Are you unhappy in your marriage and want to get a divorce? Dealing with a divorce is never easy, but you’re doing what’s best for you! And, if this is your first marriage, you may not know about the legal process or how to find the right divorce lawyer to handle the proceedings.
Even though some couples stop getting along or have their issues — big and small — not every divorce has to be difficult with lots of back-and-forths and nasty arguing. It’s always in your best interest to make the divorce go smoothly without causing any stress. Here at The Enos Law Firm, PC, we want to help make things easier for you. We’ve created a guide that helps walk you through the process of going through an amicable divorce.
Before getting started, it’s best to research and look for a qualified divorce lawyer in your area who can handle your case. When you hire an experienced lawyer from our team, we will help you avoid common mistakes and get you through the process, as we know divorce law like the back of our hands. We will walk you through the entire process so you can get the outcome that is best for you.
Below is a guide for filing for divorce in Galveston, TX.
Hiring a Divorce Attorney
While you can go through a divorce without an attorney, it’s often recommended to hire one to ensure the process goes smoothly and so no one is taken advantage of. Remember, your attorney is there for you! They will explain your rights and help get you through the process in a stress-free manner. Once you hire an experienced and professional legal counsel, there are attorney-client privileges, too.
Anything you say remains confidential! Your attorney could face criminal prosecution and disbarment if they break attorney-client privilege and share information about you with others. So, the more information you provide to your attorney, the better they can represent you — even if you have to share information you do not want other people to know.
Filing for Divorce
Before a judge can finalize the divorce, you must start with a divorce petition. This petition is a legal document asking the court to get everything started so you can get a divorce. There is often a fee for filing for divorce, but it’s different state-to-state. In Texas, court filing fees vary depending on the county in which you file. However, the fee is typically between $250 and $320. If you’re unable to pay the petition fee, there is a waiver that’s possible if your income is below a certain level or you receive public assistance. Check with your divorce attorney about how to obtain this waiver.
There are also state residency requirements when it comes to filing for divorce in Texas. This is where at least one spouse meets the minimum state residency requirements before filing for divorce. In most cases, they will have to live in the state for three to 12 months and in the county for 10 days to six months. If the requirements are not met, the petition will be denied. Your attorney can help you determine if you meet these important requirements so you can get the process going.
From filing your divorce petition to receiving the finalized judgment, a divorce can take, on average, 12 months to complete. Plus, keep in mind that, according to Divorce.com, Texas requires a 60-day waiting period from the day you file for divorce from your spouse. However, there are two circumstances where this waiting period can become waived. The first circumstance involves your spouse being convicted of a crime involving domestic violence against you or another member of your household. The second circumstance involves having an active protection or magistrate’s order for emergency protection; this is due to domestic violence you have experienced during the marriage.
If you have not experienced domestic violence in your marriage or your household and would like to divorce amicably, then you will need to adhere to the 60-day waiting period from the day you file. Keep in mind that the entire divorce process varies, too, based on how smoothly the process goes in court and between you and your spouse.
A valid divorce petition will include the grounds for divorce. This is the legal reason you are filing to end your marriage. There are two options:
- At-fault grounds: Adultery, abandonment, emotional abuse, physical abuse, mental illness, and more.
- No-fault grounds: The most used no-fault grounds reason is irreconcilable differences.
Temporary Court Orders
Unfortunately, not every couple can wait months for the divorce to get finalized. If you’re a stay-at-home parent raising your children and financial support is needed, you can ask for temporary orders with child support, custody, and spousal support.
Keep in mind that it’s a temporary order. The court will hold a hearing to gather all of the information from both parties so they can make their ruling. The ruling remains in force until the divorce is finalized.
Filing Proof of Service
Did you serve your spouse with papers? Both the divorce petition and temporary orders request require you to make a copy of all documents and paperwork and have them sent to your spouse. This is called proof of service, which proves to the court that you’ve met all the requirements for divorce in Texas. If you don’t complete this step, you can’t proceed with your divorce. It is a relatively straightforward request, and your divorce attorney can help get all the proper paperwork together to ensure all requirements are met.
Don’t stress or get scared about serving your soon-to-be ex. You can hire a process service to deliver the papers. This is the route most spouses go, and the cost can range between $30 and $100. Keep in mind that serving these papers yourself in an antagonizing manner can actually create more chaos in the process. To keep things amicable between you and your spouse, be professional and civil during this crucial step. In addition, check with your divorce attorney about the requirements you are required to follow when servicing your spouse with divorce papers. From here, your spouse will respond to the petition within the time given. Failing to do so will result in a “default” judgment. They can respond to the petition and any allegations made if they feel it’s needed.
What happens if you can’t locate your spouse? Well, this situation is quite common. If you can’t find them to serve them the divorce papers, you may be able to use a substituted service. This is when you leave the divorce documents at their workplace or their home. You can even publish a notice in their local newspaper, but this could turn ugly because then the divorce would be public knowledge. Instead, as stated above, keep it civil so the process can move forward sufficiently.
Working Out a Settlement
Couples looking to keep things amicable during their divorce will not have trouble working through a settlement without arguments or issues. During these settlements, you’re discussing the following:
- Division of Property — This is everything from real estate to investments to money. Keep in mind that Texas is one of nine states throughout the country that is a community property jurisdiction, according to the Texas State Law Library. Generally, this means that any piece of property acquired by a couple during their marriage, such as their home, a vacation home, or a bought piece of land to farm or something else, is equally owned by both spouses. There are some exceptions to this rule. Overall, understand that this jurisdiction in Texas can greatly affect the dissolution of property during your and your spouse’s divorce proceedings.
- Division of Debts — If you and your spouse share any debts, you will have to decide how to split them up. It’s important to note that the right to collect a debt by a creditor is not affected by your and your spouse’s Final Decree of Divorce, according to TexasLawHelp.org. This is something essential to discuss with your divorce attorney, as you do not want to be stuck in a situation where you need to pay debts belonging to your spouse once your divorce is finalized. Your lawyer will be able to help you through this with ease.
- Spousal Maintenance — Often referred to as alimony or spousal support, a spouse pays the other after the divorce. If awarded, it will state the amount of duration. Keep in mind that spousal maintenance is decided on a case-by-case basis in Texas, according to TexasLawHelp.org. Essentially, there are four circumstances in which one spouse must pay the other. These include:
- Both spouses agree to the payments for a particular period of time.
- The spouses have been married for at least 10 years and the spouse seeking alimony is either unable to make an income to provide for their basic needs, is disabled, lacks the ability to work, or is the primary caregiver of a disabled child.
- The spouse would pay alimony has received deferred adjudication or been convicted of a family violence offense. This could mean the other spouse and/or children in the household were affected.
- One spouse is a sponsored immigrant. This could mean that the spouse who is an immigrant receives 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines until they become an official U.S. citizen or until they earn all 40 credits of the required work history.
- Parental Responsibilities — If you and your spouse share children, arrangements must be made about proper custody and child support. Be sure to discuss matters about your children and where they will live with your lawyer ahead of time. They can help craft the best plan to ensure you get primary custody if you want it.
If things don’t go smoothly, the court can arrange mediation with a third party. If no one can reach an agreement, you will go to have a judge make the final decisions. However, keep in mind that these interventions will just delay the process. This is why it’s important to try to be as amicable as possible, but if your spouse does not follow suit, then it is best to protect yourself and move forward as best you can with your divorce lawyer by your side.
Avoiding Going to Trial
Constant fighting and failing to compromise can result in failing negotiations; this happens more than people may think. If it does happen, the next step could be a divorce trial since the courts are now required to step in. Like any court, it’s held before a judge and, in some cases, a jury. Both will present their evidence to the court and can have witnesses provide testimony.
Divorce trials are expensive, so it’s best to avoid this. If you and your spouse share children and/or pets, it’s even more important to keep the negotiations as civil and amicable as possible. If this is the case, it’s crucial to keep your children’s happiness in mind. Will fighting with your spouse keep your family together or make it fall apart? Plus, when there is constant bickering and pettiness, your own mental health will decline. You will only grow more tired and angry, thus making the divorce process more stressful than it really needs to be.
Finalizing the Divorce
The final step is the judge finalizing your divorce. No matter how you got there, the judge signs the judgment, and your divorce is now final. Remember that the judge can’t finalize the divorce until the 60-day waiting period is over. During this period, be sure to take care of yourself. Even if you and your spouse are trying to be amicable, it may be best to keep your distance so the divorce can be finalized without a hitch.
The divorce process can become complicated, messy, and prolonged if you and your spouse don’t attempt to remain civil. If you both remain amicable and think about your own needs and wants on top of theirs, the process can remain smooth. Hire a lawyer you can trust in Galveston, TX today here at The Enos Law Firm, PC. Our professional and experienced team is here to represent your best interests in your divorce case. Contact us today!