Know The Difference Between A Contested And An Agreed Divorce

Roughly half of all marriages end in divorce, and while this may be unpleasant to consider, planning for the possibility of such an outcome is a smart decision. If you’re considering divorce, preliminary research may have led you to a slew of legal jargon and rules that govern the dissolution of a marriage, the division of property and debt, and the managing of affairs concerning children. Such information can be confusing, so even if you haven’t decided to end your marriage yet, consulting with a family law attorney to discuss your options can make the process easier.

In Texas, filing for divorce requires that the marriage has become insupportable due to conflict and that there is no reasonable hope of reconciliation. Other factors can include couples living separately for three or more years, incarceration, or psychiatric commitment for three years or more. In order to file for divorce in Texas, at least one spouse must be a resident of Texas and have lived in the state for at least six months prior to filing. While some states suggest a trial separation before divorce papers are filed, Texas does not recognize legal separations, but if you and your spouse intend to live separately without filing, binding temporary agreements can offer some legal protections. Should you decide to proceed with the divorce, there are two main types of divorce: contested and agreed.

Agreed divorce, also known as uncontested divorce, is often the simplest way to dissolve a marriage. Agreed divorce applies when both divorcing parties agree to all terms of the separation, including the division of property and debt, support payments, and conservatorship of minor children. One party must file for the divorce and present the paperwork to the other party to sign. An agreed divorce saves a couple time and money because it entails no discovery phase, lengthy depositions, or bitter exchanges in front of lawyers and courts. If you plan to file for an agreed divorce in Texas, however, it’s still helpful to consult with a lawyer, and since you and your spouse agree on all the key issues, one attorney can represent both of you.

A contested divorce occurs when parties do not agree on major issues that may then require litigation. In a contested divorce, each party has their own attorney, depositions and discovery are taken on both sides, and the two individuals then meet with their attorneys to determine if a settlement can be reached. If not, a trial date will be set, at which point a judge will make the final decisions about property distribution, managing conservatorship of minor children, and who may remain in the family home. In the case of a contested divorce, the trial date must be at least 60 days after the filing of divorce papers. The judge’s decisions regarding conservatorship are based on discovery information and the comportment of both parents, although they may also consider income, work schedules, and the general tenor of the home. Children over the age of 12 are encouraged to make their wishes known, but the final decision still rests with the judge.

The cost of divorce is a concern for many couples, so uncontested divorce is strongly encouraged because it is one of the best ways to cut costs and reduce billable hours. This process makes it possible to file your own papers without a lawyer’s involvement, provided you trust your partner to follow the agreement, and the cost can be as low as a few hundred dollars. If you do not trust your former spouse to adhere to the agreement, enlist the help of an Espronceda Law attorney with experience in contested divorce cases. Your attorney will ask for an initial retainer fee and will be forthcoming about their hourly rates and how long they think the process will take.


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