Most divorces are not completely uncontested. For those situations, there is a general order of procedures. In some cases, parties will need temporary orders. Temporary orders set the “ground rules” for the divorce. They establish who will get to live in the house, who will pay the bills, what the visitation with the kids will be, who gets to drive the cars, etc., while the case is pending. Temporary orders are not required in all cases. Sometimes, parties have already been living apart or are in agreement with the way things should be. However, if there is any chance that the parties will not agree later on during the divorce process, then temporary orders are highly recommended. The orders can be negotiated and drafted by agreement, or the parties can go to court and let a judge decide what they should be.
Many clients place a great deal of emphasis on the temporary orders. They have heard that what is set forth in the temporary orders is what ends up in the final order. But that is not necessarily true. If the temp orders are working, then that may happen. But sometimes judges make temporary orders to see what will work or to give a party the opportunity to “do the right thing”. And at other times, circumstances change, and what worked on a temporary basis won’t necessarily work as a permanent solution. Also, the timing of temp orders can play a role in whether they are final. Sometimes temporary orders are created early in the case, before discovery has been conducted. Then later, through the process of discovery, evidence or information comes to light that reveals that the temporary orders should be changed or will not be workable as a final order.
Along with temporary orders, other tools are utilized in a divorce. One of the best tools is discovery. Discovery is the process of “discovering” information about your case and the other party’s case. One of the best discovery vehicles is called an Inventory and Appraisement. An Inventory and Appraisement is essentially a sworn disclosure by each party of the known assets and liabilities. There are other forms of discovery as well, including but not limited to depositions, interrogatories, requests for disclosure, requests for documents, and subpoenas. But full-fledged discovery can become expensive, and it is not always a practical option. At a minimum, however, parties should usually exchange Inventory and Appraisements, credit reports, bank statements, retirement statements, tax returns, and payroll information.
When children are involved, custody and visitation can become hotly disputed. Although the Texas Family Code sets out a standard possession schedule, many parties and judges are choosing more customized and creative visitation schedules. Some of these more creative schedules can affect the amount of child support that a spouse may have to pay. So, unfortunately, some spouses create litigation over visitation schedules solely for the purpose of manipulating child support.
Sometimes, it can be hard to determine what is in a child’s best interest. A court can utilize a variety of different resources to help it make that determination. Such resources can include ordering a social study or custody evaluation, ordering counseling for the child, appointing a parenting facilitator or coordinator to assist the parents’ efforts at co-parenting, or appointing an attorney to either represent the best interest of the child or the child’s own wishes and desires. Courts can also interview the child directly; however, most courts reserve this option as a last resort.
The divorce process can also involve various other kinds of hearings, motions, and discovery. Each case is unique and should be evaluated by a lawyer to determine the best course of action. This article only touches on some of the highlights.
If you can’t wait for Part III of this blog topic, or would like more detail, then feel free to contact our office to schedule an appointment. www.FamilyLawDFW.com.