Negotiating a divorce agreement is rarely easy. The process gets harder when two parties are not on good terms. If you are getting divorced in Texas, you may be wondering whether you should pursue a divorce settlement or go to trial. Understanding the divorce trial process and speaking to an experienced attorney can help you decide how to proceed.
- Is It Better to Settle Your Divorce or Go to Trial?
Settling out of court is generally the most cost-effective and least stressful way to finalize a divorce. Divorce trials can be intense, lengthy, and expensive. Settling a case can help you avoid the risk of the judge making a judgment that is not in your favor. Both parties can have more control over the outcome of the divorce by negotiating a settlement. However, in some cases, going to trial is the best option, especially when you cannot come to an agreement on one or more issues. If you have significant assets at stake, going to trial may be necessary. A trial may be the best way to ensure assets are distributed fairly.
- Are Texas Divorce Trials Public?
During a divorce, sensitive information and extensive details of the parties’ lives will be shared with the court. In Texas, divorce records are public records and are usually accessible unless they have been sealed through a court order. Divorce decrees and case records are accessible.
- How Long Will My Divorce Trial Take?
Divorce cases can take anywhere from six months to over a year. When the parties agree on all the significant issues, they can pursue an uncontested divorce much faster than a contested divorce. There is a 60-day waiting period unless domestic violence is involved. In that case, the court can waive the waiting period. Parties also need to respond to each other’s claims. Contested divorces take much longer. In highly contested or complex divorce cases, the process can take years.
- Is There a Pretrial Procedure for Divorce in Texas?
During the pretrial stage, significant groundwork will be laid to navigate the complexities of the legal system. Before the final trial, the court may issue temporary orders related to property division, child custody, and child support. These orders serve as a guide for the final trial. Pretrial preparations include creating parenting plans and undergoing custody evaluations that may influence the final court decision.
The pre-trial process may involve mediation with a neutral third party. Both parties will need to attend a pre-trial conference with the judge. The conference gives the judge an understanding of the contested issues in the case and approximately how long the trial is expected to last. Both parties’ attorneys will discover, gather evidence, and depose witnesses.
- Will I Be Required to Attend Mediation?
In Texas, mediation is not required before a divorce trial. However, judges will often require mediation sessions when the parties cannot agree before the trial. In many cases, judges will not allow a divorce case to reach a hearing unless they have attempted mediation. When a judge requires mediation, but if the parties do not participate, the judge can dismiss the case entirely.
- Can a Texas Divorce Trial Get Delayed After the Date Has Been Set?
The short answer to this question is, “It depends.” The longer the divorce trial, the more difficult it is for a judge or county family court to find a home for it. Trials anticipated to last longer than five hours are considered “long cause” status. Divorce trials that proceed for longer than one day are sometimes set during consecutive days but can spread out over one or more weeks.
It is not uncommon for multi-day divorce trials to last over several weeks. In Texas divorce trials, delays are not uncommon, especially as many courts are still backed up due to COVID-19 closures. Still, many Texas family law judges will juggle other matters on the same day they set trials. Getting a full day for your trial can be difficult.
- What are the Divorce Trial Statutes and Court Rules in Texas?
There are many different rules of civil procedure regarding the divorce process in Texas. While it is possible to represent yourself in court, it is not advisable because it is extremely challenging for individuals to meet all the deadlines and comply with all the applicable procedures.
- Will There Be a Jury at My Divorce Trial?
It is uncommon for divorce trials to be heard in front of a jury. Over the years, jury trials have declined in divorce cases due to cost considerations, fear of a win-lose outcome, and required mediation. The adversarial nature of jury trials may further strain relationships and hinder amicable resolutions. In short, it is highly unlikely your case will involve a jury. Instead, a judge will make the final decisions regarding your divorce.
- What is the Divorce Procedure in Texas?
The first step involves filing the divorce petition and serving the divorce papers. The spouse served must answer the divorce petition within 20 days. In an uncontested divorce, the respondent may file an answer or return the signed waiver of service. Either spouse can ask the judge for temporary restraining orders. The spouses must exchange financial disclosures about their assets, property, retirement plans, and other financial matters.
Both spouses will sign and file a Final Decree of Divorce when the divorce settles out of court. After the waiting period, the court will schedule a hearing. The judge will review the divorce papers and sign the final divorce degree. In an uncontested divorce, the parties will go through discovery, custody evaluators, financial analysis, motions, and hearings. Mediation may be required. If the parties cannot resolve their issues, the case will go to trial.
- Do I Need an Attorney for My Divorce Trial?
Working with an experienced attorney can help you move through the divorce process as smoothly as possible. Navigating the divorce process can be financially and emotionally draining. An attorney can help you make informed decisions while representing your best legal interests. Do not hesitate to contact Vonda Covington of Covington Law Firm, PLLC, to schedule an initial consultation. We respond within 24 hours.