So, you’ve filed for divorce. How long will it take to get your divorce finalized? On the short end, Texas requires a 60-day “cooling off” period following the filing of the petition for divorce. This means 60 days must elapse between when the petition for divorce is initially filed by one of the parties in a divorce action and when the final decree of divorce can be signed by a judge. The “petition for divorce” is a document filed with the court to first open the case for adjudication and the “decree of divorce” is the court order that finalizes the parties’ divorce. In the event that both the husband and wife in a divorce case agree on all issues (child custody, child support, division of marital assets, and spousal support), and no other issues remain for determination by a judge, it would still take a minimum of 61 days after the time the petition is filed for the couple to become officially divorced. However, even in such an agreed-upon divorce, many courts still require a final hearing in order to finalize the divorce. Given the courts’ busy dockets, getting this hearing set typically extends the divorce process beyond this 60-day “cooling off” period.
On the long end, contested divorces can take a year or more to finalize as the parties file pleadings, attend temporary hearings, exchange and respond to discovery, attend mediation, conduct studies or tests, and attend counseling, among other various steps in this process. Ultimately, the case may go to trial if the parties cannot agree on how to deal with child custody, support, and asset division issues.
Once the petition for divorce is filed, the next step is to have the other spouse formally served with this document. The case can be delayed if there is not a good address at which to serve the spouse, so be sure to come prepared with that information, if possible. Once the non-filing party is formally served with the petition and any other required documentation from the court, he or she will have until 10:00 a.m. the Monday following the expiration of 20 days after service to file his or her response to the petition for divorce, called an “answer”.
In situations where spouses cannot agree on things like child custody, they can go before the judge in their divorce case to have a temporary order issued on the contested matter. This type of hearing usually happens about a month after the responding party’s answer to the petition for divorce is filed, depending on the court’s particular docket availability.
This is the process where information is requested and, thereafter, disclosed by each spouse. Things like bank statements, pay statements, tax returns, and other income information and asset valuations are helpful in dividing the marital property of the parties. However, the discovery process is lengthy and time-intensive and can take weeks—if not months—to complete.
Mediation involves the parties in a divorce sitting down with a third-party neutral mediator in an effort to resolve the contested issues in their divorce and settle the case. The calendars of private mediators fill up fast and usually result in mediation not being able to be scheduled for a month or more after you and your spouse first decide to schedule a mediation.
Studies and Tests
Studies such as custody evaluations can take months to get scheduled and completed and depend heavily on the parties’ schedules and the schedule of the professional evaluator engaged to perform such studies. Tests such as drug screening can generally be completed quickly but a judge may order multiple tests over a period of time, depending on how long the particular divorce case is pending. DNA testing can take weeks or months to schedule and complete, depending on the specific lab being utilized to run such DNA tests.
Courts may order co-parenting classes or individual therapy that may take several weeks to complete. Additionally, the courts may order counseling for the parties’ children in certain circumstances.
Not every step outlined above will apply in every divorce case. When these issues do arise in a divorce, however, these steps must often be completed one at a time. While some of these can be addressed and resolved relatively quickly, others will require more time and attention to complete before moving on to the next step. In addition, hearings and court appearances are scheduled subject to the court’s schedule and can end up being pushed back or delayed depending on the court’s docket pressures. If you would like to understand how long your specific Texas divorce case may take, contact our knowledgeable attorneys for representation today.
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This post is not meant to be exhaustive, but a brief overview of maneuvering through Family Court. Contact Whitbeck Bennett by calling 800-516-3964 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, to connect with an experienced attorney in your area who can guide you through the process.