To begin a divorce, one of the parties to the marriage must file a Petition for Divorce.  That person is called the Petitioner, and the person who will be responding to the petition is called the Respondent.  The Petitioner must give notice to the Respondent that a petition has been filed.  This can be accomplished by the Respondent either signing a Waiver of Service, or being served with the petition by a law enforcement official or process server.  (Many counties in Texas require that a Standing Order be included in the petition.)

Efforts to evade service are futile.  In Texas, if one person wants a divorce, then they will get it.  Attempts to evade service only delay the inevitable, since substituted service can be had when that happens.  With substituted service, the Petitioner asks the Court’s permission to either publish the notice of filing in a local newspaper or post the petition to the Respondent’s door, or some other creative means of notification.

Once a Respondent has been served, he or she usually has to respond by the first Monday following 20 days after the date of service.  A response does not have to be an actual physical appearance in front of the judge.  An “appearance” can be simply to file a one page, general denial Answer with the clerk’s office by the due date.

Once the Petition has been filed (regardless of whether the Respondent has been served yet), a sixty (60) day “cooling off” period begins to run.  The exception to the 60 day rule is in cases of domestic violence or with special permission from the Court.  The “cooling off period” just means that the parties cannot finalize their divorce before 60 days.  However, they can finalize the divorce anytime after that.

The parties can continue to explore, litigate, and negotiate their case during this period of time as well.  It is possible for parties to completely resolve their differences and to sign off on all of the paperwork before the 60 days expire.  The parties just have to wait until at least “day 61” to take the last step and have a hearing in front of the judge to get the agreement “proved up” and judicially approved.

If you can’t wait for Part II or III of this blog topic, or would like more detail, then feel free to contact our office to schedule an appointment.