Splitting one life into two is a lot of work. When it comes to divorce, there will be a lot of important decisions made that you won’t want to lose track of, and obligations you won’t want to get wrong.
That’s why, at the end of your divorce, Texas courts will provide you with what’s known as a final divorce order.
A final divorce order is a legally binding document, which essentially sums up all the terms of your divorce into one, convenient location. Once finalized, these terms will be completely enforceable, and failure to comply won’t be something that Texas courts look kindly upon.
Hence, here’s everything you need to know about drafting a final divorce order in Texas, and how the North Texas Family Lawyers Team can make sure that document ultimately works for you.
What is a Final Divorce Order?
To begin, what is a final divorce order, exactly?
As we stated above, a final divorce order (sometimes referred to in Texas as a “final decree of divorce”) is a legally binding document, which summarizes all of the many things you’ve been negotiating, over the course of your divorce.
Since every divorce is different, no two final orders will look the same. However, some of the things that are commonly included in these decrees are:
- The division of marital property (including retirement accounts, the family home, and investments);
- The division of marital debt;
- Custody and visitation;
- Child support obligations; and
- The allocation of alimony.
If you’ve been paying attention during your divorce process (and, we’re going to assume that you have), then most of these terms shouldn’t come as a surprise to you. The exact method that you arrive at in this document will vary, however, depending on what type of divorce you’ve chosen.
Here’s a closer look at how these processes differ.
Final Divorce Order: Uncontested Divorce
An uncontested (or “agreed”) divorce is exactly what it sounds like: uncontested. Here, both parties agree about all the terms of their breakup—from bitcoin to pets—leaving them with nothing to actually “fight” about.
With nothing to contest, these couples have the option of engaging in a D.I.Y. divorce. This process requires them to simply compile their terms into a “settlement agreement,” and submit it to the court for review. So long as this agreement meets certain state standards (such as child support minimums), the judge will likely sign the agreement into final order, at the couple’s final hearing.
Final Divorce Order: Divorce Mediation
Although convenient and inexpensive, agreed divorces aren’t for everyone and generally work best for shorter marriages, those with little property, and those without minor children.
Luckily, you can still achieve much of the same benefits through divorce mediation.
Divorce mediation is a series of out of court negotiations, which take place under the supervision of a neutral, third-party “mediator,” who acts as a kind of referee. This individual—along with your respective family law attorneys—will help guide you toward a settlement.
Much like an uncontested divorce, the terms of your negotiations will be summed up in a “mediation settlement agreement,” which you will both need to sign, before submitting it to the court.
Once again, your judge will review this agreement at your hearing, and—so long as everything is in order—sign it into final order.
Final Divorce Order: Contested Divorce
If alternative dispute resolution methods don’t work for you, then the only option left is to head to court for some good, old-fashioned divorce litigation.
This option is by far the most expensive and time-consuming divorce type—especially for those pursuing “at fault” divorces. It’s also the type that offers the least amount of control over the terms in your final order since it will be the judge—rather than you—who will have the final say.
In these situations, you will engage in discovery, and present your evidence to the court, to try and get the judge to see things your way. Once both sides have had a chance to speak out on all the issues (which can take a long time, especially if you have a high net divorce), then your judge will make their decisions.
The rights, duties, and obligations of these decisions will be formalized into a final decree of divorce, and signed, making them fully enforceable under the law.
Reviewing Your Final Divorce Order
In the legal arena, words are pretty important. Here, even the slightest variation can result in an entirely different meaning (or else, leave an obligation too vague to be enforceable).
That’s why, no matter what type of divorce you choose, it will be important to thoroughly review your agreement—making sure it fairly represents your negotiations—before signing.
This is especially important for those who have chosen uncontested and divorce mediation, since, once a settlement agreement is signed, it’s impossible to change the terms, unless both parties agree.
Enforcing a Final Divorce Order
Like ‘em or not, the contents of your final divorce order are fully enforceable under the law. Texas courts take these orders quite seriously, and failure to comply can result in serious legal and/or financial consequences, including:
- Wage garnishment
- License suspension
- Property Liens
- Jail time
- Contempt of court
That being said, going back to court is the last thing anyone wants to do. Hence, if your ex is struggling to comply in certain areas, it’s best to see if you can work it out between yourselves, first.
If that doesn’t, then your only option will be to head back to your attorney for some post-divorce services.
Do You Need Help with a Final Divorce Order in Texas?
A final divorce order is a legally binding document that represents all the decisions you make during your divorce. Because these decisions are so important (with such far-reaching effects), it’s incredibly important to make sure it’s drafted correctly, the first time around.
If you have more questions about how to draft a final divorce order in Texas, we want to hear from you. Call the North Texas Family Lawyers team today at (972) 402-6367, or schedule a consultation online, and let us help you get the job done right.