The “divorce map” to the right shows the basic legal path from the beginning to the end of a divorce. To begin with, a divorce is a lawsuit. The lawsuit is started by filing a petition. It ends when the judge signs a decree.
After one spouse files the petition, the other spouse must be given notice of the lawsuit. The “papers” can be formally served on him or her, or they can be delivered more informally and the spouse can waive service or have his or her lawyer file an answer.
Next, decisions must be made about the rules that the parties will live by until the divorce is over. Denton courts have standardized some of those rules with Standing Orders which in large part freeze frame conduct during the divorce. Aside from the basic rules laid down by the Standing Orders, decisions must be made about where the parties will live, where the children will live, and how everyone is going to pay for everything in the meantime. Sometimes, parties can agree on these matters. They may or may not sign agreed Temporary Orders setting out their decisions. Sometimes they cannot agree. Then, they will have a Temporary Hearing, and the judge will impose the Temporary Orders.
In addition to setting the “life during the divorce rules,” the time from the Petition to Decree is used to obtain information through discovery. A basic form of discovery is obtaining an Inventory and Appraisement of Claims. Each party usually prepares one setting out of the property and debts the party knows about and the value the party attributes to each. Other forms of discovery can include depositions (testimony in an office before a court reporter), interrogatories (questions requiring sworn answers), and requests for production of documents (pretty self-explanatory). Sometimes, experts will be engaged to give opinions on values or on children’s issues.
Finally, during the time between filing the petition and getting the divorce completed, the parties must figure out how they are going to get a final decree signed. To do this, they can either reach an agreement, or they can let a court make some or all of the decisions. Some parties just sit down with each other and work out all the decisions. Often, however, lawyers are involved. Mediation is sometimes used. The threat of “taking it to the court house” to “win” an issue can loom in the background throughout.
To avoid the threat of trial, and to treat the divorce as if it were a problem to be solved, rather than a battle to be won, parties can use Collaborative Divorce. While some of the basics mentioned above must be followed (for example, a petition and a decree), the process is mostly up to the parties. They agree to provide all of the information that discovery would otherwise be required to obtain. Court is never used as a threat, and only comes into play at the very end to approve a decree that the parties have designed based on their understanding of their unique needs and interests.