Responding to a Divorce Case
- Responding to a Divorce Case
Receiving divorce papers from a process server or a law enforcement officer can be one of the most unsettling experiences of your life, especially if it was unexpected. But what exactly does it mean?
The procedure begins with being notified that a lawsuit has been filed against you in court and that a judge has ordered you to respond within a certain time frame. This is known as a complaint, and your spouse is asking the court to dissolve your marriage.
The paperwork is written in the illegible language, similar to that of a newspaper or magazine. The instructions provided to you are not straightforward and are difficult to comprehend. What should you do if you find yourself in this situation?
What happens in a Texas divorce when a petition is filed?
The most important thing is to act as soon as you receive divorce papers. This is not a matter for which you have unlimited time – this means you should not set the papers aside to deal with later. But you must also take care not to rush around and do something rash.
Your spouse will have initiated divorce proceedings by filing an Original Petition for Divorce. This document identifies you and your children if they are under the age of 18. The reason for his or her divorce is also specified on the documents, as are any specific things that are being requested of the court. The Original Petition will be accompanied by a citation in addition to the petition.
It states that you have been served with legal documents and that you must file an Answer with their office within a certain time frame, implying that you cannot put this off. In Texas, the time period is within 20 days after the first Monday of being served at 10:00 a.m. With this in place, you have approximately three weeks to either hire an attorney or file an Answer on your own.
A professional process server may be the person who delivers the documents to you. They will not give legal advice and are not divorce lawyers. The server will also record the date and time you were served and report back to the courthouse after the visitation to serve. This information will then be used to determine the deadline for filing your Answer. Although a law enforcement officer may be hired to serve you, in most cases, divorce papers are delivered and served by a process server.
Do You Need to Hire an Attorney After Being Served?
Although the legal process is not insurmountable, the work is tedious, time-consuming, and deadline-driven, which means that if you don’t know what you’re doing, you may end up hurting yourself in the long run and negatively impacting your ability to advocate your case. This can also be a difficult task, especially if you are working long hours or know that you will put it off due to the other daily tasks you must complete.
If you do decide to hire an attorney, you should begin collecting and organizing any paperwork that may be relevant to your divorce case. Here is a list of some of the documents you should bring:
- your last year’s pay stubs from all sources of employment
- paycheck stubs for your spouse for the same time period documentation of business
- expenses if self-employed copies of your joint or individual tax returns
- a copy of any financial statements or net worth statements
- real estate-related documents
Documents pertaining to joint financial accounts, assets, and real estate
Bank documents, house documents, taxes, and so on will all be reconciled and negotiated between the two spouses during your divorce. By organizing these papers early on, you will save time and effort for yourself and your attorney in the long run. This is also a good way to ensure that you understand what issues will be addressed and to get an estimate of how assets and debts will be divided between the parties.
How long after being served divorce papers do you have to respond?
Because they filed the Petition to initiate the divorce, you are referred to as the “Respondent.” The Respondent files an Original Answer, which is a brief document that informs the court that you are a party to the case.
If your spouse has retained legal counsel, the paperwork can be filed in court and then e-mailed, faxed, or mailed to the attorney’s office. From there, you and your spouse can discuss any issues that may necessitate a temporary order hearing, such as bill payment, child visitation, and child support during the divorce. If an agreement can be reached, there will be no need for a temporary order hearing.
Failure to Meet the Filing Deadline
If you miss the deadline, you will be at a disadvantage in comparison to the other party. However, you may still be able to participate in the divorce proceedings. If you miss the filing deadline, contact the court clerk as soon as possible to explain why you missed it and to see if you can get an extension.
You can proceed with an uncontested divorce if both parties agree. Here, you inform the court of your divorce plan, including property and debt division, child custody and support, and alimony, if applicable. The court then approves your agreement, often without your presence in court.
If you have any further questions concerning the topic we just covered, please contact a Texas Divorce lawyer. Free consultations with family law attorneys are available in our office or over the phone. A consultation is a fantastic opportunity to ask questions and get opinions on your situation.