Over 25 Years of Experience with Contested Divorces in The Woodlands, Spring, Conroe, and Huntsville, Texas.
An uncontested divorce is one in which your spouse agrees to sign a Waiver of Citation, allowing you to finalize the divorce without their further input. But when a spouse refuses to sign, then the divorce is deemed a “contested divorce.” In short, if your spouse will not sign, then your options are essentially limited to dismissing the divorce (highly unlikely) or going forward with the contested route. At the law offices of Andrew J. Bolton, Esq., we can assist you in successfully completing a contested divorce, and we work to make it as simple and painless as possible.
How Is A Contested Divorce Different Than an Uncontested Divorce?
Again, if your spouse will not sign off on the divorce paperwork then you must make push come to shove, by having your spouse formally served with that paperwork. Once served, the clock commences ticking, and if your spouse does not respond by the deadline, then you may finalize the divorce alone. In many cases, however, reluctant spouses will retain an attorney to file an answer to a divorce lawsuit, and, in many cases, they will also file their own lawsuit seeking a divorce.
Reasons for A Contested Divorce
There are several reasons why a spouse might file an answer and even return the favor, by suing you for divorce. Perhaps the easiest to understand, but least common, reason is that your spouse does not want the divorce. In Texas, however, there is no requirement that both spouses agree to a divorce. If only one spouse wants the divorce, eventually he or she will be able to get it. More commonly, a spouse contests a divorce because of conflict over the division of property, or child custody, or child support or alimony. For example, if a party wants a division of the marital estate that the other party cannot agree with, then this contested matter has to be decided by the Court. If the parties cannot agree on who is to have primary custody over children, then such issues will also need to be resolved by the Court. In short, if you think about it, it’s obvious: If the parties cannot agree, then someone has to make that decision, and that someone is typically a judge.
Contested Divorce Procedures in Texas
While there is a 60-day waiting period for most divorces, a contested divorce invariably takes much more time. Not every case goes the same way, but here is a general step-by-step outline of a contested divorce:
- After consulting with you, your attorney will draft and file an original petition for divorce;
- Upon the filing of the original petition, the attorney may also seek a temporary restraining order (an order prohibiting the parties from committing acts which are calculated to harm the other party or their children);
- The Court will then cause a “citation” to be issued by the Clerk. This citation is the formal notice which must be served in any contested divorce proceeding—it imposes deadlines to respond to the petition;
- The citation and a copy of the petition are served on the other spouse (typically called, “the respondent”) by either a sheriff’s deputy, a constable, or a private process server;
- The respondent may file an answer or counterpetition to your suit after being served;
- If requested, the courts often set a “temporary orders hearing” to require the parties to appear and to thereby make a determine what’s going to be the temporary disposition of the parties’ property, children, support, and debts—while the case is pending.
- In most contested cases, the parties will also engage in a series of formal requests for information, known as “discovery.” Discovery can take several forms: requests for admissions, written interrogatories, requests for production, and depositions. Discovery is your lawyer’s best chance to determine what your spouse is going to do and say at trial in order to win his or her case.
- Finally, the Court will set a trial date. The judge can consider the case, or, upon request, a jury of 12 may be asked to resolve questions involving the parties’ disputes.
- After trial, a final order or “Decree of Divorce” is signed by the court which is based upon the decision of the judge or jury.
Preparing for A Contested Divorce
Preparation for a contested divorce is important. You and your attorney should sit down regularly to discuss what evidence you believe will best support your cause, and how to obtain that evidence so that it may be brought to the judge’s attention at trial. In preparing for a trial on a contested divorce, your attorney may issue subpoenas for witness to appear and testify on your behalf. He may also retain expert witnesses, to testify concerning any number of issues, including, the value of properties or businesses, or the mental state of parties or their children. It is best to attempt a bit of “overkill” on trial preparation. You do not want to walk into a courtroom believing that you won your case, only to walk back out wishing that you had called that one extra witness which might have turned an unexpected tide in your favor.
Finally, in preparing for a contested divorce trial—be honest! Most lawyers do quite well with bad news, if they get that bad news while still in their office! It’s a terrible thing for a lawyer to learn about his client’s drug habit for the first time, while standing in front of a jury! So, be complete and be honest with your lawyer.
It’s Critical to Have A Good Divorce Attorney
Divorce is a life-changing experience. It’s rarely good for either of the parties. Nevertheless, unless you have an attorney who can see his way through the discovery process and into the wees of the trial itself, then you are rolling the dice on your future.
At the offices of Andrew J. Bolton, Esq., we try to provide our contested divorce clients with thorough, and compassionate, representation, leaving no stone unturned. While we cannot guarantee the result in every case, we are confident that you will feel that no other legal counsel could have presented it better. And that feeling is one which regularly leads to success in a contested divorce.
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