce, there are two steps you’ll need to take, including:
Making the determination that divorce is the right answer for you is the first step in the process. If you are not sure, it is important to explore your options regarding saving your marriage. If you have already been served with divorce papers, however, or if you have no doubts regarding your decision to divorce, this step is taken care of.
Consulting with an attorney prior to filing is the next step. Having an experienced divorce attorney on your side from the outset not only helps to ensure that your parental and financial rights are protected but also helps to ensure that your divorce will proceed as smoothly as possible.
These preliminary steps can take several weeks in and of themselves.
Filing for Divorce
Once you have made the determination that you are ready to proceed with a divorce and you have established what lies ahead, it is time to file a petition for the dissolution of your marriage. Because this petition will include your requests regarding divorce terms, you should not rush its creation.
The Waiting Period
After filing for divorce, you will need to wait the required 60-day waiting period. If you are able to hammer out mutually acceptable divorce terms during this time, you can finalize your divorce upon the court’s earliest availability. Unlike many other states, Texas does not require couples to formally separate prior to divorce, and remaining in the family home is often recommended – especially if your priority is to become the primary custodial parent (or to split your parenting time as evenly as possible). There are, however, filing requirements that include:
One of you must have lived in Texas for at least six months prior to filing.
One of you must have lived in the Texas county in which you file for at least 90 days prior to filing.
Once you have filed for divorce and had your spouse served with the divorce papers, he or she has about four weeks to respond by doing one of the following:
Accepting the terms you delineate in the petition
Contesting the matter
Asking for an extension (in which you can attempt to reach an agreement between yourselves)
Again, if you and your divorcing spouse are able to meet in the middle on the applicable terms, moving forward from here can be very straightforward. If not, however, you could be looking at a difficult journey ahead.
From here, you and your soon-to-be-ex will enter into negotiations in which you attempt to hammer out those terms that remain unresolved. If you are fairly close generally and your terms require only a bit of tweaking, this portion of the divorce process may not hold you up too much. If, however, there is considerable distance between you on the unresolved terms, you can expect it to gobble up a considerable amount of time and effort. Because the terms of your divorce do, however, represent your financial rights – as well as your rights as a parent – they are too important to rush. Negotiations include the collection of evidentiary documentation on both sides via the discovery process.
If your divorce seems destined to drag on for a bit and if you and your divorcing spouse will be living separately throughout the process, either one of you can request temporary orders that guide matters such as the following while your divorce is pending:
Who will remain in the family home with the kids
Who will be responsible for which bills
How you will divide your time with the children
How the issue of community debt will be addressed
How the issues of temporary child support and/or temporary spousal support will be resolved
The Final Divorce Hearing
Any terms that remain unresolved after you and your divorcing spouse have tried every negotiation tool at your disposal will need to be determined at trial. An important note here is that if your divorcing spouse is determined to keep your divorce as contentious as he or she possibly can, your best bet may be to limit negotiations and move forward toward court earlier in the process. Sometimes, cutting your losses in these matters is the only way to limit your exposure to divorce toxicity. Once you reach the stage of needing the court’s intervention, you will very likely require only a day or two of the court’s time – in accordance with the court’s availability – before your divorce can be finalized.
Factors that Tend to Prolong the Divorce Process
There are certain factors that have a tendency to drag out the divorce process, and if any of the following apply to you, you can expect your divorce to require additional time to resolve:
You and your divorcing spouse share children, and you both want primary custody.
Your divorce involves high assets or another kind of financial complication, such as business ownership.
Your spouse is invested in fighting the divorce from the outset.
Your separate and marital assets intermingle.
You have a prenuptial agreement that either one of you intends to fight.
The answers to the following frequently asked questions related to the divorce process in Texas can help:
What are the exceptions to the 60-day waiting period?
Only in the following two situations will the court waive the required 60-day cooling-off period prior to finalizing a divorce:
If your spouse has been convicted of a charge related to family violence or has received deferred adjudication for such an offense
If your spouse has an active restraining order related to family violence against him or her
What are the grounds for divorce?
The State of Texas allows no-fault divorce, and the vast majority of divorces in the state are no-fault, which are based on insupportability (or what you may think of as irreconcilable differences). Pursuing a divorce that is not based on your spouse’s fault in the matter is generally a far speedier process than proving your spouse’s fault to the court (which is required unless your spouse admits to the accusation). Those grounds for divorce that Texas recognizes include:
Abandonment of at least one year
Conviction of a felony or incarceration of at least one year
Confinement to a mental hospital for at least three years
Will my divorce petition expire?
While your divorce petition will not expire per se, the court will likely move it to what is known as its dismissal docket if it has been hanging around for a specific amount of time (with little to no related activity). In such a situation, the only way to revive your petition prior to dismissal is to file a Motion to Retain, which must include a set trial date. Otherwise, your case will be dismissed for want of prosecution.
Reach out to an Experience Killeen Divorce Attorney Today
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – proudly serving Killeen, Texas – is a savvy divorce attorney who is well prepared to help efficiently guide your case toward its most beneficial resolution. To learn more, please do not wait to contact us onine or call us at 254-501-4040 today.