We get it. Dissolving a marriage can be difficult, scary, and devastating. But you can’t let these facts cause you to bury your head in the sand after your spouse files for divorce. If you receive divorce papers, don’t hide from them. Take action.
You have a limited amount of time to make your voice heard in divorce proceedings, and you don’t want to lose your financial, property, or parenting rights just because you chose to ignore a divorce petition.
Divorce is daunting, but you don’t have to face the process solo. Our skilled divorce attorneys at The Larson Law Office can champion your rights.
The Beginning of a Divorce Case: Filing and Serving the Petition
Once your spouse decides to dissolve your marriage, they must file a petition for divorce in the court of the county where either of you has been a resident for at least 90 days. Generally, to file for divorce in Texas at all, you or your spouse has to have lived in Texas for at least six months.
The divorce petition doesn’t have to contain specific facts about the nature of the divorce, but it does have to identify the legal reason your spouse wants a divorce. After your spouse files the divorce petition, they have to serve you with a copy of the petition and a citation.
What Happens When You Get Served Divorce Papers?
Depending on the situation, you could be personally served a divorce petition and citation by a qualified individual. Sometimes you can be served through a published document, or you could waive service by telling the court in a notarized statement that you have a copy of the petition.
However, you receive the petition and citation, carefully review them immediately. This paperwork contains a lot of vital information that can affect your life significantly.
As we stated above, the divorce petition gives you general information about your spouse’s legal reason for filing for divorce. Your spouse could opt for a no-fault divorce, or attempt to assign fault in their divorce filings.
The petition also includes information about your children and assets, as well as your spouse’s requests for how they would like the court to resolve issues relating to matters such as custody, visitation, and property division.
The citation you receive can help you understand how to handle what happens after divorce papers are served in Texas. Information on the citation includes:
- The name and location of the court that’s handling your divorce case;
- The date the divorce petition was filed;
- The name and address of your spouse’s attorney (if any);
- The deadline and location for filing your written response;
- Information about your obligations (e.g., disclosing your assets to the court); and
- Information about the risks of failing to respond to the petition.
Once you receive divorce papers, you have until the Monday after the 20 days that follow your service date to respond to the divorce petition. You have to file your response by 10:00 AM on that Monday due date.
Responding to the Divorce Petition
What if you do nothing in response to receiving divorce paperwork? That’s likely not your best option. A risk of not responding to the divorce petition is that your spouse can receive a default divorce decree that doesn’t take into account any of your specific needs. In a divorce decree, the court generally makes determinations about:
- Child custody,
- Child support,
- Spousal support,
- The division of debts,
- The division of property, and
- The division of other financial assets.
You don’t want your spouse and a court making these significant decisions about your life without your input.
Under Texas law, the court can’t submit a final divorce decree until 60 days after your spouse files for divorce. Basically, you want to act quickly when you see a petition.
Keeping Track of Proceedings, Motions, and Orders
Not only is it important to provide a response to the divorce petition, you also need to keep track of any motions filed, orders handed down, or hearings held. While the divorce is pending, the court or your spouse could submit a motion for a temporary order that prevents you from:
- Interacting with your spouse,
- Interacting with your child,
- Selling your property,
- Making changes to your benefits, or
- Making changes to your financial accounts.
Sometimes you have an opportunity to attend a hearing on these matters, and sometimes you don’t. If you have concerns, you can also file your own timely motions to prevent your spouse from taking the above actions while the divorce is pending.
You want to make sure you’re aware of everything that is happening in your divorce case. If the court hands down an order against you on one of the above matters and you violate the order, you could be held in contempt of court.
Do You Need an Attorney?
So how do you handle what happens when you are served divorce papers? Do you need to hire an attorney?
You can represent yourself in a divorce, but this is rarely an ideal choice. If your spouse doesn’t have an attorney already, there’s a good chance they might hire one, leaving you at a disadvantage when trying to fulfill important legal deadlines and arguing your position in family court.
Something else to remember when you’re in the midst of a divorce is that you’ll likely be busy trying to address the emotional drain and complications of separating from your spouse (e.g., making living arrangements in the interim, notifying friends and family, adjusting to a new dynamic, etc.).
Fighting a legal battle alone is not easy, especially when it’s regarding a matter this personal. Your attorney can do the heavy lifting in the legal arena to protect your rights, while you do the heavy lifting in your personal life to protect your wellbeing.
Don’t Assume That You Have to Face a Divorce Alone—Speak to an Attorney Today
At The Larson Law Office, we provide personal attention and top-rated legal representation to clients struggling with sensitive family matters. We’re passionate about helping you make the best decisions for you and your family. If you’re looking for experienced family law attorneys who have compassion for your situation, you can look to us. Contact us online, or call us at 713-221-9088 for a free consultation.