What Are The Divorce Steps, From Start To Finish?
In Texas, the divorce process can vary from as few as 60 days, to a year or more. When a couple can cooperate and agree to reasonable compromises, the smoother, faster and cheaper the divorce will proceed. The following chronology gives a general idea of how the average divorce proceeds. Your divorce may be different, depending on the specific issues between you and your spouse.
Filing for divorce starts with a Petition for Divorce. The lawyer arranges for the petition to be served on your spouse, or your spouse can agree to sign a waiver of service. The parties exchange documents and information on issues such as assets, liabilities, property and income. By examining this information, the parties can decide how to divide their property and how to deal with child support and possibly spousal support.
What Is Discovery? Defining The Assets And Liabilities.
Soon after the divorce process starts, the parties should exchange information related to their respective economic, financial and personal situations, including the extent of their property ownership, debt and income. The exchange of this crucial information is known as the “discovery” process.
Discovery can take place through an informal exchange of information and documents by the parties and their attorneys (common in divorce cases), or the process can follow a number of more rigid procedures. Following is a discussion of the different formal devices used in discovery.
In “document production” spouses make available all documents that relate to the divorce, the marriage, their separate property, incomes, etc. This can be bank records, credit card and cellphone records, credit reports, and business and real estate documents, just to name a few. Both parties have a right to see most documents that even arguably relate to the divorce and issues that will require resolution, including division of property, finances and debt; child custody and visitation; payment and receipt of child support; and payment and receipt of spousal support.
Interrogatories And Requests For Admissions
Interrogatories are written questions requiring sworn, written answers. These questions can range from the broad (“Describe your current relationship with your children”) to the specific (“Is it your position that respondent’s taxable income for 2004 was $45,000?”). If the questions asked are not fair questions or are difficult to understand, your attorney will help you decide which questions should be answered and which should be objected to.
Requests for admission are written statements sometimes used in divorce cases, which ask a party to admit or deny certain facts pertaining to the divorce and related issues. They carry with them penalties for not answering, for answering falsely, or even for answering late.
A deposition usually takes place in a lawyer’s office. A party or witness will answer questions from an attorney, and a court reporter will make a transcript of all that is said. Depositions can range in length from an hour to a day. Testimony is treated the same as if testifying in court before a judge or jury. Your attorney will advise you how to prepare for a deposition.
Things To Remember About Discovery
Keep in mind that it is very likely anything and everything will come out at some point in the discovery process. In divorce cases, this is especially true if the case becomes contentious and emotions run high.
It is imperative that you be honest with your divorce attorney about the facts and documents that may come out. He or she can’t do the best job if you don’t disclose everything.
Be honest. Nothing will make your position in a divorce case worse than lying in discovery and getting caught (about hidden assets, etc.), and it is likely that you will get caught if you are purposefully dishonest.
Divorce Cases – General Do’s And Don’ts
Even in the best of circumstances, tempers may flare, and every decision can seem to be more stressful than the last. It is only human to find yourself reacting emotionally at certain stages of a divorce, but it is important to remember that your actions throughout the process can affect your familial, emotional and financial situation for years to come. Here are some “do’s and don’ts” for the divorce process.
If you have children, the parents should consider using “Our Family Wizard” to more easily communicate about the schedules, appointments and other important information about the children. Check it out at: Our Family Wizard.
Be reasonable and cooperate as much as possible with your spouse. Reasonable compromise yields quicker, easier and less expensive results in divorce cases.
Support your children through this process, and put them first. Divorce can be tougher on them than on you. Don’t make them pick sides.
Fully disclose all your assets and property. Financial deception can hurt your case now, and can even result in returning to court months or years after you thought everything was final.
Ask your attorney if something doesn’t make sense. Your attorney works for you, and should help you understand every part of the divorce process.
DON’T lose your cool. No matter how frustrated you get, don’t make matters worse by lashing out at your spouse or your children. Before you send that “angry email,” wait and review it again the next day after you have calmed down.
DON’T violate any court orders, including temporary orders relating to temporary custody or visitation arrangements. It could make it tougher for you to get the custody or visitation rights you prefer.
DON’T violate any court orders, including temporary orders relating to finances and bank accounts. If you are not sure if you can withdraw certain funds from an account, ask your lawyer first.
DON’T “give away” property to friends or relatives and arrange to get it back later. Hiding property can mean your spouse can take you back to court to settle those assets.
DON’T go it alone. Reach out to friends and family for support. Consider counseling, even if for a short time. Divorce is stressful, and you should not hesitate to lean on others.
Fiscally Responsible Representation
Divorcing spouses should focus on paying for their retirements and their children’s college fund — not the lawyers’ retirement and children’s college fund. In other words, when everything is settled, you need to be on solid financial ground.