One of the most frightening aspects about divorce in Collin County (or anywhere else) is the unknown about the legal process. Knowing something about that legal process in advance can help calm nerves when someone has made the decision to divorce. So, how does it work?
In Texas, it only takes one person to want the divorce in order for it to happen. That individual must file a Petition for Divorce. The petition, known as a pleading, is most often very similar to every other divorce petition filed in the state. It contains very little personal information and essentially puts the court on notice that you are filing for divorce. In Collin County, once that petition is filed, the clerk of the court will assign your case to one of eleven courts on a rotating basis. You never know in advance to which court your case will be assigned.
After filing the petition, you must put your spouse on notice that the petition has been filed in order to ultimately resolve the case. This does not mean that you can just call or e-mail them. Legal notice requires that you have them served by a constable or process server. However, in collaborative cases and even many non-collaborative cases, your attorney can send a copy of the petition to your spouse by mail or e-mail and your spouse can then take that petition to his or her own attorney. Once your spouse’s attorney files a legal answer with the clerk, he or she is subject to the court’s jurisdiction and a constable or process server is unnecessary.
If you are the spouse to receive a copy of the petition, you should find an attorney to talk about your rights and help you through the process. And if you were served with the petition by a constable or process server, keep in mind that you have a deadline by which to file an answer with the court – the Monday following the expiration of twenty days after you were served with the petition.
Once the divorce petition is filed with the court, your divorce cannot be finalized for at least sixty days (except in cases of domestic violence). However, during that time and throughout the case, you and your spouse are required to abide by the Collin County Standing Order Regarding Children, Property, and Conduct of the Parties. In short, this order is intended to (a) create as little disruption for the children as possible; (b) limit negative behavior aimed at one another by the spouses; (c) ensure that records and property are not destroyed; and (d) to maintain the financial status quo of the spouses. The Collin County judges do not take lightly any violation of these orders.
Even though there is a sixty-day waiting period before a divorce can be finalized, there is no reason you and your spouse cannot begin the process of resolving your divorce. Most couples take far longer than sixty days to come to a settlement agreement anyway. Think about how long it took to plan your wedding, how many years you have been married, and how old your children are. This is not a simple act you are engaging in, and you want to make sure you have spent the time you need to make good decisions for you and your children as you process through your divorce.
Whether you ultimately settle your divorce using the Collaborative Divorce process, mediation, or even through meetings or calls between your attorneys, your agreements will result in a Final Decree of Divorce that must be signed by a judge. In order to sign the decree and finalize it, judges require that certain questions be answered on the court record. Some judges in Collin County allow you to sign and file an affidavit that answers those required questions; others require one of the spouses to appear before the judge and answer the questions with a court reporter present. Regardless of which, as soon as the judge signs your divorce decree, your divorce is final. It will then be up to you and your spouse to implement the terms of your agreements.
Rhonda Cleaves is a Collaborative Divorce Attorney in Plano with clients in Collin County, Denton County, Dallas County, and Tarrant County.