Have you been served with divorce papers? If so, you likely don’t even know what you don’t know about the changes coming your way. First, don’t panic. Second, nothing dispels fear of divorce like knowledge. The more you know about divorce and what it means for you, the more empowered you become.
Basics if You Have Been Served Divorce Papers
Usually one spouse has been preparing for months before filing divorce. In fact, most people who file for divorce have been thinking about doing so for two years or more. During that time, the filing spouse has likely disengaged emotionally. He or she has also begun the planning needed to start a new life. Consequently, one spouse is emotionally prepared for the divorce.
Meanwhile, the other spouse is typically blindsided by the actual divorce papers. So, what do you do if you are on the receiving end of this surprise? Here are three things to know if you just got served divorce papers.
Imminent Procedural Considerations.
Like any Texas lawsuit, once you receive the divorce papers there’s a deadline for filing a response. Failing to timely respond to the divorce suit, can be catastrophic for you and your family. However, many divorce cases come with a Temporary Restraining Order, (TRO). If you received a TRO, you may have your first hearing in mere days. You will know if there is a TRO with your divorce papers. TROs contain a judge’s signature while the divorce petition only contains your spouse’s lawyer’s signature.
If there’s a TRO, it means you really need a lawyer ASAP. A competent family lawyer will help protect you, your kids, and your assets during the proceedings. Still, the more time your attorney gets to work on your case before the first hearing, the better. Keep in mind, the first hearing can literally make or break a divorce case. “Temporary” Orders may not be that temporary, so getting the right momentum is crucial.
Temporary Restraining Orders
Many, if not most, divorce petitions are accompanied by a Temporary Restraining Order. First, a TRO is NOT the same as a Protective Order. Don’t be offended if you receive a TRO with your divorce papers. A TRO does not imply that either party is dangerous or has done anything wrong. The job of a TRO is to keep the status quo while the parties wait for the court date. The TRO should protect the marital assets and children. TROs also clearly define bad behavior to be avoided.
Second, the TRO is effective upon the spouse that got served divorce papers. However, the TRO doesn’t apply to the spouse who filed the divorce. Thus, the TRO prevents certain activities by one spouse, but the other spouse isn’t restrained from the same behavior! Again, the sooner an experienced family lawyer is hired the better.
The good news is a hearing will be held within fourteen days of getting served divorce papers. This means very early in the proceedings the court will get to hear evidence and testimony. Generally, the court learns about the spouses, the children, the house, and other property before making a ruling. Your lawyer should help the court see you in the best light possible. So, when you get served divorce papers, finding a lawyer is job one!
All Is NOT Lost!
If you have been served with divorce papers take a breath! You are okay. If you are honest with yourself, you may not actually be so surprised about the divorce. There have likely been little signs from your spouse that indicated that your marriage wasn’t rock solid. While it is entirely normal to mourn the loss of the relationship, remember that opportunities abound outside the marriage. And at any rate, why would you want to be married to someone who doesn’t want to be married you? Many of our clients report that they feel like they have lived as roommates with their spouse for years. If that is the case for you, why would you want to resign yourself to that kind of life?
Take a breath. All is not lost. Your kids need you to continue to be a parent they can depend on. Resolve to be the best person you can be during the divorce proceedings. Your property will be addressed by your lawyer and the court, so don’t despair at the idea of losing property. Texas courts generally divide marital property fairly, and your attorney should help the court see what is fair. Moving on with your life has much greater value than material things that can be replaced.
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Youngblood Law, PLLC is a Fort Worth, Texas law firm dedicated to family law. We help good people who are trapped in bad relationships find the freedom to pursue their new happily ever after. We also proudly offer the collaborative divorce process for our clients. This essay is intended for educational use only and is not a replacement for competent legal counsel. If you are facing a family law matter, we recommend obtaining competent legal counsel like Youngblood Law, PLLC. For more information, contact us at (817) 601-5345, find us on the web at youngblood-law.com.