What Happens During A Family Law Case?

As with other lawyer FAQ pages discussing family law, general answers found online to questions such as "how does the divorce process work," can only deal with some very broad issues. Ultimately, how long a family law case takes depends on the specific facts and circumstances of your own individual situation. The question can best be answered by consulting with an attorney familiar with the facts of your case.

With that in mind, though, our website can still offer some general direction as to some of the main guidelines that apply to the family law process in Dallas and the entire Fort Worth, Texas, area. We know it can often help people to know that this process is a combination of some clear milestones and some not-so-clear ones. Even just some general knowledge about those milestones, broadly speaking, can often remove a great deal of anxiety for clients.

The more obvious milestones include how the process begins: You first file the initial paperwork. In Texas, that paperwork is called a petition. That paperwork is then served on the opposing party, or in an agreement they may sign a waiver of citation.

The person served may then respond to your petition within approximately 20 days. That response is called an answer to your petition. If the other party does not respond, you may proceed legally without them.

How long a divorce takes varies. It can be finalized at the very earliest in 61 days (the day of filing plus 60 days). The more complicated a divorce, though, the longer a divorce can take.

In cases involving high conflict, the case can take months or even years. In those cases, how long a case takes is more related to getting things done right. How long it takes is not, by itself, an indicator of whether the case is going well or poorly.

If you and your spouse can agree to finalize the terms of your divorce, you can submit an Agreed Decree of Divorce to the court. You and your spouse sign this document, as do any attorneys and then, finally, the judge.

However, if you and your spouse need to go to trial to resolve your differences, then you will first be required to go through mediation overseen by a neutral third-party mediator. Should mediation fail and you will need to go trial, the judge will decide all issues.

An agreed case is preferable to going to trial because you will have more power over the terms of your case should you work it out between yourselves. Involving the judge can always result in the judge imposing terms that neither party is particularly happy to have.

Throughout these proceedings, the court may also consider requests for temporary orders.

The court can also oversee exchanges of information and documents, and enter court orders related to child visitation and support, mediation, and/or final trial.

  • Tarrant Country Bar Association | Established 1904
  • Dallas Bar Association
  • Arlington Bar Association