While divorce cases can become heated at times, many divorces that attorneys handle tend to be amicable between the parties. Thus, with each party’s cooperation, an agreement can be reached on all issues and memorialized in an agreed final decree of divorce. Parties often want to know the steps in an agreed divorce, so this blog is designed to educate them on those steps.
To begin a divorce, one of the spouses will need to file a petition for divorce asking that the court grant a divorce and make orders on all issues including children, property, and debts. If an agreement is expected, a petition informing the court of this intended agreement can be drafted by your attorney.
Next, instead of serving the other spouse with the petition by using a constable or private process server, a waiver of service can be presented to the other spouse with the filed petition to give notice of the proceedings to the other party. The other party will sign and notarize this waiver and it will be filed with the court.
Then, a 60 day waiting period is instituted by the family code which makes the parties wait 60 days from the filing of the petition until they can get a divorce. During this time, the final decree of divorce will be drafted which will reflect the agreement of the parties on all issues including custody, visitation, child support, health insurance, property division, debts, and taxes.
Finally, once the final decree has been drafted and agreed to, it will need to be signed by the parties and their attorneys and then presented to the court at a short hearing called a “prove up”. At this hearing, one of the parties will be present with their attorney and will be asked background questions on the case including residency, reasons for divorce, children and property, and agreement of the parties. After the judge has heard the testimony, they will sign the decree and the parties will be divorced.
Parties will oftentimes try and handle an uncontested divorce by themselves without the help of attorneys. While this may help save on costs, if the steps are not performed correctly, or the final decree does not contain necessary provisions on the children or property, the court can reject the decree at the final hearing and ask that the parties submit a satisfactory decree to be approved by the court. This is why an attorney will many times be necessary to ensure the parties have a written decree that accurately reflects the agreement of the parties and that will be accepted by the court.