Filing a Divorce Petition: What You Need to Know

There are five basic stages to a divorce proceeding. Filing a divorce petition is the first. Any Divorce, even one on friendly terms where everything is agreed, must begin with the filing of an "original petition for divorce" in a state district court. Some counties in Texas, such as Dallas and Tarrant counties, have specialized courts that deal only with family law matter like divorce. Most other counties send divorces through the same general district courts used for all types of civil and criminal matters. In order to file for divorce in Texas, one of the spouses must have been a resident of the state for the six months prior to filing the petition and a resident of the county where the suit is filed for 90 days. Most petition include a request for a two-week temporary restraining order (TRO). This is intended to freeze things as they are and prevent one spouse from taking any action that harms the other. The TRO prevents spouses from hiding money or spending money in abnormal ways. It also prevents the interference of the use of the marital residence. The TRO cannot exclude a party from the home without special circumstances, and it prevents the changing of locks or any other type of exclusionary action. The TRO specifically excepts spending moneys for reasonable and necessary living expense, including attorneys' fees, or business expenses of the parties. Some counties utilize a standard TRO, called the Standing Order, in every family law case, including divorces, to automatically and mutually prohibit both spouses from taking certain actions upon filing of the case. The Standing Order is effective upon filing of the petition. The enforceability of the Standing Order may be questionable, so some lawyers may elect to request a TRO in addition to the Standing Order. Some counties that use the Standing Order include Bell, Blanco, Brazos, Burnet, Caldwell, Coke, Collin, Concho, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Grayson, HAys, Irion, Llano, McLennan, Montgomery, Nueces, Rockwall, Runnels, San Saba, Schleicher, Sterling, Tom Green, Travis, and Walker. Each county's Standing Order may differ slightly. Excerpted from my book, "Basics of Texas Divorce Law"

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