If you are thinking about filing for divorce in Austin or you must respond to one, please reach out to the attorneys at my firm. We understand that this is a challenging and emotional time for you and your family. I want to make this time easier by helping you with the divorce process step by step.
Who Initiates the Filing of a Divorce Petition?
In Austin, the person who files the divorce petition is designated as the petitioner, and the opposing spouse is designated as the respondent. If a divorce case ends up going to trial, the petitioner presents their case first, and the respondent presents their case second. While some people perceive this as an advantage, it really depends on the facts of the case. Additionally, this is really the only unique factor that accompanies being the person who filed for the divorce.
What Does Filing a Divorce Petition Entail?
The divorce petition lays out the names of the spouses, the names and ages of the children if they have children, and what the petitioner is asking the court to do. In this pleading, the petitioner tells the court what relief they want, and what orders they are seeking. For example, someone may ask to be appointed sole managing conservator or joint managing conservator with the exclusive right to a designated primary residence.
If someone is asking for spousal support or they are arguing that the court should award them a disproportionate share of the community estate, these are other requests that need to be included in your divorce petition.
The important thing to know about a divorce petition is that it can be amended. It can be changed up to two weeks before the final trial. It is not unusual in a divorce for a spouse to file a barebones petition with the expectation that things are going to be handled amicably and then when the case becomes more contentious, they file an amended pleading and ask for additional relief as part of the case.
The divorce petition is important because a person cannot get what they do not ask for. The purpose of a pleading is not only to advise the court of what a petitioner wants but also to give the other spouse notice.
Where to File for Divorce in Austin?
In Austin, a divorce petition is filed electronically. If you hire an attorney to handle your case, the attorney will prepare what is called an original petition for divorce and file it electronically with the court. An attorney could prepare the divorce petition and give the petitioner the opportunity to review it and then simply file it electronically with the Travis County District Court. It is important to note that during the COVID-19 pandemic, filing in person is not an option as the courthouse is closed to the public.
Responding to a Divorce Petition
The spouse responding to a divorce will be served with the petition, meaning a processor or a constable will come to their workplace or home to give them notice that their spouse has filed for divorce. It is not unusual for people to feel embarrassed or want to avoid the embarrassment of having someone show up to their home or work and serve them with divorce papers. Accordingly, it is not unusual in a divorce for the responding spouse to sign what is called a waiver of service, which is essentially an affidavit that states that the respondent has received a copy of the divorce petition from either their spouse or their lawyer. After someone signs the waiver of service, they do not have a process server or a constable come and formally serve them.
Once a divorce petition has been filed and served in Austin, the respondent has approximately 20 days to file an answer. In most answers, our team files a general denial, which states that the respondent denies the allegations in the divorce petition.
In some situations, a spouse may choose to file a counterpetition for divorce. Most individuals file a counterpetition for divorce when there are certain terms they wish to have fulfilled in the divorce. For example, if a husband is the responding spouse and wants primary custody of the children, spousal support, or a disproportionate share of the community estate, then he needs to file his own petition to give notice to both the court and his spouse of the relief he wants in the case.
Temporary Orders Hearing Request
In some instances, a spouse filing for divorce will include what’s called a show cause order asking the other spouse to appear in court for a temporary order hearing. In that circumstance, the requirement to respond can be less than 20 days because there is a court hearing that is set before the 20-day deadline. This typically occurs in high-conflict cases where there is some sort of family violence or the spouses have already separated and one spouse is denying access to the children and there is an urgent need to get in front of a judge to have these issues heard and addressed before the 20-day deadline.
Speak with an Austin Attorney About Filing for Divorce
Filing for divorce in Austin is a challenging process that should not be handled without an experienced attorney by your side. If you wish to start divorce proceedings, speak with one of our legal professionals. Our team could review your situation and let you know of your legal options.