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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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.