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Board Certified Family Law Attorney, Christina Jimenez, explains the divorce process in a “nutshell”. Obviously, the process can be far more complex, depending on the facts.
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At 00:16 – The first thing the petitioner is going to do is file an original petition for divorce which is a document that tells the judge what affirmative relief the petitioner is requesting.
At 00:31 – If there are children involved the original petition must include the children and the petitioner may request; conservatorship, joint managing conservatorship, visitation, child support, certain rules to be put place such as the children can not be around a certain individual, the children can not leave the country.
At 00:56 – The property aspect or property component of the petition; Typically there are two different sides of the divorce proceeding. If children are involved, the divorce suit will affect the parent-child relationship and then property division.
At 01:07 – Property division, a general request for a just and right division which means your telling the judge you want to divide the property in a manner which you deem to be fair; or for a disproportionate share of the marital estate. Basically telling the judge you don’t just want a 50/50 share. You may want more because of the cruelty in the marriage, or if the other party may have treated you badly, or the other party makes significantly more money, or your need a disproportionate share because you need to compensate for the fact the other party has a greater earning capacity. There are all sorts of reasons to request a disproportionate share of the estate.
At 01:58 – A request for temporary orders; Temporary orders are necessary for a divorce proceeding because in the State of Texas it takes a minimum of 60 days to get a divorce. If things get nasty, contentious, and there are lots of issues, it is going to take longer than 60 days. So you have to put Temporary Orders in place as a kind of band-aid for your particular situation. The court will render orders on how the parties are to behave until the divorce can be finalized.
At 02:42 – The exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child; Meaning; where do the kids live; who’s going to have visitation; who’s paying child support; who’s paying for health insurance; what you’re doing for uninsured medical expenses; do we need to include passport provisions; do there need to be rules that some people can not be around the children; the children can not travel outside of a certain geographic area.
At 03:13 – The property portion; who’s going to live in the house; whos’ going to pay for the house; what car is everybody going to drive; who’s going to cover the insurance for the vehicles; know how you’re going to split credit card access; is there going to be temporary spousal support. These are the types of issues the court is going to hear at a Temporary Orders hearing. This is typically a full-blown hearing and you’re going to have to testify and present your case to the court. In the end, the judge is going to make a renderer ruling. We often try to settle for Temporary Orders, but sometimes that is just not possible depending on your situation. From this point, we get an order in place once the order is signed by the judge.
At 04:05 – Once the order is signed by the judge, then you can be held in contempt of court which means up to six months in jail and up to a $500 fine per violation. Once signed we have two options: sometimes we can proceed directly to a final divorce hearing; other times we have to go to mediation. Often times the courts are going to require the parties at least attempt mediation before going to a final divorce hearing. The reason they do it is because it’s a way for them to have some sort of docket control so they don’t have so many hearings scheduled. It’s an opportunity for the clients to be empowered and to decide what is best for their lives as opposed to a complete stranger make a ruling after hearing hours of testimony. Christina personally is a huge proponent of mediation. She has had a lot of success with mediation and would say that typically about 90 to 95% of their cases are settled at mediation.
At 05:08 – Request or require a Premediation Meeting. Sometimes there are two of those. Basically, it is an opportunity to visit and for us to decide what it is that you really want out of your final divorce proceeding. Sometimes we have situations where people will say I would rather give him the house and be able to move out of state with my children, or I’m going to give him as much visitation as he wants so long as he’s going to help me with the finances. It puts you in a position to decide what’s most important to you and this is what I’m willing to potentially give up in exchange for that. Most mediations go anywhere from a half-day to a full day. In the end, you’re going to sign a Mediated Settle Agreement (MSA). Once you sign the MSA it is a binding contract. You have to be sure that what your signing is what you are willing to live with it because once signed it is a done deal.
At 06:44 – After signing the MSA is signed, a draft of the Final Decree of Divorce will be submitted to the court, and the judge signs it. Typically you have to do a Prove Up Hearing which is a short 5 to 15-minute hearing where you tell the judge here are the terms of our MSA and ask the judge to sign the Final Decree of Divorce. If for whatever reason you decide Mediation is not something that is going to work for you, the court is going to allow you to not have to go through mediation, and then you can proceed to a Final Divorce Hearing. If you’re not able to settle at mediation for whatever reason, then you have to go to a final divorce hearing. Again it is an opportunity for you to present your case and all of your evidence to the judge and make certain requests of him. Again two parts, custody and property. Basically, you’re saying to the judge this is what I want you to know for the benefit and safety of my children and that this is the final deposition of what I am requesting that the court award to me as my sole and separate property. The concern for this path is the cost associated with it. Final divorce hearings are very, very expensive because most often they’re very difficult and it takes a lot of preparation to be able to do an exceptional job while you’re in the courtroom. The second thing is the emotional and psychological components associated with the process. Litigation is extremely difficult; difficult from a financial standpoint, from a psychological standpoint, and a spiritual standpoint. So if you can avoid that process and avoid having to drag one another through the mud, then you’re going to come out ahead. You’re going to win.
At 08:52 – Again I am a huge proponent of mediation for that reason if you go to the final divorce hearing you get to present all of your admissible evidence to the court. And then from there, the judge is going to make a final ruling about what’s going to happen with all your property and what’s going to happen with your children.
At 09:14 – This video is just a brief Cliff Notes overview of what can happen in a divorce proceeding. Obviously, there are potential motions and things that could happen while you’re going through this process. Every case is different. Every client is different. The facts associated with all our cases are completely different. You have to be fluid, kind of patient, and understanding while going through this process.