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If you have come to the realization that you need a divorce you may be wondering if the case can proceed while everything is in turmoil from Covid-19. The answer is “yes.”
Things to be done prior to filing
First, of all, understand that there are things that need to be done prior to the actual filing of the papers with the District Clerk, or soon after they are filed. And there are yet other tasks to be accomplished prior to the granting of the divorce. So, even if you have to wait for a hearing, you have plenty to keep you and your lawyer busy in the meantime. If you work diligently on these tasks, you will be ready to go when the court is ready for you.
Why it takes time
Under Texas law, the divorce must be on file for a minimum of 60 days prior to the final decree being signed. But, because there are so many tasks to complete it rarely happens on day 61. Another reason it usually takes longer is because the final hearing has to fit into the court’s docket. But you should know that even in the simplest and easiest divorce (no children or property, both parties want the divorce, no pandemic) people rarely get a divorce on day 61. So, if you have decided that you need your divorce to be final “immediately”, or “on day 61”, you should adjust your expectations and focus on what tasks you can complete right now. Focusing on what you can control can help you stay mentally focused and keep your emotions in check.
You and your “to do” list
So, what about this list of tasks? Well, first of all you’ll need a consultation with a divorce lawyer. Then, if you decide to hire, there will be a contract and office paperwork to fill out. The lawyer will get information from you that will be used to prepare the Petition for the case. Once you have hired the lawyer and returned the necessary documentation, the Petition can be prepared for filing.
Your lawyer will need financial information for a financial information statement that will need to be filed in your case. You may be asked for copies of documents. If you and your spouse have not agreed with each other about the property division, debts, and custody/visitation/child support, there will need to be negotiations, and a mediation prior to the final court date.
What about attending in person?
Currently, mediation can be held by Zoom (video conferencing), so you will not lose time waiting for governmental orders to change, or waiting until everyone feels safe to attend in person.
Many courts are also holding telephone hearings and hearings by video conferencing. If you need temporary orders in your case so you can pay bills, decide who lives in the home, pay or receive child support, or visit with the children, your attorney and the court will work out a safe option. In the event of a true emergency (domestic violence requiring a restraining order, for example) each judge has his or her way of dealing with that now.
How will Covid-19 affect the court dockets in coming months?
Although there will be a backlog of cases to some extent after things settle down, judges are experienced in docket control. For instance, there may be associate judges and additional hours so that agreed cases can move quickly. This will help clear the docket and save certain days and times for the contested trials.
How we can help
In order to help the community during this time of need we are currently offering free telephone or video consultations for 20 minutes. At the current time, we will be offering these through May 31, 2020. After May 31st, check with our office by telephone or look at our website home page to find out about our monthly special service for new clients.
At the consultation, you can ask any questions that you have and find out about your options in your particular situation. There is no obligation, so why not take the opportunity to speak to a lawyer at no cost?