Williamson County Divorce Guide
What is the general process of getting a divorce in Williamson County?
Every divorce is different. This guide will not match up exactly with how every divorce is completed, but this is a general overview of the divorce process and the typical steps that are taken to complete a divorce. This guide is not intended to be legal advice and should not be used as a substitution for seeking advice from an attorney.
Step 1: Petition
The first step in any lawsuit is the filing of a petition. The person who files the original petition in a divorce is referred to as a petitioner. A petition is where the court gets all of the basic information about the case and the petitioner requests what they want to be ordered in their case. A petition will include the names of the parties, the names of any children, the date of marriage, the date of separation, and other relevant information. Additionally, the petition is where a party will request the court to order child support and other child-related orders if relevant. A petition can also list any fault grounds for divorce or request the court to grant the divorce because of insupportability if it will be a no-fault divorce.
In some cases, a temporary restraining order or a temporary ex parte protective order are filed contemporaneously with an original petition for divorce. These are things that the judge can sign before service. These both have specific requirements and add different deadlines for hearings in a case.
Step 2: Service
After the filing of an original petition, the petitioner must give notice to the other spouse. The person who needs to be served is referred to as the respondent. Service on the respondent is typically achieved by using a process server to deliver the citation in person. Service can also be done with what is called a waiver of service if the parties are agreeable.
Step 3: Answer
After the respondent receives the petition, the respondent typically will file an answer and sometimes will file what is called a counterpetition. Typically, an answer in a divorce will be what is called a general denial. If a counterpetition is filed, the counterpetition can ask for the same things that could be included in an original petition.
Step 4: Temporary Orders
Not every divorce has temporary orders, but many do. Temporary Orders are orders that are put in place after a divorce is filed and before it is finalized. They are typically requested in the oritinal petition or counterpetition. Temporary orders can be orders regarding maintaining property, child support, custody, who gets to stay in the marital home, who gets to use the cars, who will pay for any debts, and other matters that need to be decided while a divorce is pending. Temporary orders are something that can be agreed to by the parties. Other times, the parties go into court and have a hearing in front of the judge and the judge decides what the temporary orders will be. Temporary orders can be extremely important in a divorce because they are often the first time parties are in front of the judge and they tend to set the tone for what the final orders are going to look like.
Step 5: Discovery
Discovery can be the most expensive part of a divorce. Discovery is a general term that describes how the parties ask each other for information. Typically discovery in a divorce includes a request for disclosure, request for production, and written interrogatories. These requests can be very detailed and can require a party to produce a large amount of paperwork. Discovery does not have to be served after the temporary orders, but typically, discovery is completed before mediation so that the parties have had an opportunity to gather necessary information about what they are going to want in their final order.
Step 6: Mediation
Typically, at temporary orders or before final trial, cases will be ordered to go to mediation. Mediation is where a third party who is neutral attempts to help the parties come up with an agreement for a final divorce decree. Mediation can be a great tool in many cases. A valid mediated settlement agreement has to be entered by the court as a final order so it is a great way for parties to take control of what their final divorce decree will look like.
Step 7: Final Trial
When mediation doesn’t work and no agreement has been able to be reached in a case, the parties go to final trial. Final trial is where all of the issues and evidence are put before the judge and the judge decides what to do in a case. In many cases that go to final trial, the parties are able to agree to some parts of the final order and they simply ask the court to decide limited issues. However, if the divorce is in front of a judge for final trial the judge has the discretion to decide what they think is a just and right division of the entire marital estate and the judge also has the discretion to decide what they think is in the best interest of the child for all of the issues surrounding a child in a case.
If you have any questions about a Family Law matter in Williamson County or the surrounding areas, call the Law Office of Margaret McCroan at 512-777-0850 for a free phone consultation.