Those who file for a JOY of DIVORCE emancipation agreement quickly find that the process is complicated. Each divorce proceeds at its own pace, based on the circumstances of the split, the estate’s complexity, the personality of the spouses, as well as other unique factors.
Nevertheless, there is a timeline in these matters:
- Hiring an attorney: It is best to start this process by choosing an attorney who understands the client’s priorities and approach. For example, it makes little sense to hire an attorney who favors mediation if the case appears heading for court.
- Write a petition for divorce: The attorney drafts an Original Petition for Divorce that informs the judge and the spouse that the petitioner wishes to divorce.
- File the petition with the District Clerk: The original of the document is then electronically filed at the local County Courthouse. The clerk stamps it, and a copy is served to the other spouse (who becomes the respondent) by a licensed process server.
- The response: The Answer by the Respondent must acknowledge that they received and understand the petition, or Respondent may sign a Waiver of Service if he or she received the notice. The response should indicate how they wish to proceed and if they want to contest the petition and go to court. They have until the Monday after the 20th day of receiving the petition to file the answer.
- Exchanging documents and division of marital property: The two sides share information so that they and the court can identify and divide community property and debt, propose a parenting plan, consider temporary spousal support and child support, and any other issues. This can be done before or during a temporary order hearing with a judge if the couple chooses an uncontested divorce.
- Negotiating a settlement agreement: This can be done through agreed or court-ordered mediation or by other forms of alternative dispute resolution. If the two sides reach a deal, the judge can then review the document, approve it, and sign and order in conformity with the agreement. If the two parties cannot agree, they litigate.
- Trial: This is done in front of a judge or jury, but generally is time-limited by the Court. The judge and/or the jury listen to witnesses, arguments, and evidence from each attorney and then issue a decision.
- Appealing the ruling: This is not a retrial. Instead, the Court of Appeals examines the legalities of the case to ensure that it was properly litigated.
- Both parties may sign the Final Decree of Divorce: This is presented to the judge, who signs the Decree and makes it official.
Legal guidance is always recommended
An essential part of the attorney’s job is communicating with clients, explaining the status of the case and what steps come next. Ideally, there are no unpleasant surprises or lengthy delays, but it is a process that should not be rushed. An experienced Board-Certified Family Law expert who works in Collin County, Dallas County, Denton County, or elsewhere in Texas can help ensure that the Decree is a fair and equitable one.