Getting a divorce can be a highly stressful and emotional process. The idea of completely changing your life and dividing everything you built with your spouse can overwhelm anyone. And if there are kids involved in divorce, the process can become even more complicated.
Therefore, it is extremely important to understand the legal procedures and your rights before and after filing for divorce. Below is a short guide explaining everything you need to know to file for divorce in Texas. Read on to understand when you should get a lawyer involved and how they can help you in your case.
Texas Divorce Filing Requirements
You know you want to end your marriage, now what? There are several requirements you should understand before filing for divorce.
To file for divorce in Texas, you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months before you file. Also, you or your spouse must have lived in the county you are filing in for at least 90 days.
As long as one spouse meets the residency requirement, either spouse can file for divorce.
Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce
Texas law does not require parties to prove fault to get a divorce. If either of the spouses feels the marriage is insupportable and there are no expectations of reconciliation, the court will allow the divorce. The reason can be discord or conflict of personalities that makes that marriage unsustainable.
There are also several fault-based grounds in Texas law that may be used to get a divorce in the state. The grounds are:
- Cruelty. If your spouse is guilty of cruel treatment such that it makes living together insupportable, the court will grant you a divorce.
- Adultery. If your spouse has cheated on you, you can seek divorce from the court.
- Conviction of Felony. If your spouse is convicted of a felony, is currently serving time, has been imprisoned for at least one year and has not been pardoned, you can get a divorce. But you are not eligible to claim divorce on this ground if your testimony led to your spouse’s conviction.
- Abandonment. If your spouse has left you with an intention of abandonment and has been away for at least one year, you can seek divorce on this ground.
- Living Apart. If you have not lived with your spouse for at least three years, the court will grant you a divorce.
- Confinement in a Mental Hospital. If your spouse is in a mental hospital and has been there for at least three years and the nature of their mental disorder makes it unlikely for them to recover without a possibility of relapse, you can seek divorce on this ground.
Divorce Process in Texas
Once you understand where you need to file the divorce and the grounds that are applicable to your case, you need to follow the legal requirements to start the proceedings.
The Supreme Court of Texas approved forms for uncontested divorces that do not involve property or children. If you have children or property and you have already agreed on property division, custody, visitation rights, child support and alimony, you can find forms that fit your case on the Texas State Law Library website.
If you and your spouse do not agree on all or any divorce terms, you should hire a divorce lawyer who can help you file a petition and represent your interest in the court.
Serving the Divorce Forms
Once you have filed your divorce petition with the appropriate court, the next step is to give a copy of the petition to your spouse. You can do so by having any adult over 18 serve the documents, though service is generally performed through a deputy or registered process server.
If your spouse agrees to waive the service procedure, you can simply hand over the documents to them. They will need to file a waiver sworn before a notary public that acknowledges the receipt of the petition with the clerk of the court where your suit is filed.
After the papers are filed and served, your spouse has 20 days to respond to the petition. If the respondent fails to do so, the court will decide the terms of the divorce based on the petitioner’s demands
Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce
A divorce may be contested or uncontested.
- Contested Divorce. If you and your spouse cannot agree on one or more issues in the divorce, it is categorized as a contested divorce. In this case, you may need the intervention of the court to finalize the divorce agreement. Since it is beneficial for both parties to come to an agreement by themselves instead of going for a lengthy and expensive trial, you and your spouse can file a written agreement requesting the court refer your suit to mediation. This can be an easier and cheaper way of reaching a settlement that benefits both parties.
- Uncontested Divorce. If you and your spouse agree on all the terms, including custody, support and property-related issues, it is referred to as an uncontested divorce. For an uncontested divorce in Texas, you can file your divorce settlement agreement with the court and this will become the final judgment.
The court will not grant a divorce before 60 days from the date on which the original petition was filed. This waiting period does not apply in cases where a spouse is convicted of family violence or the petitioner has a protective order against the spouse.
How Can a Divorce Attorney Help You?
Hiring a lawyer is advisable in divorce cases, especially in contested divorces because they can help you fight for your rights and represent your interest in the court. It is also beneficial to work with a divorce attorney in uncontested divorces since they can advise you about the laws applicable to your case and help you make decisions that benefit you and your family.
Divorce requires the parties involved negotiate on many issues at a time when they are overwhelmed with emotions. This increases the chances of unnecessary delays or decisions that you may regret later. Having a lawyer by your side can ground you as they make sure you are practical with your choices and focused on the outcome.
If you and your spouse disagree on matters that affect your and your family’s future, like property division, alimony, child support and custody, your lawyer will make sure you are not cheated and receive a fair settlement. They can end up saving you thousands of dollars and help you reach an amicable agreement that suits both parties.