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When is a Divorce Considered Finalized in Sugar Land, TX?

Many individuals may think their divorce is complete once they agree on divorce terms with their spouse during mediation, or at the end of a divorce trial. However, this is not the case. A divorce is not legally completed in Sugar Land until the final decree is signed by a Judge. At this point, a couple is no longer married in the eyes of the law.

Although you may think that your marriage is practically over while still going through the divorce proceedings, the legality that you are still married can impact elements of moving on with your life. Particularly starting new relationships and purchasing new property could have a bearing on your divorce proceedings. As tempting as it is to begin a new chapter of your life, it is important to wait until you have the divorce decree to commence some life changes.

An experienced family law attorney can help you navigate the divorce process in Sugar Land as smoothly and efficiently as possible. They will also fight to ensure you receive the best outcome to support you in your future after your divorce.

Skillern Firm’s Sugar Land divorce lawyers understand that most spouses are eager to finalize their divorce and move on with their lives. Our highly skilled attorneys are both efficient and diligent in managing divorce cases, negotiations, and paperwork to avoid any unnecessary delays. However, we also understand the substantial impact of the outcome of divorce on our clients, and we will not rush the process. Instead, we will take every step necessary to secure a successful settlement for our clients and their families. We will also advise our clients throughout the process to ensure they don’t make any mistakes that could be used against them during their divorce.

Book an appointment with a reputable Sugar Land divorce lawyer today by calling Skillern Firm at 936-213-8479.

The Steps of the Divorce Process in Sugar Land, TX

There are many steps to the divorce process in Sugar Land that must be completed before a divorce is finalized. A reputable divorce lawyer can guide you through each of these steps and ensure that each process is complete with a focus on your best interests to achieve the best possible outcome in the final divorce settlement. Often in a contested divorce, these steps can be lengthy and complicated as spouses have differing proposals for temporary orders, child custody, division of assets, and spousal support.

Filing The Petition

To commence the divorce process in Sugar Land, a spouse will file a divorce petition with the county district clerk. To file in Sugar Land, a spouse must have resided in Texas for at least six months and in the county for at least 90 days. The petitioning spouse will list whether they are filing for a no-fault divorce or fault-based divorce. They may also propose temporary orders for the couple while the divorce is processed.

Then the other spouse will receive the service of the divorce papers. Usually, this is done by delivering the papers in person or by certified mail. If served in person, only authorized personnel are permitted to do this. Authorized individuals can include a sheriff, constable, or other official authorized by law or the court.

Mandatory Waiting Period

After filing the divorce petition with the Fort Bend County District Clerk, there is a mandatory waiting period before divorce proceedings begin. All Sugar Land couples must wait for 60 days, which is sometimes known as the cooling off period, to allow spouses to change their minds and withdraw their divorce.

This period is in place to recognize that many divorces are filed in the heat of the moment and based on an emotional reaction. Some spouses regret their decision to file once the emotion from the initial situation has subsided and wish to reconcile their marriage. The Sugar Land court can make exceptions to the mandatory waiting period in cases of family violence.

Temporary Orders Hearing

Either spouse can petition the court for temporary orders during the divorce process. Temporary orders are important to remove ambiguity from a couple’s situation while they are navigating a divorce. They can also ensure both parties know where they stand and the arrangements for their family. Temporary orders often include details such as who will reside in the marital home, where the children will live, visitation schedules, and both child and spousal support payments. These arrangements are in place until the divorce is complete.

If a couple agrees on temporary orders, they can submit a stipulation to the court through their attorneys. If an agreement is not reached, mediation may be required or a temporary orders hearing will be held. During a hearing, both parties and their legal representation will present their arguments and supporting evidence to a Judge, who will make the final decision on orders.

Although not permanent, temporary orders are a crucial element of a divorce. They can provide stability and continuity for a family during a turbulent time and avoid further disagreements and conflicts between divorcing spouses. Temporary orders can also be used to protect the safety of a spouse and children and prevent the destruction and sale of marital property before it is divided within the divorce.

Additionally, it is possible that the arrangements outlined in temporary orders can impact the final terms of the divorce decree. Particularly with child custody, the court will aim to maintain consistency and reduce the disruption to a child’s life as much as possible. As such, a Judge could favor maintaining the custody arrangement outlined in temporary orders if it is in the child’s best interests.

Mediation Or Arbitration

The process of agreeing to divorce terms will look different depending on whether it is a contested or uncontested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, couples can jointly propose divorce terms at the outset of the process for a Judge to approve. In a contested divorce, both spouses and their attorneys go through the process of disputing the other spouse’s proposal and negotiating terms until they reach an agreement.

Divorce terms include extremely important decisions that will govern how both spouses live their lives after the divorce, including the division of marital assets, child and spousal support, and child custody and visitation. As such, contested divorces are commonplace, as it is rare for couples to agree on their preferred arrangements at the outset.

Spouses can discuss and debate divorce terms with their legal teams either through an out-of-court private setting or in formal mediation or arbitration. The process of negotiating divorce terms in contested divorces can be challenging, tensions run high, and relationships between spouses can deteriorate. In these situations, skilled legal representation is crucial to maintain professionalism, defend against aggressive negotiations and allegations and advocate for your interests.


A trial in a family law court is not always necessary in a divorce in Sugar Land. Often couples can settle disagreements and negotiate terms outside of the courtroom with the help of skilled legal counsel. However, if negotiation and mediation have hit a sticking point, or your spouse is uncooperative, a trial could be required to avoid settling for an agreement that is not in the best interests of you and your family.

During a trial, both parties and their attorneys present their arguments, supporting evidence, and testimonies to the court. A Judge will review both sides of the argument and make a final decision on the issue in question, in line with the evidence they are presented. A couple may go to trial for numerous elements of their divorce, or perhaps just one area if that is where they can’t reach an agreement, for example, child custody.

The Final Divorce Decree

To finalize a divorce, a final hearing is held in court to review the proposed terms and each spouse’s requests. The outcome of a trial, mediation, or arbitration will be presented to the Judge, including any settlement agreements that were reached.

A Judge will sign the divorce decree, it is then filed with the district clerk and listed as a public record. Once a divorce is finalized by a Judge, both parties are legally obligated to adhere to the terms outlined in the order.

What Is A Divorce Decree?

A divorce decree is the final court order issued by the family law court when a divorce is complete. The order outlines how a divorced couple will manage child custody and visitation and how marital property will be divided between the parties. It will also outline any spousal support payments that either party is required to pay.

A court-ordered divorce decree is a legally binding document to which both spouses must adhere. Failure to follow the terms outlined in the decree, that govern property division, child custody, and support payments, could result in penalties. If a spouse does not follow the divorce decree, the other spouse can file a motion to enforce, bringing the matter to the Sugar Land family court. A Judge can hold a spouse in contempt of court and issue penalties such as fines, paying attorney fees, and even jail time if a decree is not followed.

Considerations Before Your Divorce is Finalized

It is essential that divorcing couples remember that any behavior or actions they take during the divorce process could still impact the final outcome of the divorce. Although it is tempting to start to move on with your life, look to purchase a new home, begin a new business venture, and meet new people, it could cause complications in your divorce. If you are eager to take the next step to build your new life, seek advice from your divorce attorney before making any plans to ensure they won’t cause you problems in the divorce. 

New Relationships

Texas family law does not recognize legal separation or separation of any kind during a marriage. In the eyes of the law, a couple remains married until their divorce is complete. This can have implications for either spouse meeting new people or starting new romantic relationships. If a spouse was to start an intimate relationship with an individual other than their spouse while they remain married, this could be considered adultery. This can happen at any point during the divorce process before the decree is signed.

If a spouse commits adultery, the other spouse could use this against them as grounds for a fault-based divorce. If an extramarital relationship is proven to the court during the divorce proceedings, a Judge may not look kindly on the adulterous spouse. The divorce settlement, particularly the division of property, but also other elements such as spousal support, could be swayed in favor of the other spouse because of cheating.

This can be challenging for divorcing couples to understand, as once a divorce petition is filed, it could seem somewhat obvious that the marriage is over. However, Texas law does not see it that way. It is best for both spouses to refrain from any romantic relationships with other people before their divorce is completely final. Otherwise, a spouse could find themselves subject to a disproportionate divorce settlement as a result of their extramarital relationship.

Acquiring Property

Texas is a community property state. As such, any assets purchased or acquired by either spouse within the duration of the marriage can be subject to division between spouses during the divorce process. It is important to note that the period that a spouse could obtain property that would still be considered marital or community property extends until the divorce is finalized.

As such, if either spouse purchases a new home, for example, after the divorce petition is filed, but while proceedings are still ongoing, this new property could be divided between both spouses as part of the divorce settlement.

When Does a Child Custody Order Come Into Effect After a Divorce?

Any temporary child custody arrangements outlined in your temporary orders will remain in place from when they are issued until a final divorce decree is entered. At this point, the divorce decree becomes the governing document and the arrangements in the final child custody order shall come into place. If no temporary orders were in place, the final child custody order still applies once the final divorce decree is entered.

Both temporary and final orders are binding legal documents, and both parents must follow the terms outlined. Legal action and subsequent penalties can be brought against a parent who does not follow a child custody order.

Can You Change a Divorce Decree Once it is Finalized?

You are able to modify certain parts of a divorce decree once it is finalized, namely child custody agreements. However, there are strict circumstances for modifying an order. For example, a person cannot file a modification request for property division matters they are not happy with.

Once finalized, a divorce decree usually cannot be amended until it has been in place for at least a year. To move to modify a child custody agreement, one parent must have had a substantial change in their circumstances. This could include either spouse losing their job, changes to the minor children in their care, or relocation.

The strict circumstances in which custody agreements can be modified increase the importance of securing an agreement you are happy with in the initial divorce. It is essential that you secure skilled legal representation to ensure you receive your desired outcome, or at least an agreement that works with your circumstances, during your initial divorce proceedings.

When Can I Remarry After a Divorce?

Individuals looking to remarry after their divorce in Sugar Land must wait at least 30 days from when the Judge finalizes their divorce decree. This means that an individual can schedule their wedding day to take place no earlier than 31 days from when the Judge signs their divorce decree. Before this period following the divorce has elapsed, usually, neither spouse is eligible to re-marry in Sugar Land. There are some exceptions to this rule. If an individual can show good cause to the court, they may waive the 30-day prohibition against remarriage.

Schedule An Appointment With Skillern Firm’s Divorce Attorneys

Expert legal representation will play a substantial role in how efficiently and successfully your divorce case progresses. To ensure your divorce is handled with care, that your interests are at the forefront, and that you receive the best result, contact Skillern Firm Today. Call us at 936-213-8479 to discuss your case with an experienced divorce lawyer in Sugar Land.