Deciding to end your marriage is rarely an easy decision to make, especially knowing that there are multiple steps to take to legally complete marriage dissolution in Texas.
Is there a Difference Between Marriage Dissolution vs Divorce
There is no difference between marriage dissolution and divorce in Texas. The terms are interchangeable. Dissolution simply means that the marriage has been legally terminated.
In some states when it comes to dissolution vs divorce, the terms mean different things. For example, divorce can mean that one spouse alleges fault on the part of the other spouse as grounds for divorce and dissolution would essentially be a “no-fault” divorce. That is not the case in Texas.
Marriage dissolution/divorce Texas can occur for any reason under Texas Family Code §§ 6.001-6.007, including fault and no fault grounds.
How Do You Dissolve a Marriage?
Once you have decided reconciliation is not an option, then you know you’re ready to proceed in filing for divorce. Divorce is never easy emotionally but the best way to increase your chance of the dissolution process moving smoothly logistically is to hire a family law attorney who specializes in marriage dissolution in Texas to help guide you through the process.
Filing the Petition for Divorce
The process of divorce in Texas begins when one spouse files a petition for divorce and other jurisdiction-specific documents. After the proper documents have been filed, there is a 60-day “cooling off period” before the court will take any official action, absent showing of family violence. This 60 day period allows the couple time to process the ramifications of dissolution and make sure that they truly do not wish to reconcile their relationship.
Temporary Restraining Orders
At the time of the initial filing, you can request that the court issue a temporary restraining order (also referred to as a TRO). Generally the TRO is mutual to both spouses, absent the inclusion of an affidavit alleging specific facts warranting an injunction being directed to one party rather than both. The inclusion of a mutual TRO in a petition for divorce is very standard and generally should not be cause for alarm by either party.
A mutual TRO prevents both you and your spouse from selling, moving, or otherwise diminishing your property. It also governs behavior during the divorce process. After a TRO is issued it is effective for 14 days and may be extended an additional 14 days from the date it was issued before the Court is required to have an evidentiary hearing regarding the requests.
Montgomery County, Texas and Fort Bend County, Texas family law courts have issued what we refer to as “Standing Orders” which are essentially temporary injunctions that remain in effect throughout the case in any divorce proceeding or suit involving children that is filed in that county. These Standing Orders set ground rules for the parties regarding their behavior throughout the pendency of the case, both as it relates to property and the families subject to the litigation.
Required Disclosures & Discovery of Evidence
Rule 194 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure was recently amended requiring each party in a divorce to exchange certain documents within 30 days of the responding party filing his or her answer to the suit. The new law prevents either party from issuing discovery prior to this deadline. The information mandated to be shared through the Rule 194 responses are often referred to as Required Disclosures or Initial Disclosures. In divorce and/or dissolution proceedings, the parties are required to exchange the following information for the preceding two year period from the date the disclosures are due:
- all deed and lien information on any real property owned and all lease information on any real property leased;
- all statements for any pension plan, retirement plan, profit-sharing plan, employee benefit plan, and individual retirement plan;
- all statements or policies for each current life, casualty, liability, and health insurance policy; and
- all statements pertaining to any account at a financial institution, including banks, savings and loans institutions, credit unions, and brokerage firms.
Tex. R. Civ. P. 194.2(c). What’s more, if a party is requesting spousal maintenance or child support is at issue the parties also must exchange the following documents:
- information regarding all policies, statements, and the summary description of benefits for any medical and health insurance coverage that is or would be available for the child or the spouse;
- the party’s income tax returns for the previous two years or, if no return has been filed, the party’s Form W-2, Form 1099, and Schedule K-1 for such years; and
- the party’s two most recent payroll check stubs.
Id. Once these documents have been exchanged, if either party feels other information relevant to the suit has not been exchanged he/she can issue discovery to the other party including requests for production and inspection of documents, written interrogatories, and requests for admissions.
Sworn Inventory and Appraisement
When both parties have exchanged all relevant financial information regarding assets and liabilities belonging to the community estate, including appraisals and valuations from any experts designated by either party, then each spouse will be in a position to prepare an Inventory and Appraisement of the community assets and liabilities.
The Inventory & Appraisement should list all property owned by the community estate including but not limited to all real property; personal property; financial accounts, including bank accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, Venmo, PayPal, etc; business interests; reimbursement claims; reconstitution claims; and liabilities including but not limited to credit card liabilities.
This will give each party a clearer understanding of what his or her spouse is claiming the community estate consists of, allowing the parties to negotiate what should be included, at what value and what asset and/or liability should be awarded to each party.
Even with an agreement on the size and nature of the community estate, negotiating the terms of dissolution of marriage in Texas can be an emotional and draining process. This is especially true if both parties are firm regarding the division of certain assets or liabilities. Negotiations tend to go more smoothly with the help of an attorney, whether that’s through an alternative dispute resolution process such as mediation or collaborative law.
Trial (If No Settlement)
Only a small percentage of divorce proceedings actually end up in a contested proceeding. However, when this occurs it is important to have the right legal tema on your side. Most cases proceed to trial when/if one party is completely unreasonable in relation to the financial situation of the parties or there are children involved and the parties have fundamental disagreements regarding what is best for their children. Texas is unique in that it allows a jury to determine certain aspects of the divorce suit, if a party requests for the jury to be involved.
This includes determining the character of certain property as well as issues pertaining to conservatorship over a child, who should be named the “primary” conservator and what the geographic restriction on the children’s residence should be, if any. If a jury is not requested by either party then those issues are presented to and tried before the Court in what is known as a bench trial. In all divorce proceedings, the judge determines the ultimate division of the estate, how the remaining rights and duties are divided between the pirates, possession and access to the child and child support issue.s
So, when is the divorce actually final?
After parties reach an agreement or the court renders a final ruling, that will govern how the parties proceed but the divorce is not actually finalized until the Court signs the Final Decree of Divorce. Thereafter, you can order a certified copy of your decree of divorce and provide that to local officials, educators, and daycare personnel so they know what is expected of them. This is also the document a party needs to change his/her name legally as a result of the divorce proceeding. .
How Can a Lawyer Help with My Marriage Dissolution in Texas?
Depending on your particular familial situation, getting out of marriage may not seem overly difficult. However, often parties’ estates are more complex than they acknowledge and the parent-child issues are complicated, emotional, and draining to deal with on your own. Not to mention navigating the legal process which can be arduous.
A family law attorney with experience in representing divorcing clients in Texas can help you navigate the process and fight for what you deserve. Our qualified and skilled attorneys are here to assist you in navigating this process. Please Contact The Stout Law Firm, PLLC, today for a consultation regarding your case.