Let’s be honest – a divorce takes longer than you want it to. Filing for divorce is a difficult and emotional decision. Once that decision is made, most people want the process over as quickly and as simply as possible. Unfortunately, it is not always that easy.
In almost all cases, when you file for divorce, even if the divorce is agreed, there is a mandatory 60-day waiting period before a court can grant the divorce. Section 6.702 of the Texas Family Code states:
Sec. 6.702. WAITING PERIOD. (a) Except as provided by Subsection (c), the court may not grant a divorce before the 60th day after the date the suit was filed. A decree rendered in violation of this subsection is not subject to collateral attack. (b) A waiting period is not required before a court may grant an annulment or declare a marriage void other than as required in civil cases generally. (c) A waiting period is not required under Subsection (a) before a court may grant a divorce in a suit in which the court finds that (1) the respondent has been finally convicted of or received deferred adjudication for an offense involving family violence as defined by Section 71.004 against the petitioner or a member of the petitioner’s household; or (2) the petitioner has an active protective order under Title 4 or an active magistrate’s order for emergency protection under Article 17.292, Code of Criminal Procedure, based on a finding of family violence against the respondent because of family violence committed during the marriage.
Therefore, even when both parties may want the divorce to be granted immediately, there is a minimum of 60 days that must elapse before the court can finalize the divorce.
It is not unusual for a divorce to take six months or more, depending on the complexity of the issues involved. A longer process is particularly the case when children are involved. There may be a discovery that needs to be completed, valuations and analysis of property, and evaluations and studies regarding the children. All of this can naturally cause a divorce to last past the six-month point easily. As frustrating as delay may be, these things must be done right in a divorce to protect yourself and your children.
In addition to mandatory and natural delays, it is the case that sometimes divorces are delayed simply because the other spouse is trying to delay things. A number of reasons can cause this. Your spouse may want to delay things for financial gain. Your spouse may not want the divorce or simply wants to drag it out to punish you. Your spouse may just be difficult and cannot handle the process amicably. All these reasons are frustrating and cause unnecessary delay in the divorce process.
So, what do you do if your spouse is delaying the process? The answer is relatively simple in most cases. If your spouse is delaying the process unnecessarily, most of the time, the solution is to set the case for a final trial. Rule 245 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure requires that you give at least 45 days’ notice of a final trial. If your divorce is being delayed for no good reason, it is probably time to look at giving that notice.
However, giving notice of a final trial does not necessarily mean that your case will go to a contested final trial. Many cases settle in mediation, all the way up to right before trial. But a lot of the time, those settlement talks do not start in earnest until the case is headed toward trial. Thus, while you may not want your case to go to a contested trial (nobody really does, although sometimes you have no choice), setting the case for trial may actually push the case past all the unnecessary delays.
Other options are, of course, available. These include asking the court for a scheduling order, asking the court to order mediation, sending settlement offers even before mediation, etc. Ultimately though, if the case is just not getting resolved, it is probably time to make sure you have a good trial lawyer on your side, set the case for trial, and push the case toward the finish line.
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