Divorce is a difficult process and oftentimes causes deep emotional distress. Whether you have initiated the process or are being served with papers, understanding what a petition for divorce entails can be key to making your situation easier. It’s important to understand how the legal system works and what filing for divorce involves.
Original Petition for Divorce in Texas
The official first step in filing for divorce in the state of Texas is the Original Petition for Divorce. Some people confuse the petition for divorce with the divorce decree. The petition for divorce begins the process, while the divorce decree ends the marriage. There are two parties in this process:
- Petitioner: The spouse filing for divorce. This person not only fills out all necessary paperwork to begin the process, but he or she will legally notify the other spouse.
- Respondent: The other spouse. This person will be notified by the petitioner.
What Information Is in the Petition for Divorce?
The petition for divorce will give the following pieces of information:
- Full names of both the petitioner and respondent
- Dates of their marriage and separation
- County of residence of one or both parties at the time of filing
- Names and ages of any children involved
- Petitioner’s grounds for divorce
Texas is a “notice pleading” state, meaning factual details are not required in the petition. In addition, the petition will have notification of any protective orders in place. Either party might also file for a name change at this point.
What Is the First Amended Petition for Divorce?
If the petitioner decides to amend the petition for divorce, he or she can do so by filing a “First Amended Petition for Divorce” with the court. However, this does not change the date of filing or the waiting period.
What Happens After the Petition Is Filed?
Once this petition is drawn up, it is filed in the clerk's office where one or both parties live. The court will then issue a case number and assign a judge to the case. The date on which the petition is filed is considered the start date of the divorce process. The Texas-required 60-day waiting period will begin on that date.
Steps in a Petition for Divorce
After filing the petition for divorce, the following steps will occur:
1. Serving the Spouse
This process is also known as notifying the other spouse or respondent. The court needs to have written documentation that the respondent is aware of the petition. You can serve your spouse in the following ways:
- Having your spouse sign a waiver of citation: This waives his or her rights to be formally served with divorce papers. It does not, however, waive any other rights.
- Hiring a process server or Sherriff: He or she will receive a copy of the petition, paperwork used to prove all the information gathered in the petition, and a citation to appear in court.
2. Waiting for Your Spouse’s Answer
After this process, the respondent has 20 days from the service date to file an answer to the petition. If there is no answer, he or she is forfeiting their right to participate in the divorce proceedings and can be subjected to a default judgment.
The respondent has two options if he or she doesn't want the judge to make a default judgment against them. They include:
- General Denial: This option is used if the respondent doesn't agree with something in the petition, such as child custody.
- Counterpetition: The respondent is filing his or her own petition for divorce against the original petition, going a little further to protect his or her interests.
3. The 60-Day Waiting Period
During this period, the court cannot grant the petition for divorce until the 60 days have passed. At this time, some spouses may reconcile to reach agreements on the terms of the divorce. This may involve matters such as child custody, child support, marital assets, and more. Hiring an attorney to work with is important to help you make unbiased decisions that will benefit you in the future.
4. Divorce Decree
The final hearing will be set for any time after the 60-day waiting period. Whether you have come to an agreement or have had a trial between this time, you will receive your divorce decree.
Reach Out to the Law Office of Nancy Perry Eaton, PLLC
We recognize the stresses that come with divorce. Our team has spent the last 30+ years helping residents in the Killeen, Texas area with family law matters. Whether you need help with child custody, collaborative divorce, or modifications, our team is here to provide quality service.
Call today at (254) 221-8588 or schedule a consultation with us online!