What Are the Grounds for Divorce in Texas?
Going through a divorce is one of the most stressful events. The process is emotionally draining for both parties but sometimes inevitable. Before filing for a divorce, you must establish the reasons you will use in the petition. The Texas Family Code lists seven reasons why either spouse could file for divorce, in addition to the “no fault – conflict of personalities” grounds:
- Lack of support
- A felony conviction for a crime
- Insanity at a mental hospital
If you need clarification on the ramifications of the grounds for which you seek a divorce, consult skilled family law and estate planning law firm in San Antonio, TX. The Texas divorce lawyers can assess your case and provide legal guidance on what you need to know or do for a successful and less stressful divorce process.
Are There Advantages to Being the First One to File for Divorce?
When you file for divorce, you embark on an expensive and lengthy process that may go on for months. During this time, you’ll expose your secrets to strangers and go through a roller coaster of emotions. A feeling of betrayal by your spouse is common, and sometimes people worry that if they file first, they will be seen as the one at fault. You may wonder if you have any legal or strategic benefit to filing first for the divorce.
In Texas, it doesn’t matter who files first, but you may enjoy more benefits if you do so. Divorce lawyers in San Antonio outline the following advantages:
Setting the Tone for the Divorce
The court considers whoever files first as the divorce petitioner and gives them a slight procedural advantage. The petitioner also determines the tone of the proceeding and can let the court know what they think is vital for the case. Because the petitioner presents their case first, that alone may be an advantage because sometimes first impressions are a strong influence on the outcome.
Judges are supposed to listen to all the evidence before they decide, but they are human and if they have developed a strong opinion early in the case, it may be difficult to convince the judge to change that opinion. If the judge hears two different versions of what happened or how much a certain item of property is worth, the judge may be more inclined to believe the person who presented their version first.
Another advantage may be, as the petitioner, you can request a restraining or temporary support order depending on the circumstances. A respondent can do the same after they file a counterpetition, but the petitioner can set the temporary order hearing so quickly that the respondent does not have time to adequately prepare their case. Let your San Antonio divorce lawyers know all your concerns about the divorce so they can include them in the divorce petition. They can fight to ensure you get a favorable outcome.
You File at the Venue of Your Choice
As the petitioner, you can choose where to file the divorce petition if you have been separated and living in different counties from your ex-spouse for at least 90 days. The law allows you to file in the county where you reside, even if your spouse does not reside there. You may file in your ex-spouse’s county if doing so would give you some advantage.
If your spouse files first, you would be forced to travel to the county where they file the divorce for any in-person proceedings. Although during the years that COVID was rampant, many courts permitted hearings by video call, the courts are now reducing the kinds of cases that can use video appearances for court proceedings. More and more courts are requiring in-person attendance in Court.
Setting the First Hearing Date
Another advantage of filing the divorce petition first is that you can decide when the court will have the first hearing. If there are pertinent issues in the petition, for example, you don’t trust your spouse with marital property, you can take control of the situation.
You can request the court to issue restraining orders to prevent your ex-spouse from making decisions concerning the property while the divorce is pending. That would prevent them from transferring property, selling assets, or attempting to do anything that would harm your rightful share of the property.
More Time to Prepare for the Divorce Proceedings
When you file a divorce petition first, you have enough time to collect crucial information that your ex-spouse may attempt to hide from you. You also have ample time to consult with your divorce attorneys in San Antonio.
They can help you prepare your strategy if you believe your ex-spouse may have a stronger case against you. You will be at liberty to collect more evidence and compile the necessary paperwork required in court. If you and your spouse have an amicable split and you are confident of cooperation, you may not need to gather evidence ahead of time to safeguard it, but no matter how much you trust your spouse, remember that in divorce each side has to look out for their own interests. You cannot expect your spouse to divide everything in a way that is best for you.
In cases where there might be domestic violence or angry outbursts, or even where the spouses just continue to live in the same house at the time of filing, it may be beneficial to file first so that the filing spouse knows when the other spouse will be officially served with the petition and can arrange to be absent until after the non-filing spouse has calmed down.
Are There Disadvantages to Being the First to File a Divorce Petition?
One of the most significant disadvantages of being the first to file for a divorce is that you’ll incur higher filing costs than the respondent. The filing fee ranges between $300 and $500. Whether you hire divorce attorneys in San Antonio or do it independently, you’ll still incur the same filing cost as the initiator of the lawsuit. Compared to attorney’s fees though, the filing fee amounts to about the same cost as one hour of the attorney’s time.
If you can’t afford the fees due to financial constraints, you can submit an Affidavit of Indigency to the court to waive the payment, but you must support that affidavit with some specifics about your income and expenses and also swear that you cannot borrow the money. Alternatively, you can share the cost with your ex-spouse, but this would only work well if you decide to break up amicably.
Responsibility to Inform Your Ex-Spouse
If you’re the first to file for divorce, you must send a legal notice to your ex-spouse. You’re required to legally serve them with the documents through your divorce attorneys in San Antonio, a sheriff’s deputy, or a private process server. The court clerk may mail the documents to the respondent with the requested return receipt but be prepared to pay a premium price for that mail.
You and your spouse may choose the simple option if the divorce is uncontested. One of you will file the petition, and the other may sign a Waiver of Service stating that they do not want to be served with the papers, and there will be no counterclaim. However, if you are the respondent, beware that along with waiving service, other valuable rights are also often waived in the process. If you hire an attorney, you should never sign a Waiver of Service because your attorney will file an answer instead or may accept service for you.
What If My Ex-Spouse Files a Divorce Petition Before Me?
If your ex-spouse files a divorce petition before you do, don’t panic; that doesn’t mean you’re at a disadvantage. Divorce courts often evaluate both sides fairly, and there will still be enough room for you to argue your case. In fact, most cases settle either on their own or in mediation so that there never is a need to put on evidence in a contested case for the judge to decide.
However, ensure you act quickly once you have been served with the divorce papers. Talk to lawyers from an experienced family law firm in San Antonio as soon as you can so that they can help you build a strong case and make sure that you do not lose valuable rights by default. Sometimes people are surprised to find out that if they ignore the notice that the suit has been filed, there can be dire consequences even though they did not show up in court or agree to anything. A default judgment can be financially devastating to the person who ignored the notice.
Legal Guidance While Seeking for Divorce in Texas
If you’re considering a divorce, you may not know whether to file the petition before your ex-spouse does. Speaking to skilled divorce attorneys in San Antonio is the best way to help you understand your options and how to best proceed in your particular situation. Remember that there is no “one-size-fits-all” in divorce. Everyone’s family situation and financial situation make a different combination of facts to be considered. The divorce lawyers will work with you to protect your rights during the divorce, preventing you from making costly mistakes.
Our law firm hosts experienced divorce lawyers in San Antonio. If you feel overwhelmed with your divorce issues, we can provide the legal support you need to stay level-headed throughout the process. Contact us to schedule an initial case evaluation.