Sunday, January 11, 2009

I’ve been served with a Divorce Petition in Texas, what should I do / not do?

Although receiving a divorce petition is scary, there is usually time to act. As is explained in the document attached to the divorce petition called the “Citation,” (assuming this was included with the service papers) you generally will have until the “Monday next following the expiration of twenty days (at 10:00 in the morning)” within which to file an Answer. Sometimes you may have even longer (up to a 60 day waiting period) if the Original Petition was filed recently. This means that if an Answer is not filed before the deadline, your spouse can obtain a divorce and you will literally have no say in the terms. As a result, unless there is an immediate hearing scheduled (usually called a “Temporary Orders” hearing), you will have until Monday at 10:00 a.m. following twenty days from the day you were served within which to file an “Answer.” As a result, this is at least twenty days. This should be plenty of time for you to retain an experienced divorce attorney and get your Answer filed. You can certainly meet with your spouse to discuss the situation, provided you can do so without any possibility of threats or violence. However, you should not sign anything without first talking to a lawyer. If there is a Temporary Orders hearing scheduled, you should either retain an attorney well in advance of the hearing date or (or if you are unable to hire an attorney prior to the hearing date) at least go to the hearing and explain to the Judge that you have not yet had the opportunity to hire an attorney. Unless there is some emergency, the Judge will usually grant this request – called a “continuance.”