If you are facing divorce, whether looking to initiate the process as a petitioner (person filing divorce) or left responding to the process as a respondent (nonfiling spouse), you are probably wondering what comes next. The experienced Arlington divorce lawyers at the Welch Law Firm routinely handle family law matters in Tarrant County and nearby jurisdictions. We are well-suited to provide individually tailored plans to meet the needs of your case.
Hundreds of North Texans begin divorce proceedings every day. There are basically three kinds of marriage dissolutions in Texas: uncontested, contested, and those where one party’s location is unknown. All Divorces have a minimum sixty-day waiting period once they are filed.
In uncontested matters the parties do not desire to fight about terms of the Divorce, wish to avoid going through the judicial process, and/or desire to minimize the costs of the Divorce. Instead, our attorneys will help you finalize the Divorce on terms that are agreed between the parties. In these type cases we can usually avoid having to serve paperwork on the other party and instead prepare documents for them to sign. In some cases, the parties will never even be required to step foot in the Courthouse.
Unfortunately, not all parties can agree on fair terms for their Divorce and those cases are considered contested. In contested cases, some parties disagree about the terms for their children while others disagree about support or the division of the property. In some contested cases there is a need for immediate temporary orders or even a temporary restraining order. Some contested cases require gathering information, extensive investigations, or even the employment of experts. Our firm can advise as to when those steps should be taken. Cases that begin as contested are often successfully resolved through negotiations or mediation. However, when the parties cannot agree the Court is there to decide. Our firm takes pride in our ability to be aggressive and to present a compelling case to the Court when that decision is necessary.
Finally, a few marriage dissolutions are where one party’s location is unknown. If the filing spouse has lost track of the non-filing spouse and they cannot be located through a reasonable search, most courts allow service by posting or publication. If there are children or any property, the Court will appoint an attorney to represent the missing party. That attorney will conduct their own search for the party and once they are finished the Court will allow the Divorce to proceed. If there is no property and no children, the Court may allow the Divorce to finalized once the notice is published. Our firm can help you navigate this process to ensure the Divorce can be finalized even when a party’s location is unknown.
The Temporary Hearing
In most contested cases the judge usually holds a temporary orders hearing a short time after the filing of the Divorce. At this hearing, the judge sets some ground rules, mostly related to conduct and financial matters. More importantly, the judge makes decisions regarding the temporary possession of property, temporary support, and temporary child custody.
Despite occurring at the outset of the case, this hearing can be very important in establishing a precedent for your case. In certain jurisdictions the same Judge who decides your temporary orders will also make the final decisions, so this is the only chance for a first impression. In some courts the amount of time allowed for these hearings is very limited and parties must only focus on the most pressing matters. Our firm is adept at working under the time constraints of such hearings to ensure we make a good first impression.
As mentioned, some Divorces require investigation regarding financial or child custody issues. “Discovery” is the process by which parties may investigate and gather evidence to build their case. Texas law requires that both parties to a lawsuit make initial disclosures of basic financial information and some general information.
Thereafter, the parties may conduct additional discovery which may include the request for production of documents, a sworn inventory and appraisement, written questions answered under oath, subpoenas, depositions, as well as other information gathering tools. In terms of property division, Texas law requires both parties to put all their cards on the table. Sometimes, this exercise might just be an exchange of tax returns and pay stubs. However, in most cases, property discovery is more intense. That is especially true if there are any indications that one spouse might be concealing assets or debts.
There may also be times when it is necessary to seek discovery regarding child custody issues or support issues. Any time there is an issue of support you are entitled to the income information of the other party. There may also be times it is necessary to seek discovery from a third party such as school or medical records. Our attorneys and staff are trained in the most effective ways to gather information and evidence in the discovery process.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
The overwhelming majority of all divorces ultimately settle out of court. These resolutions reduce legal fees and eliminate the emotional showdown of a divorce trial.
The most common approach is that of mediation where the parties agree to mediate, or the judge orders a mediation. Because mediation is successful in so many cases, most Courts will order that parties attempt mediation before a trial takes place. In a mediation, the mediator conveys settlement offers and counter-offers between the spouses and their attorneys as they wait in separate rooms.
Legally, both sides have a duty to negotiate in good faith. The mediators use their skill and experience to attempt to bridge the gaps between the parties and find a resolution acceptable to all parties. Our law firm will help you evaluate whether settlement is your best option or if you best option is having your day in Court. If an agreement is reached in mediation the parties sign a mediated settlement agreement that is irrevocable and binding on the parties.
Alternative dispute resolution is a complex process but this approach can save thousands in legal fees and spare hurt feelings. For a confidential consultation with an experienced divorce lawyer in Arlington, contact the Welch Law Firm PLLC. We routinely handle matters in Tarrant County and nearby jurisdictions.