Starting the Divorce Process
Divorce in Dallas Texas, as with all divorces, starts with the filing of a divorce petition. A divorce petition:
identifies the parties involved, recites the jurisdictional requirements, (i.e. residing in the state of Texas for six months and the county of filing for sixty days), identifies any children, requests conservatorship of minor children, and asks the Court to divide the community property in a fair, just and equitable manner if the parties in the divorce can not reach an agreement.
Once a divorce petition is filed, the Petitioner must decide whether to have the Petitioner’s spouse, now called the Respondent, served with citation. Citation is a document issued by the County District Clerk advising the Respondent that suit has been filed and that he or she should file an answer or else a default judgment may be taken.
A standing order in a divorce proceeding is a protective order prohibiting acts that would be harmful to the persons, property and pets involved. All Dallas divorce petitions are required to have the Dallas County Standing Order attached. The standing order is immediately binding on the Petitioner when the divorce petition is filed. It becomes binding on the Respondent when the Respondent has been served or files an appearance.
The most prevalent issue requiring the Court’s immediate attention in a Dallas divorce proceeding is which parent is going to be the primary conservator of the children. The term “primary” denotes the parent who will have the right to establish the child’s “primary” residence. The non-primary parent is generally awarded “standard” possession, but split primary custody is a real possibility, especially if both parents have been active in nurturing the children. Generally, all other rights, powers, and duties such as consent to medical treatment or the right to make educational decisions, are shared equally under the technical legal term of “Joint Managing Conservators”.
If one of the parties or the children are in need of temporary support in a Dallas divorce, an Application for Temporary Orders is filed and set for hearing with the Associate Judge of the assigned Court. In both Dallas County divorces and Tarrant County divorces, Associate Judges help the family law Judges manage their dockets by hearing all temporary matters. At the temporary orders hearing each party will fill out a financial information form setting out each party’s monthly income and expenses. Based on the financial information forms, the Associate Judge will enter orders attempting to insure that priority debts get paid and that the parties financial suffering is minimized.
In a Dallas divorce proceeding, the issues between the parties are identified and explored. If the parties to the divorce can not resolve and settle the issues, they are ordered to mediation. Mediation is a process involving a neutral third party who facilitates discussions between the parties in an attempt to resolve and settle the issues. In most instances the parties are separated with their respective lawyers into separate rooms and the Mediator travels between these rooms conducting settlement negotiations. If mediation is successful, a binding mediated settlement agreement will be executed by the parties. If it is not, an impasse will be declared and the parties will proceed to litigation.
Agreed Decree – Divorce Papers
After sixty days from the date of filing the petition, the “cooling off” period, if all issues are agreed, the Court may enter a Final Decree of Divorce. This document formally divorces the parties, appoints the parents as conservators of the children and divides the property, among other things. It is also the document that will allow a spouse to revert to a maiden name. The entry of a final decree ends the divorce process.
If all issues are not agreed, then a trial will be set. Only issues of primary custody of the children and characterization of property as community or separate may go to a jury to decide. All other issues, such as division of the property or ordering of rights, powers, and duties regarding the children, are decided by the presiding Judge. Once the Court rules following a trial, the final decree is entered and the divorce is final.