A Court cannot grant a divorce until the Petition for divorce has been pending for at least sixty days. This time period begins to run on the date the Petition is filed with the Court.
This “waiting period” serves many purposes. Sometimes it permits the parties to “cool-down” and possibly reconcile. Generally, however, it is hoped that the parties will use this time to reach an agreement regarding the specifics of their pending divorce.
Reaching an agreement with your soon-to-be ex-spouse during the waiting period can prevent an outside party (usually a judge) from making decisions regarding your life, property and relationship with your children.
After a Petition for divorce has been filed, the Court, on its own motion, or the motion of either party, after notice and a hearing, may grant temporary orders. Temporary orders set out the “ground rules” for the parties’ conduct during the waiting period with regard to such matters as the preservation of property, the protection of both parties, and issues pertaining to the children such as child support and visitation.
The Court can also decide who will temporarily remain in the marital residence, which party will have to move out and how the bills and expenses of the family will be paid during the pendency of the divorce case.
This would also be the proper time to request the court appoint a therapist, parenting coordinator/facilitator. If the right to determine the primary residence of the children or possession of the children is a contested issue in the case, the Court might also order the parties to complete an evaluation with an expert to assist that Court in determining what the best interest of the children might be. This is known as a “custody evaluation” or “social study.”
If the Respondent files an Answer or makes a court appearance, negotiations may be necessary to reach a final settlement. The Courts require or encourage parties to try to reach agreement.
A common dispute resolution method is called mediation. Mediation is a non-binding, confidential process that may be done at any time during the divorce proceedings and the cost is paid by the parties. The mediator is a neutral third party either appointed by the court or selected by the parties by agreement.
The mediator meets separately with the parties and tries to assist in finding a common ground solution acceptable to both parties. Mediation does not require a resolution or a settlement, but if a settlement is reached, the agreement is then usually considered binding.
Many counties in Texas have services that offer discounted or free mediations. The Court will also sometimes appoint a mediator if the parties cannot agree on the mediator.
If a settlement cannot be reached, the issues will then be presented to the judge or a jury (if timely requested and the jury fee paid) at the final hearing. If a final hearing is necessary, you should request the court clerk to schedule a final trial date for your case.
The law requires the opposing party be given at least forty-five days’ notice prior to a final trial. However, an earlier date may be scheduled if the Court is available and if all parties agree.