If you’re heading into the divorce process and want to know more about the reality of how long it could take, this blog outlines what you need to know.
Happily ever after. That is what every married couple dreams their life is going to be like once they have their wedding. Sometimes that happens, but unfortunately for others, life can throw a wrench in your plans.
Like everything else in life, you can change the way you think and feel about certain things, including your spouse. Whether you simply grow apart, always fight, have different goals in life, had an affair, or even became unstable, these marriages can and do end up in divorce.
Once that happens, the infamous “nightmare” divorce process will begin. The stories about there are about how some couples end up having to go through hell and back to put a nice silver bow on their separation.
There are even stories about how long a spouse can lose a lot or gain a lot in a divorce, the potential for false accusations to gain an upper hand, or even the unloading of all of your potential dirty laundry.
With all of these whispers out there, if you are freshly separated from your spouse, you may be asking yourself how long is a clean split going to take? Let’s find out.
Best Case Scenario
Let’s start with the easiest timeline. You may be in a marriage where you have a rational spouse with not many complications for property, child custody, or financial agreements.
In situations like these, it really can be as simple as working together on the initial paperwork, with one spouse waiving the right to be personally served the divorce papers and coming to an agreement at the mediation.
But, even if everything goes glass smooth, legally in Texas, a judge cannot finalize a divorce until 61 days after the divorce was filed.
That is the fastest you will be able to get a divorce done in the state of Texas, but compared to what some cases end up being, it can feel like a breeze.
In terms of mediation, the average time advertised for this is usually between 6-8 hours with a mediator if both spouses can come to terms for an agreement. This time can be all in one day or split up into 2-4 sessions on separate days.
As stated, this is a scenario where everything is smooth and fast, but what happens when there are disputes to settle before the final agreement? That timeline can change in the very beginning.
Filing For Divorce
It is recommended that you try to go on the offense here and file first. This can give you the upper hand and allow you to start dictating the initial terms and timeline. But, how does that affect the timeline?
In Texas, once the petitioner files for divorce, they will serve the other spouse (the respondent) the divorce papers. Once that happens, the respondent has 20 days (plus the following Monday) to file a document called an Answer.
Once the Answer document is received, both parties can then go on and schedule a meeting with a mediator. But, there is one more obstacle in the initial filing.
That obstacle is the possibility of a Temporary Restraining Order. This order lasts for 14 days and typically requires there to be a trial for Temporary Orders after the file for a TRO is handed in.
The TRO basically is a way to try to prevent any assets from disappearing before orders can be given or a way to prevent harassment of one spouse towards another.
Temporary Orders typically decide custody, visitation, and possible use of the property until the final agreement is made in the divorce process.
Fault and No-Fault Divorce
Texas is a no-fault state, which means that one spouse cannot be forced to stay in a marriage if the other spouse refuses to agree to a divorce. However, a no-fault divorce can potentially take longer to hear out if the other party does not agree on the reason for the divorce.
There are clear fault divorce terms like adultery, being mentally unstable, in prison for a year or more, abandonment, or even unusually cruel treatment. These are arguably easier to see for a third-party observer to see.
But, then there is the no-fault divorce, which may require a judge to see that it is clear and obvious that there is a conflict of personalities that can eliminate any chance of a reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
This usually comes into play more often when the divorce is contested, rather than uncontested. Besides one party wanting to reconcile in a no-fault divorce, there can be three other big reasons why a divorce case can be lengthy.
In Texas, the maximum amount of alimony allowed to be taken is $5,000 OR 20% of one spouse’s average monthly income, whichever is lower.
This only really comes into play for couples who were married 10 years or longer, since Texas does not recognize alimony rights for any spouse married less than 10 years. There are a few exceptions to that rule, but not many.
However, if the spouse asking for alimony has a mental or physical disability, has a young child with the other spouse, or one spouse has a high enough salary to meet minimal needs, alimony can still be had.
Alimony is a dispute that can take some of the most time to settle, particularly if the couple is not on good terms and one party has a high net value, with the other making minimal money or even being a stay-at-home wife or husband.
This is another big dispute when it comes time to file for divorce in some cases. It can get really complicated if a property was attained and held onto without the other spouse’s knowledge.
Examples of this can be property inherited to one spouse by someone in their family and then only having their name on it. Another could be property attained by a spouse themselves before they even married the other spouse.
If a couple is fortunate enough to have multiple houses or buildings, another issue can be figuring out how to evenly divide those. This can even go into company property if the couple owns or owned a business together.
This is not even getting into financial investments, and plans like pensions, 401K, maybe even crypto coins bought while married.
The simple facts are, Texas is a community property state, which means anything acquired together while married will be split evenly in a divorce. However, having a separate property like some of the above can lengthen the legal process.
Arguably the most important thing for couples separating that have children is deciding how custody of the child and support for that child is split. This can range from doing everything right down the middle to one spouse providing money to the other.
Child custody is usually resolved with one spouse having primary custody and the other having specific visitation rights. This can mean the primary has the child on weekdays and the other spouse can see the child on weekends or every other weekend.
Then, of course, there are holidays and location factors to consider. Unfortunately, this can get ugly, and as a result, lengthen the time it takes to finalize a divorce.
There are some instances when you can be shown to not have the best judgment, make the best decisions, and have your character be compromised during a divorce hearing.
Let’s say you get charged and/or convicted with a DWI right before or during the divorce process. This can be used against you in a potential trial, especially when custody is involved.
A DWI or an act that questions the character or actions of a party, may force the divorce process to lengthen and be a more difficult fight for the person being accused of or guilty of these actions.
A Realistic Timeline
So, now that you have seen some of the biggest reasons why divorces can go through a lengthy trial, let’s go through the timeline of these potential events.
We said this can be done in as little as 61 days after filing if it is uncontested and an agreement is made before the spouses go to trial.
But, what if it is a lengthy, contested divorce? Well, that could take the temporary orders alone months to complete.
The average trial divorce case can take 18 months in the United States. However, Texas cases could be a little lower because they only have a 60-day cooling down period.
Realistically, though, a trial can be completed in as little as a few weeks. Of course, then it takes time for the judge to determine the ruling, and then there is a potential 30-day appeal period if a spouse is not happy with the ruling.
In other words, a realistic timeline can really vary. It can be 61 days, it can be about 4-6 months, and it can even be up to 18 months.
Get Help For Your Divorce Process
If you are heading into a divorce that you expect to go to trial, it will be essential to have the right help on your side.
Contact us if you are in the greater Houston area. We have offices in Angleton, Pearland, and Webster that can help you prepare for your divorce process.