If you are considering filing for divorce, you may be wondering how long the process is likely to take. An “average” divorce will usually take between six months and a year. However, the truth is that all divorces are different and various factors could accelerate or slow down the timeline. Below, you’ll learn more about the typical timeline of a Texas divorce, and some of the elements that could affect how long yours takes.
The 60-Day Waiting Period in Texas
Texas law requires a 60-day waiting period before a divorce can be finalized. The waiting period begins the day after the divorce paperwork has been filed. The waiting period helps people to ensure that divorce is truly the path they want to take. It provides some “cooling off” time, so people can determine how they want to proceed.
The court can waive the waiting period in certain circumstances. If your spouse is convicted of a crime involving domestic violence against you or a member of your household, or if there is an active protection order for emergency protection from a spouse because of domestic violence during the marriage, the waiting period can be removed.
Although you will have to wait at least 60 days before the divorce can be made final in all other cases, it often takes much longer because the court dockets are so full. It can often take 90 to 120 days or more before even an uncontested divorce will be finalized.
The type of divorce you have will affect how long it will take, as well. There are essentially two types of divorce – contested and uncontested.
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An uncontested divorce happens when you and your spouse can reach a divorce settlement without intervention by the courts. You and your spouse will create a settlement agreement with your attorneys, or through mediation, and present that to the court.
Uncontested divorces, given their nature, are faster and more cost-effective than contested divorces. With an uncontested divorce, you could simply hire and go through a mediator to get to a settlement agreement without needing to involve attorneys.
These divorces are streamlined because they don’t have to go before a judge to make the final decision on various factors. Everything is already agreed to, so the judge can review the agreement and finalize the divorce. This is the best option for those couples who can work with one another to hammer out the details of their divorce without the influence of the courts.
The minimum length of time for an uncontested divorce would be 61 days. In reality, it will generally take about 90 days for the divorce to go through due to the availability of the court.
A contested divorce is one where you and your spouse have disagreements over some or all of the main issues in the case. This might include property division, custody, and support, for example. When you and your spouse are unable to agree on any of these factors, the court will make those decisions for you.
An uncontested divorce means you and your spouse will be going through litigation. While you could represent yourself in your divorce, it is not advised. Having an attorney helps to ensure your interests are protected.
Due to the disagreements, you will find that contested divorces take far longer to resolve than uncontested divorces. Couples not only need to wait for their court date, but each side then has to present their case before the judge. Even after the case has been presented by both sides, the judge will take time to review the case before they make their decisions.
Often, these types of divorces will take up to a year to finalize. The number of areas of disagreement where the judge will have to make a decision is going to affect the timeline. You may find that the case takes less time if you have only a few issues that need to be resolved. In more complex and contentious cases, it could take well over a year to finalize.
Elements that Affect the Divorce Timeline in Texas
Now that you have an understanding of the differences between contested and uncontested divorces, it’s time to explore some of the main factors that will contribute to the length of the divorce timeline.
Fault and No-Fault Divorces
The majority of divorces in Texas are filed on a no-fault basis. This means that you can file for divorce without needing to supply any sort of explanation as to why you want a divorce. Neither of the spouses needs to prove to the court that any conditions led to wanting the divorce. Having a no-fault divorce will typically help to make the process move along faster.
There are also fault-based divorces that could be used and added to your divorce petition. The categories for these types of divorces include cruelty, adultery, felony conviction, and abandonment.
It can take time and evidence to show the court that you have a reason for filing a fault-based divorce petition. However, it can often be worth the extra time, as it could mean you fare better financially at the end of the divorce. The court will often consider fault when dividing property and awarding spousal maintenance. Discuss your options with an attorney to choose the path that makes the most sense.
How You Approach Dispute Resolution
How you try to resolve the disputes in your divorce will have a bearing on how long it takes, as well as how much it costs.
Often, the courts will encourage a couple to go through divorce mediation before they set a trial date. In some cases, the judge may require you to attempt mediation. This involves a third party that helps you and your spouse find ways that you can agree on different terms in your divorce settlement.
When you and your spouse can agree on some or all of the issues in your case, it can reduce the time your divorce takes. Once you have a settlement agreement, it can be passed along to the judge to review and finalize. Not only is this a faster option, but it also tends to be more cost-effective.
Collaborative divorce is another option. It has elements of both mediation and litigation. With this type of divorce, each side will hire an attorney to help with the negotiations. There may also be specialists hired to help represent your side of the case. During the meetings, you negotiate to reach an agreement that will work well for everyone, hopefully.
Of course, there is also the option of traditional litigation. This is when the case has to go to trial, and it is always an option if you find no other method that helps resolve the issues in your divorce. This tends to take the longest amount of time, though.
Custody and Support
If you have children and will be dealing with custody and support issues, it could increase the time it takes to resolve and finalize your divorce. Both parents often want to have custody of the kids, and this can elevate the stakes, as well as the emotions.
Courts in Texas operate under the presumption that the child should have contact with both parents unless there are issues that make a parent unfit to care for the child. Whenever possible, they want both parents to have a hand in raising the children. This can mean that gaining sole custody is difficult unless there is a history of violence or abuse.
There is often contention between parents, which makes it difficult for them to reach a custody agreement on their own and prolongs the length of the divorce. Having an agreement in place will help to speed up the court process.
Texas is a community property state. This means that property that was acquired during the time of your marriage is considered to belong to both spouses regardless of who bought it or whose name is on the title. Typically, marital assets will be divided 50/50.
Separate property is another matter. This is a property that was acquired by a spouse before they entered into the marriage. It belongs to the spouse who had it before the marriage. For example, if you had a vehicle that you had paid off and was in your name before you got married, it is considered separate property. The same could be true of an inheritance.
Separate property can be hard to prove in some cases, though. It can take a lot of time for the attorneys and the court to determine what property should be considered separate.
Your Spouse’s Behavior
One of the other factors that can lengthen the timeline of your Texas divorce is your spouse’s attitude toward the matter. If they are being unreasonable, they can make the divorce drag out for a long time. Some spouses might claim they want to go through mediation, but they only do this so they can delay finalizing the divorce for as long as possible. Others may try to lengthen the timeline, so they can get you to spend more on legal fees.
The way your spouse behaves can have a major bearing on how long your divorce ends up taking.
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Talk with an Attorney in Texas
To get a better sense of how long your divorce may take, it’s wise to speak with an attorney. They can look over your case and the options you have available, and give you an idea of a prospective timeline. However, all divorces are different, and even those that may seem simple at the outset can become more complex as you move forward.
When you are getting a divorce, contact the Aberdeen Law Firm. The experts can help you with all aspects of your divorce case and provide you with the peace of mind you deserve. There are offices in Plano and Dallas. Call (855) 453-0232 to get started.
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