How Legal Notice Requirements Protect Your Rights in a Contested Galveston Divorce Case

By January 10, 2018Divorce

Obtaining a divorce in Galveston is not a quick process. Even in cases where the parties’ split is amicable, there are certain legal deadlines and waiting periods that must be observed. Generally speaking, such delays are necessary to ensure that both spouses receive proper notice of any court proceedings and have an opportunity to prepare a response.

Appeals Court Reverses Divorce Judgment Due to Lack of Proper Notice to Wife

For example, under Texas civil court rules, when a contested divorce case is initially set for trial, the judge must give both sides at least 45 days notice of the hearing. In other words, a judge cannot receive a contested divorce petition and schedule the trial for a week later. This violates the basic due process rights of the litigants, especially the spouse who is responding to the divorce petition.

When a spouse does not receive proper notice, he or she may move to set aside any adverse order against them. Here is a recent Texas divorce case on point. A husband sued his wife for divorce. In his petition, the husband asked for sole custody of the couple’s three children and an order requiring his wife to pay child support.

The wife contested the divorce petition and filed her own counter-petition seeking sole custody and child support from the husband. She also alleged the husband committed acts of domestic violence and should be denied “access to the children.”

In November 2016, the judge assigned to the case set a trial date that was 42 days later. The wife did not appear at the hearing. After hearing only the husband’s side of the story, the judge granted default judgment in his favor: The husband was awarded sole custody of the children and the wife would have to pay child support.

The wife appealed, arguing the trial judge failed to comply with the 45-day notice requirement. The appeals court agreed. While a party is free to waive their right to receive notice by showing up at the hearing, the wife here did not appear. Therefore, even if she may have been otherwise aware of the hearing date, the appeals court found there was no evidence “to show that [the wife] had received proper notice of this hearing date.” And since the 45-day notice rule is a basic component of due process under Texas law, the wife was entitled, at a minimum, to a new trial. Accordingly, the appeals court reversed the trial court’s previous award of default judgment to the husband.

Get Advice from a Galveston Divorce Lawyer Today

Deadlines matter in divorce litigation. While it is possible to shorten the process to a certain extent if all parties are on board, you should never feel pressured to waive your legal rights, especially when custody of your children is at stake. If you live in the Galveston area and have been served divorce papers–or are thinking about serving them yourself–you need to work with an experienced attorney who can make sure the courts and the other side comply with all legal deadlines. If you need to speak with a Galveston divorce attorney today, call the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates at (281) 843-9776.