Few things about the divorce process are easy, but divorce can be more simple when you understand the options available to you. Many people don’t realize how many different types of divorce are available in Texas, and that not everything has to end up in the courtroom. Here’s a rundown of the categories of divorces available in the state of Texas, and how to decide which is best for you and your unique situation.
It used to be that a divorce had to be legally justified through proving “fault,” like adultery, abandonment, or felony convictions. These days, divorce is more commonly pursued through “no-fault,” allowing people to divorce without laying the blame solely on one party. While spouses can still allege fault, this can backfire, since they’re responsible for proving it—which can make the whole process take longer and thus be more expensive.
Texas is a no-fault state, which means you don’t have to prove the other spouse is at fault to serve divorce papers. If you are seeking a no-fault divorce in Texas, you have multiple options available to you.
This is, in some ways, the simplest type of divorce in Texas: it happens when one spouse seeks a divorce and the other spouse either refuses to acknowledge the suit, won’t cooperate, or can’t be served with papers. When that happens, the missing spouse is given a set amount of time to respond. If they don’t, the court may grant a default divorce to the person filing.
If you and your spouse have agreed divorce is the best option and have pre-negotiated important issues, such as how to divide marital property, then you might get an uncontested divorce. You’ll put your divorce agreement in writing, attend a hearing before a judge, and your divorce will be finalized. An uncontested divorce is most common for new couples, those who don’t have children, or those without significant assets or debts, and it’s one of the least expensive ways to divorce.
Mediated or Collaborative Divorce.
In a mediated divorce process, a neutral attorney guides the two spouses through a negotiation, allowing them to reach an amicable settlement regarding the end of their marriage. The time this takes can vary—if the couple is generally in agreement, it can pass quickly, while greater disagreements can take longer to resolve. Either way, the needs and wishes of both sides are presented, which helps create the possibility for a mutual compromise. Lawyers and mediators can professionally advise the couple on how to divide assets, decide spousal support and property division, and make informed decisions about any children involved. Most Texas courts require couples to go through mediation before going to a final hearing.
Sometimes, other neutral experts—mental health professionals or those trained in conflict resolution—need to be in the room, which leads to a collaborative divorce. Things discussed during this process are confidential and can’t be used as evidence in court.
Both types of divorce are best for couples who are parting amicably, those who don’t want to cede any authority to a judge, or those looking for unique solutions to issues like child custody. It doesn’t work in cases of abuse, violence, or parties who are operating in bad faith. However, both a mediated and collaborative process can be quicker and cheaper alternatives to litigation.
A cross between more collaborative divorces and litigation, an arbitrated divorce requires both spouses and their lawyers to work toward an agreement. However—like a litigated divorce—the arbiter has the final say on the divorce terms, can force compromises, or impose conditions regardless of what one or both spouses want. This can help break through impasses, but can also lead to divorce agreements that nobody’s happy with.
When people usually think of divorces, this is what they think of: a contested divorce case that ends up in a court of law. This is often the most expensive of divorce processes, and often takes the longest, sometimes rolling on for years. In all litigated divorces, the judge has the final say in everything.
Navigate the Divorce Process with the Help of an Experienced Legal Team
While an uncontested divorce is often the fastest and least expensive method of divorce in Texas, this type of divorce is not available to many individuals. There may be many other issues to negotiate which make an uncontested divorce difficult—such as child support and the division of the marital estate. If you are considering divorce in Texas, it is best to seek legal assistance from a qualified family law attorney.
This blog does not constitute legal advice. If you have questions about divorce in Texas—including uncontested divorces, contested divorces, fault divorces, no fault divorces, and divorce mediation—the experienced team at Sandoval is here to help. Contact us today to learn more.