My Spouse Just Asked for a Divorce – What do I do now?

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Check County Filing – The first step is to try to find out if a divorce suit has been filed or not. If you have not yet been served, check with the district clerk of your county to see if a divorce suit has been filed. Many counties will have a website with public access to all divorce filings in their county or they may be able to give you information over the phone. If a divorce has been filed, it is best to seek legal representation immediately. If a divorce has not been filed, you can have the option to file one and begin the process. Many attorneys offer consultations, so use that opportunity to obtain some preliminary information about your case.

What You Should And Should Not Do Prior To Or During The Pendency Of A Divorce.:

  1. Access to community accounts. Ensure that you have access to all accounts that belong to the community estate; including, but not limited to bank accounts, retirement accounts, health, car and life insurance, etc. There are many cases wherein only one of the parties maintains access to all the community accounts during the marriage and in the event of divorce, this can leave the other party without the information they need. Unless there is a restraining order in place, one party could withdrawal or move all the community funds to a separate account. Create an inventory of the community estate at the beginning of the process, so you can be informed of any changes to accounts and aware of any money movement or disposal of property.
  2. Do not make any large purchases. Unless mutually agreed to by the parties, do not make any large purchases, such as a new house or new car. Many clients believe that since a divorce has been filed, that they are considered separated and if they buy a house or car and it is only in their name, that the other spouse will have no interest in the property. This is not the case, as in Texas, we do not have legal separation. As such, anything you purchase during the pendency of the divorce will be community property and can be subject to division by the Court.
  3. Removing the children from their place of residence. If your divorce involves children, until there is a court order, nothing stops either of the parties from removing the children from their home city, state or even the country. Most counties have a standard Standing Order that precludes a party from removing the children from the county; however, this is only in effect if the party has been served with the Standing Order. If a party moves with the children, it may be more of a challenge to get a Judge to order them to move back. Especially when a certain amount of time has passed and since the move, a party has established a new job and residence where they have relocated too. When a party moves away from the other party with the children, it can make visitation and exchanges extremely difficult. One of the parties may end up with less time for visitation with the children or incurred expenses for travel. It is best to discuss this with an attorney to see what can be done to restrain a party from relocating with the children until the two of you agree to the move or the court orders it. If you are the party that wants to relocate with the children, understand that you may be ordered to move back with the children. This can create unnecessary turmoil for the parties and especially, the children.
  4. Do not make any account changes. Do not make any changes to any accounts until you confer with an attorney. Do not change any insurance coverage or make any beneficiary changes. If there is a reason that changes need to be made, your attorney will be able to get you a temporary order hearing. At a temporary order hearing, any issues that need immediate attention can be addressed.
  5. Do I need temporary orders? A temporary order hearing is a hearing that can occur as soon as possible to resolve any issues that need immediate attention while a divorce is pending. These issues can be about custody, possession, child support, spousal support, payment of the community debts, exclusive use of a house or car, restraining orders for any behavior or either party, etc. In the State of Texas, a divorce must be on file with the clerk of the Court for a period of 60 days before a divorce can be granted for final purposes. A temporary order is for parties that need an order at the beginning of a divorce. Remember that a contested divorce can take many months or even years before the case is resolved for final purposes.
  6. Do not leave the marital residence. While we understand that this may not be workable in every case, do not leave the marital residence until you have conferred with an attorney or until a Judge has ordered you to do so. The exclusive use of the residence can be addressed at a temporary order hearing. If you desire to reside in the marital residence while the divorce is pending and you leave, it may be more of a challenge for a Judge to order you to be able to go back. Additionally, if you leave the marital residence, you may still have to pay bills there such as the mortgage. Don’t be surprised if you move to an apartment that is $1,500.00 a month in rent and the Judge still orders you to pay the mortgage at the marital residence.

While these are only a few of the things to do to prepare for a divorce, it is best to consult an attorney to be fully informed of your options and to obtain advice as to how any actions at the beginning of the divorce process can have an effect on the parties and the children involved.

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