Getting a divorce is rarely an easy process. Sometimes, it becomes challenging. When the spouses disagree on the terms of their separation, it is called a contested divorce.
A contested divorce is financially and emotionally taxing. Although it is not the best-case scenario, it is sometimes just the way it is. Because contested divorces are so much more complex, they require the help of an experienced divorce attorney.
A lawyer will help you understand your legal rights and how best to protect them. If you are facing a contested divorce, contact an Austin divorce and family law firm like the Law Office of Jason Wright without delay.
A couple that has decided to divorce needs to address the division of their home and finances, financial support, and custody and support for any minor children they share. When there is disagreement on any issues related to a couple’s divorce, it is contested. In some places, a divorce is contested if one spouse wants a divorce and the other does not. However, Texas follows a no-fault system and requires only one spouse to feel the marriage is damaged beyond repair to grant a divorce.
Contested divorces are more expensive, stressful, and take longer to settle. They require more intervention from professionals and therefore are associated with higher legal fees. Both spouses will need an attorney to represent their interests.
Despite the extra services that become necessary in a contested divorce, they can end with the couple coming to the same kind of agreement they would have had they been able to work together from the beginning. Contested divorces are often resolved in mediation before it comes to a full-blown court battle, but they can go all the way to trial if the soon-to-be exes cannot agree.
The process of a contested divorce is comprised of several steps. Not all of these are involved in every divorce, but it is necessary to follow all steps ordered by the courts. The personal attorneys of the spouses might also encourage doing things that could help them overcome their disagreements. At any time in the process, the former couple can come together on the issues of their split, and their contested divorce could be resolved.
Petition for divorce: One of the spouses will initiate the divorce process by filing the original divorce petition. This is the official request to the court to grant a divorce. It contains information like the reasoning for the divorce request, date of separation, names and birthdates of shared minor children, and other identifying details. It also outlines the demands of the petitioner. This petition must be served on the other spouse. A neutral third party, such as a process server or constable, or other law enforcement officer, hand delivers the paperwork to the other spouse.
Answer and counterpetition: After being served, the spouse that received the petition has a certain amount of time to respond to it. This varies by state, but in Texas, the answer to the petition needs to be filed by the first Monday morning after twenty days from the date of service. In their response, the spouse can make their own allegations and counter requests against the ones in the original petition, such as a different child custody scenario. This answer and counter-complaint will then be filed with the courts and served on the other spouse.
Temporary orders: The divorce process takes time, especially with a contested divorce. Any pressing practical issues that cannot wait to be addressed will be decided at a temporary order hearing. These operate like a trial but on a smaller scale.
Temporary orders are issued to maintain the quality of life for a divorcing couple and their children while the legal process plays out. For example, a temporary order for child or temporary family support could be issued to ensure expenses are met or correct income disparities. If children are involved, a temporary order for visitation could be made to make sure both parents spend time with the kids.
Discovery: Discovery is the process by which the attorneys of each spouse formally ask for information and documentation from one another. This is all to prepare arguments and gather evidence for or against one spouse or the other for mediation or trial. They may request things such as:
Discovery can be lengthy and expensive. It is not always a part of a contested divorce. There will be a deadline for finishing the discovery process and time for each side to process the information received.
Mediation: Even couples engaged in a contested divorce can be ordered or encouraged by the court to negotiate the terms of their divorce through mediation. This involves the two spouses visiting a neutral mediator (often another attorney) who facilitates effective communication between them. The mediator is trained to help the former couple resolve their divorce issues themselves instead of having a judge do it for them.
If this is successful, a settlement agreement (called a Mediated Settlement Agreement) is created. Once signed, this Mediated Settlement Agreement is binding on all parties and irrevocable. A judge will sometimes approve a partial agreement and then decide on specific things that were not able to be worked out in mediation.
Trial: When no settlement is reached through mediation or other means, the divorce goes to trial. This is another exhaustive procedure and comes after weeks, months or even years of work.
Each spouse’s attorney presents evidence, arguments, and witness testimony for a divorce judgment in favor of their client’s needs and wants. If children are involved, and custody is being decided as part of the trial, experts may also be called to testify why one parent would be a better caregiver than the other.
Judgment: After the trial, the judge will make a ruling on all issues. This is the final judgment and becomes a court order. It will address child support, visitation, spousal support, division of marital property and debt, and anything else that is relevant to the specific case.
A lawyer becomes a necessity when a split gets complicated. Interviewing potential attorneys and researching their reputations and values are great ways to find a good fit. Representation matters, especially in a divorce when some of the most important parts of your life are on the line.
It is essential to feel comfortable with the attorney you choose and to be able to work with them closely. You will understand how important the reputation and experience of your attorney are when they are fighting for you in a highly contentious divorce.
Your attorney will make sure you understand the laws and your rights under them. They will avoid costly mistakes made by inexperience. Perhaps most importantly, they will protect your best interests and help navigate you and your family through a very stressful and difficult situation.
If you are facing a contested divorce, you need legal representation from an experienced attorney. Contact the caring and responsive team at the Law Offices of Jason Wright. We are ready to help you resolve your contested divorce efficiently, fairly, and with your best interests at heart.
Contact the Law Offices of Jason Wright for a consultation by calling 512-884-1221 or submitting the form below. We are committed to zealously working to find the solution that is best for you and your family.
To get in touch with us, give us a call at 512-884-1221 or submit the form below. We are committed to zealously working to find the solution that is best for you and your family.