Uncontested Divorce in Texas
Most Round Rock divorce cases are ultimately resolved by agreement and do not require a contested hearing in front of a judge. The phrase “uncontested divorce” refers broadly to this category of cases, though the amount of conflict and negotiations involved in reaching an agreement in an uncontested divorce can vary dramatically.
TYPES OF UNCONTESTED DIVORCE CASES
The easiest (and therefore least expensive) uncontested cases are ones in which virtually all of the issues have been resolved before the Petition for Divorce is filed. This means the parties have already reached an agreement on property division, conservatorship, possession and access and child support on their own, without overlooking any provisions required by Texas law. This is the rarest type of uncontested case.
The vast majority of uncontested divorce cases in Round Rock require some degree of negotiating, especially because even couples who’ve reached agreements on many of the issues have either overlooked controversial topics that must be resolved for the divorce to be finalized, or need some help negotiating the major issues. The effort it takes to get to a final settlement depends on several significant factors:
FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE PARTIES REACHING A FINAL SETTLEMENT
The level of cooperation that exists between the parties. If the parties are committed to maintaining an amicable relationship, every step of the divorce process is easier, even if they don’t see eye to eye on every issue. However, if every incidental dispute gets referred to the attorneys, it slows overall progress and drives up the cost.
Whether or not each party has all of the necessary information to begin negotiations, such as retirement and bank account statements, documents reflecting the value of assets and amount of debts, etc. It’s usually not possible to begin negotiations without full disclosure of assets and debts. This is especially true when parties have maintained separate accounts and do not have access to the other’s financial information. Contrary to popular belief, maintaining separate accounts does not mean that it can’t be divided between the spouses. With few exceptions, all of the assets and debts accumulated during the marriage are subject to division.
If both parties do not have complete financial records at their disposal, they cannot reach an informed agreement on the overall property division. Sometimes attorneys will exchange this information informally, but often it’s necessary to issue formal discovery requests requiring the other party to produce specific financial records.
Whether or not there are any immediate disputes that must be resolved before negotiations can begin, such as temporary use of property and allocation of monthly expenses. In the lowest conflict cases, the parties have already been living apart or have worked out the terms of separation while the divorce is pending. In other cases, the parties are still living in the same house and have not agreed on who will move out temporarily, how the bills will be divided or how they will share possession of the children. If there are disputes on any of these issues, they will have to be resolved before addressing the long term issues like property division and permanent terms of the parent-child relationship. The attorneys will usually try to negotiate these issues, but in some cases a hearing is required to settle the disputes. While this can be a very expensive detour, it gives both parties a taste of what court is really like, which more often than not motivates them to settle the remaining issues.
Whether or not both parties are represented by an attorney. As a Williamson County Divorce Attorney, I generally prefer that the opposing party hire an attorney. Texas law doesn’t allow me to represent both parties to a divorce, and I can only give legal advice to my client. Attorneys know what remedies are available under the law, which narrows the scope of negotiations. They are also typically familiar with the judges and court system in the county in which they practice, meaning they have common knowledge about how certain judges generally rule on recurrent issues. When the opposing party doesn’t hire an attorney, they are prone to dispute issues that would otherwise be easy to settle, or not even within the scope of legal possibilities.
This is not an exhaustive list of variables in uncontested cases, but it does show that each potential uncontested case requires careful evaluation and has its own unique considerations. When I meet with prospective clients, it’s my goal to give them a clear roadmap of the process by identifying all of the potential issues in their case and developing an effective strategy for dealing with each one.
For a consultation with Jay D. Smith, call (512) 340-0002 or contact us today.