How a Texas Divorce Case Works
The Beginning – The Initial Filing
After hiring a divorce attorney in a contested divorce, an Original Petition for Divorce is filed on your behalf. Your case is then randomly assigned to a District Court or County Court at Law (if your county has one) in the county in which you live. After the Petition is filed, a copy of the Petition is served on your spouse by a process server. If your spouse files the Original Petition, you must file an Answer, as well as a Counter-Petition. It is usually of little legal consequence which party files first. Although there may be strategic advantages to filing first depending on the facts of your case, you should hire an experienced attorney, like Family Law Board Certified Attorney William Bloodworth II. The Bloodworth Law Firm, P.L.L.C., handles contested divorces all over the State of Texas, however, we concentrate our practice in several Southeast Texas counties: Montgomery County, Walker County, Harris County, Polk County, San Jacinto County, Trinity County, Grimes County, Madison County, and Leon County, Texas. If you are looking for a divorce attorney in The Woodlands, or a Conroe divorce attorney, or a Huntsville divorce lawyer; then call the Bloodworth Law Firm.
Temporary Restraining Orders
Depending upon the facts of your unique situation, it may be advisable to serve a Temporary Restraining Order on your spouse when the divorce case is filed. This is a common practice. In fact, many courts have adopted ‘Standing Restraining Orders’ that become effective the moment a divorce or child custody case is filed, whether you ask for a Temporary Restraining Order or not. A Temporary Restraining Order, or TRO, is not the same as a criminal ‘protective order’, and does mean there has been any misbehavior by you or your spouse. A TRO is a series of prohibitions that require parties, including some third parties, to maintain the current status (status quo) of their conduct toward each other. Parties are then enjoined from destroying any property or documents that may be relevant in the divorce, changing the children’s school or daycare, making any large or unusual purchases, selling any major assets, destroying the other spouse’s clothing, cherished possessions, or sentimental items, among other restrictions. The purpose of the TRO is to prevent one spouse from making any large changes without the consent of the other spouse. The Bloodworth Law Firm, P.L.L.C. will always try to keep the process as simple as possible. Filing a TRO often helps to prevent bad conduct and contributes to a peaceful resolution of the divorce.
The Temporary Orders Hearing
If you and your spouse cannot agree on who should live in the house, where the children should live, who should pay what bills of the household, a Temporary Orders Hearing may be necessary. In a Temporary Orders Hearing, which is designed to be short, a judge will hear from the parties and possibly other witnesses which are necessary for the judge to make a temporary ruling on issues like use of property, temporary child custody, spousal and child support. The temporary orders ruling the judge makes is not final and will only remain in place until the divorce is finalized or if circumstances change significantly. Many people can come to a temporary agreement without having a temporary order hearing. Some courts, especially those in Montgomery County, require that the parties attend mediation before a Temporary Orders Hearing. Many times, parties who request a temporary orders hearing have discussions at the courthouse while awaiting their turn for a hearing and reach agreement on all the issues in their divorce case. Some judges will allow the parties to testify as to the terms of their agreement and take that testimony ‘under advisement’; then when the necessary 60 day waiting period is over the judge may sign a Final Decree of Divorce that has been prepared, circulated, and signed by the parties and their attorneys. In this way, many times parties who asked for and attended a Temporary Orders hearing get their divorce faster than people who just file for divorce and do not request temporary orders. If you are nervous about what to do and say at a Temporary Orders hearing, you need an expert attorney like William D. Bloodworth II to help prepare you for your Temporary Orders hearing. The staff of the Bloodworth Law Firm will work with you to understand what questions the Judge may want answers on, as well as, helping you to understand what to do and not do in court. We at the Bloodworth Law Firm don’t just tell you to show up at a court hearing, we work with you as your “partner” in a “team effort” to make sure you are prepared.
For many divorce cases, especially those who have a ‘high net worth estate’, ‘discovery’ is a critical portion of the contested divorce process. Trial by “ambush” is not allowed in Texas, unless you fail to exercise your right to ‘discovery’. A smart lawyer doesn’t ask a question at trial that he doesn’t already know the answer to. The way the lawyer gets those answers is by doing ‘discovery’. During the discovery process both sides can ask questions, in writing (Interrogatories) and in person (Depositions), and request documents from the other party. Your lawyer will work with you to prepare your documents, if they are requested, as well as review and explain the documents provided by your spouse. By conducting discovery, and spending valuable time examining the information provided, you and your attorney can many times obtain documents, papers, and things to be used as exhibits at trial. Many times, you discover valuable information in the discovery phase that dramatically increases your opportunity to win at trial. The discovery phase allows for a ‘just and right’ (fair) division of property as it forces parties to disclose all assets and liabilities. If you, for whatever the reason, do not spend the time and money on the discovery phase, you may be unable to determine if the settlement offer made to you is “fair” because you cannot determine if a ‘deal’ is really a “good deal” for you if you don’t know the total that was available to be included in the deal. The discovery process can be extremely complicated and the rules governing what information you get from the other side and how you get it are difficult to understand. You need an expert attorney like William D. Bloodworth II, of the Bloodworth Law Firm, to help you get the information you need to prove your case in Court. Remember, Court is not about what you know happened but what you can prove. What you prove may a lot of the time come from the documents, papers, and things you get in discovery. Knowing how to get this evidence is crucial to winning your case.
Many courts require mediation as part of the process of divorce. Mediation is a process where a neutral third party, called a mediator, who has specialized training in resolving disputes, will help the you and your spouse reach an agreement. Your attorney will be present during mediation to protect your legal interests and help you negotiate effectively. Agreements reached during the mediation process are binding and enforceable. If the parties agree to make the mediated settlement agreement irrevocable, then when the Irrevocable (Unchangeable) Mediated Settlement Agreement is signed, neither party can change his/her mind. This is why you will probably want to conduct the ‘discovery’ aspect of your case first, and take your time to make certain you are fully aware of all of the “facts” of your case and the full impact of the agreement and are prepared to live with it, before you agree to a mediated settlement agreement.
In the event the parties cannot reach an agreement a final trial will be held. At the final trial, all the issues and evidence will be presented to a judge or a jury for a decision. William D. Bloodworth II is an expert in Family Law, as certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. William D. Bloodworth II is an experienced trial lawyer who can help you effectively present your side of the story to a judge or a jury. Attorney Bloodworth is “comfortable” in the courtroom, and is not afraid of anyone. Attorney Bloodworth is an accomplished public speaker, trial strategist, and has successfully battled some of the largest law firms in the nation, obtaining very favorable and satisfying results for his clients.