ORDERS IN THE TEXAS DIVORCE
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One lawyer in Texas used to refer to his divorce cases as, "vanilla flavored," and, "super deluxe." The vanilla flavored cases are normal divorces where you file your petition for divorce, you prove your spouse has been notified, and you go into court for a five minute hearing. They're relatively easy to do and they're not too expensive.
The super deluxe divorce is complicated, expensive, and frequently just plain scary. They usually involve a critter called a temporary restraining order, or TRO, and that requires a lawyer. In some cases, the super deluxe is the way to go. If you have a spouse who's violent or out of control, obviously you want to do everything that you can to protect yourself and your property.
In other cases, however, TROs are totally unnecessary. That usually means that you've walked into the wrong lawyers' office and they convinced you to buy the Cadillac instead of the Toyota.
So what are the major differences between a normal divorce and a super deluxe? In a normal divorce, you file your petition, you prove your spouse has been notified, and then, at the end of the sixty day waiting period, you go into court for a brief session with the judge.
In a super deluxe case, the attorney files the petition along with documents asking for temporary restraining order which go into effect immediately. You then have an immediate court hearing, where the judge decides if the orders should continue in effect until the divorce is granted. Then, when the waiting period is over, you have another hearing.
And, of course, that can be a good thing financially for the lawyers. Your divorce now has two contested hearings, instead of one uncontested hearing, and the lawyer who files the restraining orders usually asks for the spouse who's being restrained to pay attorneys fees.
Here are some of the things that the Texas family code allows for temporary restraining orders:
(1) intentionally communicating with your spouse in any way - telephone calls, writing, in person - in a vulgar, indecent, or obsene manner in order to harrass or annoy your spouse;
(2) theatening to take illegal action against your spouse or any other person in order to alarm or annoy your spouse;
(3) placing annoying anonymous telephone calls to your spouse;
(4) causing bodily harm to your spouse or a child of either party;
(5) threatening your spouse or a child of either party with bodily harm;
(6) destroying or concealing the marital assets;
(7) falsifying records relating to the marital assets;
(8) intentionally refusing to disclose the existence, amount, or location of marital assets;
(9) damaging or destroying the property of either party;
(10) tampering with the property of either party and causing loss of assets.
You get the general drift. TROs were designed to deal with spouses who are acting insane. If you have a normal spouse, even if you really don't like him or her anymore, you don't need a TRO. In fact, they tend to really piss people off, and then you have a really contested cases.
Unfortunately, even with spouses who are acting insane, TROs can be a gamble. There's a fine line between a spouse who's a bully and a tyrant and a spouse who's truly nuts. If you have a spouse who's simply a bully, restraining orders will usually keep them in line. If you have a spouse who's crazy, you're protecting yourself with a piece of paper. All too often, people put too much trust in those pieces of paper and end up being seriously hurt or killed. If you have an extremely abusive spouse, the best bet is to get the restraining orders and then get out of town, even if you have to check into a shelter.
Many of the larger jurisdictions in Texas, such as Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio now have automatic restraining order which are issued at the beginning of EVERY divorce. They must be attached to the petition when it's filed and a copy must be provided to the respondent when he/she signs the waiver or is served the papers.
About the author: Daniel Adair spent 16 years working in a family law office in Central Texas. He is the author of, "The Texas Divorce Course, A Peoples' Guide to the Texas Divorce System," and has written extensively on the Texas divorce process.