When you file for divorce in Texas, you must first determine whether you meet all the necessary criteria. Before submitting your petition to the district court, you must decide which “grounds” you will claim in your divorce papers. Like virtually every other state in the U.S., Texas is considered a “no-fault” state, meaning you don’t have to state a specific reason for your divorce, only that you and your spouse are incompatible. Texas does, however, allow you to state grounds for your divorce if you wish, but you will have to have proof to back up your claim.
Under Texas divorce law, you must select one of the following grounds for divorce—and be able to support this with facts:
In addition to determining grounds for your divorce, either you or your spouse must have been living in the state of Texas for the preceding six-month period and must have been a resident of the county where the suit is filed for the preceding 90-day period. If you serve in the armed forces or are the spouse of someone who serves in the armed forces, you are still counted as a Texas resident if you were living in Texas at the time of your deployment.
Filing a contested or uncontested divorce will significantly affect how your divorce proceeds. In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse are both in agreement regarding the divorce and agree on all points of the divorce, including asset division, child custody, child support, spousal support, and more. Contested divorces are more contentious and often require significant negotiating, mediation, and even litigation.
Once you’ve chosen an attorney, he or she will file your divorce petition. If you are the spouse who files, you will be known as the petitioner, while the other spouse will be known as the respondent. You must hand-deliver or mail the original divorce petition, two extra copies, and the filing fee to the district court clerk in the appropriate county. Once you file the divorce petition, you must legally provide your spouse with notice of the filing.
This is much more involved than simply sending him or her a text or making a phone call. Your spouse must either sign a waiver of citation or you must hire a process server to serve your spouse with the divorce petition. If you cannot locate your spouse, you must publish a notice in your local newspaper. This requires a court order and is only a method of last resort when a spouse cannot be found to serve them with your divorce petition.
Once served, your spouse has twenty days to respond to your petition. In your divorce petition, you will ask for certain things—say, $500 per month in spousal support, full custody of your child, and half the assets. In your spouse’s reply, he or she can “counter,” asking that spousal support be only $200 per month for two years and that you share both physical and legal custody. Your spouse could also claim a fault, even if your original divorce petition asks for a no-fault divorce.
Asset division under Texas community property laws dictates that marital assets will be split equally, so although you may not be able to dispute that you only get half the marital assets, there may be some disagreement regarding which assets you will get. Once your spouse has been served, he or she may attend all court hearings related to the divorce.
Texas, unlike many other states, has a waiting period requirement. This means the court can only grant your divorce after 60 days. The only exceptions to this waiting period are when domestic or family violence is present. The waiting period was initially meant to provide a “cooling-off” period for spouses, during which they could potentially choose to reconcile. More often, the 60-day waiting period provides a period in which spouses can attempt to reach mutually agreeable terms for the divorce.
When your divorce is contested, the court may encourage both parties to explore alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation. If a settlement cannot be reached between the spouses or through mediation, outstanding issues will be presented to the judge, who will make those decisions on your behalf. If you and your spouse have reached an agreement in writing, then your final hearing may only include answering a few questions posed by the judge, then approving your agreement.
Otherwise, after the judge makes decisions for you and your spouse regarding asset division, child custody, spousal support, and child support, those decisions will be formalized in writing, and the agreement will be approved. You must seek the assistance of an experienced Texas family law attorney who is familiar with the laws and can fight on your behalf for the things you want out of your divorce.
It is always a good idea to consult with an experienced Houston divorce attorney at Moving Forward Divorce Lawyers when going through a divorce. Filing the right paperwork and petitioning the court takes time, experience, and skill. If you make a mistake, you will lose money and valuable time. This could impact your future significantly. Call us at 713-589-4748 or fill out our confidential contact form to learn more about your legal options.
Thomas H. Smith III was born and raised in Arlington, Texas. He graduated from Texas A&M University in 2002 with a degree in Chemistry and a minor in Mathematics. He then attended the University of Houston Law Center where he served as an Articles Editor for the Houston Journal of International Law. Read more here.
You should seek the assistance of an experienced Texas family attorney who is familiar with the laws and can fight on your behalf for the things you want out of your divorce.
It is always a good idea to consult with an experienced Houston divorce attorney at Moving Forward Divorce Lawyers when going through a divorce. Filing the right paperwork and petitioning the court takes time, experience, and skill. If you make a mistake, you will lose money and valuable time. This could impact your future significantly. Call us at 713-589-4748 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a free consultation and learn more about your legal options.