Contested Divorces in Texas

It takes two to argue, but just one to make a contested divorce.  Go figure.

If you find yourself in the unenviable postion of going through a contested divorce in Texas, then you should probably know the basics about divorce.

A divorce is officially started when one spouse files a divorce petition in a district court in the county where at least one spouse lives.  For a Tarrant County divorce and a Dallas County divorce, the case is filed in one of the specialized family law district courts.  For a Denton County divorce and a Collin County divorce, the case is filed in one of the general jurisdiction district courts.

At the time the case is filed, the county’s “standing orders” immediately take effect.  These vary in each county, so it’s best to have a copy in hand before filing the divorce.

If some type of restraining action is needed in excess of the standing order, then the filing party includes an application for a temporary restraining order.  These are heard “ex parte” which means without the other side being present.  All of the judges in Denton, Collin, Tarrant and Dallas County, however, have a policy that if the other side is represented by an attorney, that attorney has to be given a chance to argue against the application.

For contested matters, even if there is no temporary restraining order, one party always asks for an injunction hearing.  This is where the judge is asked to order visitation, child support, temporary alimony, temporary payment of debts, and temporary use of assets.  The injunction hearing usually takes place within 14 days from the filing of the petition.   Unless there are highly unusual circumstances,most  judges will limit the hearing to only one hour.

After the petition is filed,the other side has to receive formal notice through a citation.  The other side can waive citation by filing an answer.

Both sides proceed to the discovery phase.  This usually includes

  • requests for production and inspection (of documents and things, such as land)
  •  requests for admission (asking the other side to admit or deny certain facts)
  • written interrogatories (questions that the other side has to answer under oath)
  • depositions (questions asked orally that a witness answers under oath;  sometimes these are video-taped)
  • request for disclosure (a set of standard  questions set out the Rules of Civil Procedure that the other side must answer)

If there is a family business, then one side may ask that a receiver be appointed to run the business, or that an independent auditor review the books.

During all of this, there will be intermittent clashes.  One spouse may be late on paying alimony.  Perhaps one spouse accuses the other of family violence.  An attorney may file objections to discovery questions.

At some point, the court will order the parties to mediation.  This is a form of alternative dispute resolution where an independent person (usually an experienced family lawyer) plays shuttle diplomacy between the parties  and tries to get them to minimize and even resolve their differences.

Eventually, if no settlement is reached, the case will be tried in court.  Sometimes the issues are appropriate for a jury trial, sometimes they are submitted to the judge. The judge will render the verdict and sign a final decree.  Either side can request a new trial, or appeal the case.

What makes a contested divorce go more smoothly?  A good attorney, a good game plan, an unemotional decision-making process, and organized documents.

At Hammerle Finley Law Firm, we have represented clients in contested divorces for almost three decades.  We have extensive experience in Denton County divorces, Tarrant County divorces, Collin County divorces and Dallas County divorces.    Call us – we can help.