The divorce process in Texas depends on different factors, such as whether you have children and if your spouse plans to contest the case. However, irrespective of the type of divorce you are filing for, there are legal processes that will be common and various factors that you will have to account for in order to end your marriage legally.
In order to avoid problems and delays in the process, you have to be aware of the mandatory Texas divorce procedures. There will be a few in each of the divorce steps, and you need to follow them carefully.
Step 1: Preparing to File for Divorce
Before you start looking for legal paperwork, you need to determine which type of divorce you qualify for. You can do it simply by determining whether you and your spouse can agree on the following questions:
- How to divide assets and debts?
- What type of custody will each of you have?
- Who will pay child support, and what would the sum be?
- Will alimony be paid? Whom to, how much, and for how long?
If there is no way you can reach an agreement on your own or through mediation, you will have to file for a contested divorce. This will necessitate hiring lawyers and will make the whole process lengthy, costly, and very stressful.
If you have or are willing to make a mutually satisfactory agreement on all of the above, filing for an uncontested divorce with or without a family attorney would be an option. Such type of marriage dissolution can be finalized within the shortest time permissible by state laws and for under $1,000.
Should I Tell My Spouse I Want a Divorce?
It depends solely on the nature of your relationships. Planning for divorce, you need to understand how safe your environment is before informing your spouse about it. If they are abusive towards you and/or your children, it will be wise to talk to a lawyer first. However, if they do not pose any danger to you and your loved ones, you are to decide on the timing.
Even though breaking the news may be difficult, if you want to terminate your marriage amicably it is best to wait until you are ready to begin the divorce process. In this way, you can have a more straightforward court process and talk about all the issues that need to be settled before the divorce can be filed.
If you refuse to tell your spouse about your decision, it most likely means that you are ready for a contested case. In this scenario, they will be officially notified that you have initiated a case during the service process.
No matter what you believe your spouse’s reaction will be, it would be better to take all the steps to secure your situation before you tell them you want a divorce:
Copy Important Documents
First of all, you need to make sure that the originals of your documents are kept in a safe place. Make several copies of them in case your spouse might somehow access them. Even if you secured them well and it will not happen, this will save your time in the future when you file your case. It is also advisable to scan your documents, such as passports, to create a digital archive, which you can access any time you need.
Protect and Access Credit
Financial security is an essential aspect for a person who has decided to end their marriage. Change passwords on the credit cards that you own. It is especially important for couples who have previously shared such passwords with each other. It is also a good idea to set up extra security on your online accounts.
Even if you still trust your ex, it is a good thing to change the credentials on your online accounts before you inform them about your decision to end a marriage. Divorce is a difficult process, and not every person can go through such hardship without making emotionally charged decisions. While you might believe your spouse will remain rational, it is always worth protecting yourself from potential damages, especially when they are easily preventable.
Create an Inventory of Household Items
It will be very convenient for you in case you have to move out, and you will be sure that none of your belongings are missing or stolen. Moreover, this will help you determine which items need to be divided in the course of your divorce. You may also download some home inventory applications to keep the list intact and add or remove items from it easily.
Remove Personal Items
If you have a lot of valuable things that belong personally to you, it is a good idea to remove them to some safe place. For example, it can be your close friends or parents’ house. However, make sure that these things are only yours; otherwise, your ex may accuse you of stealing them in court. These might be assets you owned before getting married, something you inherited, or gifts, even from your spouse.
What Information Do I Need to File for Divorce?
Getting ready to file, you need to have all the information on your hands to speed up the process. One of the main documents in the package of divorce paperwork in Texas is the Original Petition for Divorce. As this is the first form you need to fill out, make sure you have your marriage certificate on you as you will have to indicate the date and place of your marriage. Additionally, you’ll require the information on your spouse’s:
- Financial accounts
- Driver’s license
- Real estate.
Finally, you will need to provide detailed information about your minor children, if any.
Step 2: Filing for Divorce
To file in Texas, you need to make sure you are legally allowed to do it, know what type of case you’re filing for, and understand what documents are required for your case.
What Do I Need to File for Divorce in Texas?
To start a divorce process, you need to find and prepare the packet of forms that you will file. There are dozens of forms that are required for each specific case. The most common forms to file are:
- Original Petition for Divorce
- Civil Case Information Sheet
- Information on Suit Affecting the Relationship
- Standard Possession Order
You will need additional forms depending on your divorce decisions and family situation. For instance, if you’re going to change back to the maiden name, request an order withholding your spouse’s income for child support payments, or want to modify a standard custody order. In order to find out what forms suit your case, you need to consult with the lawyer or review and research all the paperwork that might be required.
How to File for Divorce in Texas?
The first step in filing for divorce is determining whether you meet the residency requirements of the state and county. You must have lived in the state for at least 6 months prior to filing. As per the county, the minimum residency requirement is 90 days.
To file for divorce in Texas, you must make two copies of your paperwork and bring them to the county court clerk. They will then assign the number to your case, take the original versions, and give you the stamped copies back to serve your spouse.
Is There a Cost to File for Divorce?
Yes, in order to file for marriage dissolution in Texas, you must pay the filing fees, which are around $300 depending on the court and county that you file in. However, if you have financial difficulties, you may get the fees waived if the court orders it after reviewing your Statement of Inability to Afford Court Costs.
Where to File for Divorce in Texas?
In Texas, you have to file the documents in the county where you or your spouse reside. Divorce procedures in Texas can be initiated only if the court has jurisdiction over your case, meaning that one of you should be domiciled in the state.
Step 3: Serving the Divorce Papers to Your Spouse
In order to participate in the process, your spouse has to be officially notified that the divorce has been initiated, even if you have already discussed it.
What Does It Meant to Serve Divorce Papers?
It means that the documents you filed with the court have to be delivered to your spouse for them to review and agree or disagree with the terms you outlined, as well as be aware of the process in general. Serving divorce papers in Texas is an essential step, without which you cannot proceed with your marriage dissolution. It needs to be conducted as soon as you file and be performed according to the state laws.
Who Can Serve the Divorce Papers?
Divorce forms in Texas can be served in several ways:
- Personally, by a constable, sheriff, or other person assigned by the court.
- By the process server in person or by certified mail.
Can I Serve Divorce Papers Myself?
You can serve the papers personally only if your case is uncontested and your spouse will sign a Waiver or an Answer. A court may allow you to complete the process of service by other means, via substituted service, if the person who first tried to do it could not, for some reason, reach your spouse. However, as stated, there should be a server who would try to pass the documents to your ex first.
What Has to Be Served?
Your spouse should receive a copy of each Texas divorce document that you have filed initially. Additionally, provide them with Waiver and Answer forms.
How to Serve Divorce Papers?
Papers can be served personally, by mail, and by email or social network (with special permission). Please note that “personally” means by another person (not you) who is qualified to do it in the state.
When Should I Serve the Divorce Papers?
You should start the serving process as soon as you file the paperwork with the court.
How Long Does It Take to Serve Divorce Papers?
It usually takes a few days for the papers to be served.
How Much Does It Cost to Serve Divorce Papers?
In case you ask the sheriff or constable to serve the documents, you must pay approximately $50 – $100. The private process server charges around $75 – $160 depending on the turnaround. A lot will depend on the county where you order such services and where your spouse lives.
How to Serve Divorce Papers Without an Address?
First of all, you should try to find the location of your spouse by asking their family, friends, and employer, or co-workers about it. If you still cannot determine the address, you can ask the court to let you serve the documents by posting or publication.
How Does the Court Know That the Other Side Has Been Served?
As soon as your ex is served, they have to officially respond by filing a Respondent’s Original Answer or the Waiver form with the court within the given deadline.
What Happens After Service?
As soon as the service step is completed, you have to wait for 60 days to pass, as this is a mandatory waiting period in Texas. After that, you will be able to arrange a hearing date.
Step 4: Responding to the Divorce Petition
If you have been served with paperwork, it means that you are a Respondent, while your ex-spouse is a Petitioner who initiated a process. You will have to answer the service properly, as otherwise, your ex can get a divorce by default – without your input or involvement.
What Happens After I Have Been Served with Divorce Papers?
You have two options in this case:
- Ignore this notification (not recommended). The review and response to the paperwork that was filed is one of the most important steps for divorce in Texas, as you can make your wishes known to the court at this point. If you do not, the marriage dissolution can be finalized without you, and all the decisions concerning child custody and support, property division, and alimony will likely be granted with a bigger advantage to your spouse.
- File an official Answer or Waiver with the court. In an Answer, you can either agree to all the provisions in the Petition or request changes. A Waiver, however, allows you to inform the court that you do not wish to be served at all or be notified of further proceedings pertaining to the case.
What Is a Response to a Petition for Divorce?
A Response to a Divorce Petition in Texas is a document in which you not only officially notify the court that you have received the papers but also state which aspect of the Petition you agree or disagree with. You can also file a Counter Petition for divorce in Texas if you want to make your own claims against the Petitioner.
When Is the Response Filed?
Anytime within 20 days after the Respondent has been served.
How Do I Serve My Response?
You fill in the Texas divorce Answer form and hand-deliver it or send it by certified mail or fax.
What Is the Timeline for Responding to a Petition for Divorce?
The Respondent has 20 days to respond to the Petition after they have been served.
How Does the Court Know I Served the Petitioner?
As a Respondent, you will file your Answer directly with the court and send a copy to your spouse or their lawyer. If you filed a Counter Petition along with it, serve it as well.
Step 5: Getting Temporary Divorce Orders
Sometimes, the ending of the marriage might put one of the spouses at a serious disadvantage or even danger, so temporary orders become essential.
What Are Temporary Orders in a Divorce?
It is very important for the Petitioner to understand what is a temporary order for. In general, these are the orders made by the court that command how to handle some situations concerning parties’ safety, child custody, and asset management before the divorce is finalized.
When Should I File for Temporary Orders?
If you understand that court involvement is required, you have to file as soon as possible. A temporary order hearing is the first to be held by the court.
What Happens if I File for Custody and Visitation Orders?
The court will consider your family situation and make a decision in the best interests of your children. For example, the judge may order that your children stay with you during the divorce proceedings in Texas. Divorce temporary orders may also concern visitation, and your ex-spouse may be restricted from visiting your children during the process.
How Do I Respond to a Request for Temporary Orders?
You should talk to your lawyer about how to respond to properly. If the hearing is requested, you should attend it.
Step 6: Completing Initial Disclosures
Initial disclosures are essential in any family law case. Providing false information or avoiding disclosure may affect the case outcomes.
What Are Initial Disclosures?
Initial disclosure is the process of making important information available, such as names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all the parties that may be involved in the case, without waiting for a discovery request. You also have to show what you will use to argue your case, such as medical records, documents, and testimonies.
What Is a Financial Disclosure?
This is the process of disclosing your income, assets, and liabilities, usually in a Financial Statement.
When Do I Have to File My Financial Disclosure?
The disclosures must be made within 30 days after the filing of the first answer or general appearance unless a different time is set by the agreement or court order.
What Happens if My Spouse’s Disclosure Is Inaccurate?
In this case, they may face severe legal repercussions. The non-disclosing party may lose their assets in favor of their ex and be ordered to cover lawyer’s fees.
How Do I Waive the Final Financial Disclosure?
You must file your written agreement with the court. It means that you have already disclosed all your financial information to each other.
Step 7: Discovery Period
Discovery is an important step in filing a divorce in Texas. It occurs during the pre-trial phase of marriage dissolution.
What Is Discovery?
It’s the process by which each party gets information and evidence from the other side.
Do I Have to Serve Discovery?
In general, you do not have to serve it. But you can file a Proof of Mailing or Hand Delivery with the court to show that this process was officially performed. A third party not involved in the case may mail two copies of the interrogatories and/or requests to your ex or their lawyer.
When Are Discovery Responses Due?
You must file the answers within 30 days after being served with the interrogatories.
Step 8: Drafting a Divorce Settlement Agreement
Settlement Agreement is a document covering the decisions you and your spouse reached regarding your divorce. Such an agreement can speed-up the process significantly and make it much cheaper and simpler.
What to Include in a Divorce Settlement Agreement?
There are a few sections that should be present in the marital settlement agreement in Texas:
Asset and debt division
Texas is a community property state, which means that any property spouses brought while being married, as well as assets and debts they acquired, will be considered marital and subject to a 50/50 division.
It usually takes a lot of time and evidence for a court to decide what assets should or shouldn’t be considered in a division and how it should be performed depending on the type of case.
Therefore, the couples who get along usually prefer dividing the property at their reasonable discretion, stating it in the agreement. If the court finds this division fair as per state laws, it will be granted.
Things that are subject to division usually include but are not limited to:
- House and furniture
- Different types of equipment
- Bank accounts
- Retirement assets
A couple will have to make a parenting plan in which they determine with whom the child will reside and how much time he or she will spend with either parent. It is best to include a holiday schedule, transportation arrangements, dispute resolution clause, acceptable modes of contact, etc.
Apart from custody, parents also have to decide on child support. They can calculate the approximate payment in a Monthly Child Support Calculator.
In case spouses decide not to share custody, the non-custodial parent has to obtain visitation rights. In this regard, the couple has to decide when and where the other parent will meet with the child.
If one of the parties requests financial support, this aspect should also be presented in the agreement. The couple may determine the monthly allowance or calculate an acceptable one-time (lump sum) payment. It would also be necessary to indicate how long such payments will be made and by what means. It is important to note that if neither spouse requests alimony at this point, they waive their right to do it permanently.
There are also fees that have to be covered by both spouses, such as child custody evaluation, and those that they may decide to pay for together, such as property assessment. Divorcees may also want to discuss how they will cover attorney’s fees, if any.
How to Write a Divorce Settlement Agreement?
You can write it together with your lawyer or find the form online and fill it out according to the rules. However, make sure that the document is written as per the legal standards and includes all of your agreements. Otherwise, it will not be accepted.
What to Ask for in a Divorce Settlement Agreement?
Before getting a divorce, you will likely have to have a discussion with your spouse on what each of you wants when it comes to your assets and kids if any. You have an opportunity to agree on any vital aspects of your financial and private life in your Divorce Settlement Agreement in Texas. While it is entirely up to you what final decisions to make, note that a judge may overrule them if they very clearly put one of the spouses at a disadvantage for no substantial reason.
Step 9: The Trial (Hearing)
The final hearing is one of the last steps of your divorce process. The way it will go depends on whether you and your spouse settled, and if not, how many aspects have to be decided by the court.
When Divorce Case Is Set for Trial?
In order to get a divorce in Texas, you need to schedule a court date after a state-mandated 60-day waiting period. In certain divorce lawsuits, this period may be waived, and you need to engage your lawyer in the process to see if that is possible. Your divorce will culminate in a trial where the judge will make a final decision regarding the end of your marriage.
What Happens if I Don’t Want to Go to Trial?
Irrespective of the type of divorce you filed for, you and your ex have to be presented at the final trial because you will have to answer the judge’s questions. Settling divorce out of court in Texas is possible when you make and file a Settlement Agreement, but you will have to be present in front of a judge at least one time, one way or another. If you have no children and your case is uncontested, you may ask the court it is possible not to go to a hearing or get a prove-up hearing in Texas.
What Should I Expect at Divorce Trial?
What happens in a divorce trial mainly depends on whether you reached an agreement with your spouse. The final hearing for divorce will be rather quick if it is uncontested. You will need to bring your paperwork and answer questions of the judge, if any.
If your case is contested, your and your spouse’s lawyers will take the lead and present evidence, call witnesses, and do everything in their power to help you reach the desired outcome. Lawyers may try to settle certain issues before the trial to speed up the process and leave fewer disputes at the court’s discretion.
Step 10: Finalizing the Divorce
The very last step of the divorce process is its finalization. Your marriage dissolution is considered official when the judge signs the Decree and you file it with the clerk.
What Are the Steps to Finalizing a Divorce?
After the Decree is issued and filed with the clerk, your divorce is final. However, you or your lawyers will have to help you with some of the next steps concerning documents transferring property rights, dividing financial accounts, etc.
How Do I Know When My Divorce Is Final?
Your marriage dissolution is final as soon as the Final Decree is signed by the judge and filed with the court clerk.
What Should I Do When I Get My Divorce Decree Back?
You should bring it to the clerk and once the divorce is official, make sure that you and your ex comply with the conditions stated in this document.
When Can I Change My Name?
You can ask the judge to restore your maiden name by filing an Order Restoring Name Used Before Marriage prior to the final hearing. Alternatively, you can change it later after divorce.
Erin Bensen is a relationship expert and a writer known for her articles on love and marriage. Being a paralegal, she also writes about divorce and the procedures around it. Erin regularly contributes to Modern Love Counseling and other divorce blogs, offering practical advice and support. Right now, Erin is working on her personal podcast, where she intends to discuss the complexities of relationships and help couples considering divorce.