Wednesday, July 3, 2013

My spouse filed for divorce & I received a Waiver of Service what do I do now?

The Petition for Divorce just put the world on notice that a lawsuit (divorce) has been filed. You are being sued. This is serious. You need to hire an attorney to protect your interests.

Generally I recommend that no one ever sign a Waiver of Service.  If you do, your spouse can move forward without any further notice to you and the Final Decree of Divorce can say whatever your spouse wants it to say without any further notice to you. For example, he could put in it that you will pay him $1,000/month for 2 years.  Ouch! 

I suggest that you need to be in the courtroom and sign the Final Decree of Divorce and be in front of the judge when the Final Decree of Divorce is submitted to the judge to sign.  You want to be actively involved in your divorce if you don't hire an attorney.  However, I strongly urge you to hire an attorney to protect yourself.  Why? I don't do my own dental work, plumbing work or car repairs.  I hire an expert to help me.  You need an expert to help you through the legal maze -- you could learn to do your own divorce -- but why bother -- hire an expert & do it right the 1st time. 

You need an attorney if there are retirement benefits involved.  If it says that you receive a portion of the retirement benefits the Final Decree of Divorce is NOT enough.  There is a special document that must be submitted to the employer that ORDERS the employer to split the retirement benefits.  These forms (called QDRO forms) must be submitted to the Judge to sign.  AND, then the certified copy of these judge signed forms are sent to the corporation's retirement division.  The corporation reviews the forms and decides if they will approve them with their legal department.  So...please, please, please hire an attorney to help you with getting the money you deserve if there are retirement benefits involved in your divorce.  Your spouse's attorney will not help you with this - why? Because QDROS take a lot of time to prepare.  There are special companies that only do them -- they charge approx. $500 per QDRO form.    (Most attorneys have quit doing them in-house because these QDRO companies guarantee their work & the follow-up with the corporation's legal departments can be a nightmare -- I learned this the hard way!)

Additionally, quite frankly, most attorneys won't tell you this,  but over 90% of all family law cases settle before trial. Why? Because litigation is expensive. Even the nastiest cases eventually settle once a lot of "dirt" gets thrown. The parties just get tired. Fighting getting tiring. It also gets expensive. Depositions and discovery are time consuming, expensive and exhausting. Eventually people's pocket books are emptied, their family and friends are tired of hearing of them complain and start avoiding them, and the parties get worn out. Time begins to heal the wounds. The judges order everyone to mediation before allowing them to have a trial. A trained mediator swoops in and settles the case. If timing of the mediation is right, the mediator is considered a savior. A lot of it is excellent timing by the attorneys and the court. The attorneys know that timing the mediation close to the trial date is smart, but they won't tell the parties that at the beginning of a case -- then the client won't hire them!  
The attorney gets hired, let's the client call and email them daily, charges them thousands of dollars, collects their fees, prepares for trial, then schedules the mediation and prays like hell that the mediator will do their "magic" and make this case go away.  

What most attorneys won't tell you is that most family law attorneys have also taken the mediation training.  All of the law schools now have mediation courses included in their schedules and there are international mediation competitions.  Many family law attorneys think about having a mediation practice and intend to do so in their semi-retirement.  

If you and your spouse don't have much to argue about in your divorce then consider hiring an attorney that advertises himself as an attorney/mediator to negotiate your divorce.  You might just need someone to review the paperwork and make sure that everything is properly worded in the final paperwork.  If there are no disagreements, the price of hiring an attorney to just review and "bless" the divorce, is not that much money.  It is money well spent.  Make sure all the real estate forms are prepared & signed at the same time the Final Decree of Divorce is submitted to the judge.  Exchange all property - don't let "little" things hang out there! This is why hiring an attorney can save you many head-ache and later heart-ache.  

A good website is - ignore the rating system.  

Remember, in the State of Texas if there is an a error in the Final Decree of Divorce, the court loses jurisdiction over the case 30 days after the judge signs the paperwork so you can't wait if there is an error.  Time is of the essence.  

If there are no disagreements then mediation won't be required.  

There is normally a waiting period for a divorce in the State of Texas - 61 days.  There are some exceptions (domestic violence) -- but Waiver Divorces don't usually involve violence.  

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