By definition, a contested divorce is one with at least one issue which the parties cannot agree to. Like all divorces in Texas, it starts by the filing of an Original Petition for Divorce. Once filed, the other party is served with process, letting them know that they have been sued for divorce. From there, your divorce may take any number of turns. The importance of hiring an experienced lawyer cannot be highlighted enough. Some common things to expect after initiating a contested divorce follow.
Temporary Orders set the ground rules for the case. Who will get to live in the house. Who has use of what vehicle and what property. What are the custody, possession and support arrangements for the children going to be. Is there spousal support to be paid and, if so, how much. There may be other decisions which should be made on a temporary basis. It is all circumstance and fact driven.
If the parties are unable to agree on the terms of the Temporary Orders, then a hearing to determine those provisions will be held. From a reasonable perspective, a hearing looks like a trial, but it does not result in a decision regarding the ultimate division of assets and debts or the final provisions for children.
The Discovery Process
Discovery is the process by which each side finds out from the other what they want, why they want it, and what evidence they have to support it. Discovery can take many forms. Requests for Production of Documents, Requests for Disclosure, Requests for Admissions, Interrogatories, Inventories and Appraisements, and Depositions are the most common. Depending on the complexity of the case and the acrimony between the parties, discovery might take as little as thirty days or as much as years (don’t worry, discovery taking years is rare).
Once discovery is completed, each side should have the information they need to go to trial. But, before the trial, most Judges will make the parties go to mediation. The reason is simple. Most cases settle in mediation, so if the Judge in your case can clear the majority of his already packed docket by sending everyone to mediation, he or she is probably going to do it. If mediation is unsuccessful or if it is only partly successful, settling some, but not all of the issues, then the next thing to expect is trial.
You should expect to have your trial limited in time. How much time is up to the Judge and will be based on the issues, their complexities, and the witnesses. Texas is one of only two states which allow juries to decide some issues. Custody, for instance, may be decided by a Jury if either side requests a trial by jury.
The trial ends your lawsuit for most purposes. After the trial, the Final Decree of Divorce will need to be prepared to follow the rulings of the Judge (or jury). The attorneys will make sure the form of the Decree is accurate and if there is a disagreement, there could be a hearing to resolve the contest and get the Decree signed.
This is a basic outline of the process you might experience in a contested divorce in Texas. It doesn’t mean you will have all of these things in your divorce and it also doesn’t mean that there won’t be more. Every divorce case is different – every one. The estates are different, the children are different, the personalities and facts are different, so it is impossible to tell at the beginning of your case what yours will look like in the rear view mirror. But it is important to understand the general structure of a divorce so you can put it all in perspective during yours.
Issues Typically At Stake In A Contested Divorce
Broadly speaking, the issues in a contested divorce typically fall into one of four categories:
- The division of marital assets and property;
- The division of marital debt;
- Child custody, support and visitation issues; and
- Possible payment of child support or spousal support.
Contact An Experienced Texas Attorney
A contested divorce can be especially distressing. Everyone wants a smooth and fair solution. but sometimes that can be difficult to find. Jeffrey Anderson is an aggressive and experienced attorney who will make sure that process is fair and that your interests are protected. If you are facing a seeking or party to a contested divorce in the Dallas area, call today to schedule a consultation. Jeff Anderson is the man you need on your side if you’re facing a contested divorce.
Divorces are contested when the parties disagree about the resolution of any or all of the issues. Both sides present evidence to the family law Court, which resolves the issues in a way that it deems is just and fair.
Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution method. On average, cases which go to mediation settle more than eighty percent of the time. With Court dockets filled to over-capacity already, it’s little wonder that most Courts will order nearly all of their family law cases to go to mediation before a trial may be held.
Mechanically, mediation is a confidential procedure where the spouses issues are negotiated by a third party neutral. Most of the time, you will not see your spouse the day of mediation – you will be kept in separate rooms, along with your respective attorneys. The mediator will go back and forth between the rooms, trying to close the gap between each side. Mediators do not give legal advice and their role is to guide, not instruct. If the process fails, with only a few exceptions, mediators cannot be called to court to testify.
Division of Assets and Liabilities
Texas is a community property state with all assets accumulated during the course of the marriage presumed to belong to the community estate.The court has discretion to divide the assets in an unequal manner depending on whether one party was at fault or whether an exact equal division would result in unfairness to one party. What is considered a fair division will depend on virtually anything the Court believes to go into the equation. The relative age, health, earning capacity, or future earning capacity of the parties could, for instance, be considered. Fault in the break-up of the marriage may be a factor in determining what is fair. Separate property remains separate. This includes property owned by one spouse prior to the marriage, gifts and inheritances to one party and most of a personal injury award received by an injured spouse. Debts are also evaluated as separate or community and divided accordingly.
Child Custody and Visitation
Texas encourages parents to create their own parenting plan with both parents having as much time with the children as possible. When one party is given physical custody, called conservatorship, liberal visitation (also called possession), with the other parent is encouraged. If the parents cannot agree on a plan, the Court receives evidence and makes a decision based on what it considers to be in the best interest of the children.
The state has guidelines it uses to establish a formula for child support depending on the income of each parent, number of children and their needs. The court may deviate from the guidelines when it finds special circumstances to do so.
Spousal Maintance or Alimony
Alimony is not automatic and is awarded primarily in marriages that last for a minimum of 10 years or if one spouse was convicted of family violence.
Contact Jeff Anderson Today to Schedule a Divorce Consultation
Call today or fill out an online form here on our site to schedule a consultation for Divorce today. Whether the decision to file for divorce is mutual and uncontested, or you and the other party do not agree and are facing a contested divorce battle, Jeff Anderson can help. He has extensive knowledge of family courts in Texas including Tarrant, Dallas, and Collin counties and is ready to start building your case today.