In Texas, the divorce process can require several hearings. When any one of them is scheduled, you might find that you're not ready to proceed at that time. You can ask the court for a continuance -- a legal term for a postponement. However, the court may or may not grant one, depending on how far along you are in the divorce process.
Requesting an Attorney
In Texas, a spouse can file for divorce and ask for a restraining order at the same time. An RO freezes the status quo regarding children and property until the court can address these issues and put temporary orders in place while a case is pending. Hearings to convert ROs into temporary orders usually take place a few weeks after one spouse files for divorce. If you feel that you need legal representation, this may not leave you a lot of time to find an attorney you’re comfortable with and to come up with the money to pay him. If you appear in court at the appointed time and explain this to the judge, he will usually continue the hearing for another week or two, because you have a right to legal counsel.
After temporary orders are established, your divorce will begin moving toward resolution. You or your attorney will begin exchanging documentation with your spouse to confirm your debts, assets, incomes and other pertinent factors. This is the discovery process. If your spouse drags her feet and does not respond to your discovery requests by certain deadlines, you can involve the court. You generally cannot proceed to trial without this information, so not having it puts you at a disadvantage. In some counties, such as Dallas County, judges will informally hear discovery disputes once a week. If your trial date is looming, and if you can’t reach a resolution with your spouse at this informal proceeding, the judge will schedule a more formal hearing. At the formal hearing, you can ask the judge to postpone your trial date for a short time so you can collect the discovery and have time to review it before trial.
In Texas, the court does not usually assign trial dates. Spouses or their attorneys generally agree to a selected date, by which time they anticipate both sides will be ready to proceed. As the date nears, you and your spouse may realize that you’re close to a settlement and with a little more time to iron out the details, your matter may not require a trial. In this case, both spouses, or their attorneys, might jointly request a continuance from the court, postponing their agreed-on trial date. However, the court might not grant it because the litigants selected the date, not the court. This is particularly true if a case has been pending for a while. The judge might require you to show up in court on the appointed date and continue your negotiations with his help.
Parent Education Program
Some Texas counties, such as Harris, require that spouses attend a parent education program prior to divorce. You generally cannot be divorced until you and your spouse have both completed this program, even if you have reached a settlement and your hearing is only to confirm it with the court and finalize your divorce proceedings. You can ask for a continuance of the hearing so you can attend the program, but you should do it well in advance. If you wait to make the request at the hearing itself, some judges will dismiss your entire divorce proceedings if neither you or your spouse have completed the program.
References & Resources
- Busby & Associates: 10 Things You Should Know About Divorce in Houston or Harris County, Texas
- The Price Law Firm: Common Questions – What to Expect at the First Court Hearing
- Cary & Lippincott: I’ve Been Served with a Divorce Petition in Texas – What Should I Do/Not Do?
- Dallas County, Texas: Standards of Attorney Conduct and Court Practices 160th District Court
- O’Neil Attorneys: Temporary Orders Hearing – Step 2 of the Divorce Proceeding
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