Houston Contested Divorce Lawyer
While most people would likely rather resolve divorce disputes as amicably as possible, the sad truth is that it’s not always possible. When you and your spouse can’t agree on divorce terms, the only other option is to go to court. But a contested divorce doesn’t always have to be ugly. A Houston contested divorce lawyer can help ease the process and ensure that things are handled as efficiently as possible.
At Slate & Associates, we understand how the emotionally charged process of ending a marriage can result in litigation. We handle a wide variety of divorces, and we offer personalized strategies that can help you protect your interests at every step.
How Do I File a Contested Divorce in Houston?
Compared to a collaborative or uncontested divorce, a contested divorce involves much more court involvement and oversight. You will typically need help from an experienced divorce lawyer to navigate the process, as it may involve multiple hearings, expert witnesses, a trial, and court-ordered evaluations.
1. File a Petition for Divorce
All divorces start with this preliminary court filing, which outlines your reason for a divorce. If you need a temporary order, such as a child custody or restraining order, you will also include these requests with your petition. Once you file your petition and pay the associated fees, your case will be assigned to a judge.
2. Serve Your Papers on Your Spouse
Service is a legal process where your spouse is given copies of your preliminary documents and notified of your petition for divorce. You will not personally give these papers to your spouse. Instead, a process server or law enforcement authority will deliver them. Under most circumstances, you must serve your divorce papers on your spouse within 20 days of filing your petition.
Your spouse will have an opportunity to respond to your petition — and may even file their own counter-petition. Your contested divorce lawyer will help you respond appropriately to their assertions.
3. Ask the Court for Temporary Orders
If you or your spouse requested a temporary order, such as one demanding child custody, child support, or a restraining order, one of your first actions will to present your request to a judge. Typically, both spouses will appear with their divorce lawyers at these hearings and present their respective claims. Based on the information provided and Texas law, the judge will either grant or deny the request.
While these temporary orders are not permanent, they often help frame divorce negotiations. Therefore, you should always take these early hearings very seriously and present well-prepared arguments and claims to the judge.
4. Try to Negotiate a Divorce Settlement
In Houston, most divorces involve sophisticated negotiations where the parties try to resolve their dispute out of court. If your negotiations reach an impasse, the court will typically order mediation. At mediation, a specially trained, neutral professional will help facilitate your settlement discussions, looking for areas of potential common ground and compromise. If you can reach an agreement, your divorce may not go to trial.
Because a divorce settlement can help you avoid a full trial, it is usually worthwhile to pursue negotiations during a divorce. However, your contested divorce lawyer can help you understand whether a prolonged settlement discussion is in your best interest. Sometimes, your marital relationship is so badly damaged that there’s no realistic hope of resolving your divorce out of court. Or your spouse’s demands may be so extreme, that there is no room for compromise. In those cases, a trial is your best option.
5. Present Your Claims to a Judge at a Trial
Trial is one of the final steps of a divorce. At trial, both you and your spouse’s contested divorce lawyers will present your claims and arguments. Typically, you’ll also offer expert testimony, including information from financial, child psychology, and other witnesses. At the end of a trial, the judge will issue a court order that addresses any issues you could not agree upon.
Notably, you are always taking a risk when you take a divorce to trial — that’s why many couples try to negotiate out of court. While you may present your demands and arguments to the judge, there is always a chance that they will not agree to them. And once the judge issues a court order, filing an appeal or modifying it can be a challenging process.
Speak to an Experienced Contested Divorce Lawyer Today
Contested divorce is never easy. You will have to make emotional decisions that could negatively impact your legal rights — and you will also have to comply with a variety of procedural requirements. A single misstep can impact your future, your finances, and your time with your children. To protect yourself, consult with a contested divorce lawyer at Slate & Associates today.