If you’re considering a legal divorce in Texas, understanding the process is essential. By knowing what to expect, you can make decisions with confidence and prepare for the legal steps ahead.
While each divorce is unique, there are some general stages of a divorce that all situations follow in Texas. Learn more about what to expect step by step during the journey.
Most Critical Stages of a Divorce in Texas
Here are the five main milestones you’ll need to complete during a divorce in the Lone Star State.
1. Deciding to Proceed With a Divorce
Before you officially begin the divorce process, you’ll need to take some time to plan. For some people, this may involve counseling and making sure you’re prepared for the emotional and financial changes that come with divorce.
Even if you’re certain that you want to go through with a divorce, there are still many decisions to make. For starters, you’ll need to determine which spouse will execute the initial filing and on what grounds.
If the divorce is a mutual decision, talk with your spouse about the role each of you will have in the early filing stages. There is a bit more work for the filing spouse, so it’s important to discuss who will be responsible for that.
If you decide to take on the filing role, be prepared to select the grounds for the divorce, such as cruelty or insupportability (in Texas, this is synonymous with “no fault”). Yes, you can file for divorce without assigning fault to one spouse because Texas is a no fault divorce state.
You will also want to decide whether to work with a family law attorney to support the legal process of the divorce. We certainly recommend this step to protect your interests in a divorce proceeding.
The key is to consult with an attorney before making any big decisions. Having someone on your side early on can help you make informed decisions that set you up for success down the line.
2. Filing for Divorce and Serving Notice
When it’s time to file for divorce, it will be up to you and your attorney to complete the appropriate paperwork in your county and submit it to the court. The divorce petition should include details such as:
- Grounds for the divorce
- Information related to any children you have through the marriage
- A list of assets and debts that need to be divided
- Other specific information related to your situation
Once the paperwork is filed, you’ll need to serve your spouse with notice that they have been served a divorce petition. Texas divorce laws require that this is done through a process server or sheriff.
After receiving the notice, your spouse will need to file a response, either agreeing or disagreeing with the divorce. Their response may also include a counterpetition if they have any requests of their own.
3. Establishing Temporary Orders
After the court has received both the initial petition and the response to the petition, it may schedule hearings for temporary orders.
These orders are typically in place for the duration of the divorce proceedings and are replaced with final orders once the divorce process is completed. Because the length of a divorce can be unpredictable, they are designed to provide stability for both parties during the divorce process.
The exact orders issued in a Texas divorce depend on your and your spouse’s circumstances. Common items addressed by temporary orders include the following:
- Child custody
- Spousal support
- Child support
- Exclusive use of property
4. Mediation and Trial
Suppose your divorce is uncontested, and you reach an agreement on all issues without the need for court intervention. In that case, this stage may involve only mediation, or you may even be able to avoid it altogether.
Mediation occurs when both parties attempt to negotiate an out-of-court settlement. A third-party mediator — who is typically an attorney or a qualified mental health professional — will help you and your spouse communicate, identify issues that need to be addressed, and come to a mutually agreeable resolution.
If you can reach a resolution via mediation, you’ll draft a settlement agreement to be presented to the court for approval.
If your divorce is contested — meaning the parties fail to reach a mutually agreeable resolution — you may be subject to court-ordered mediation, which will likely require a trial.
The trial is a formal court hearing that gives both parties the opportunity to present evidence and argue their case before a judge. The judge will then rule on all contested issues, making decisions on behalf of both parties.
5. Final Divorce Decree
Whether you reach an agreement through mediation or the court decides in a trial, the court will ultimately issue a final divorce decree. This document outlines the decisions made by the court regarding all contested issues, including:
- Property division
- Spousal support
- Child custody
- Other issues pertaining to your case
Agreements made outside of court will also be included in the decree once approved by the judge. This document is legally binding for both parties. Once a judge signs off on it, your divorce will be final, and you’ll be able to move forward with your life.
Find Help Navigating the Stages of a Divorce
We hope this overview of the stages of a divorce in Texas has been helpful. As you continue on your journey, please remember that there are professionals available to help guide you through each stage of a divorce.
At Parker & Aguilar, we are dedicated to helping clients understand their rights and navigate the divorce process with confidence. We currently support clients in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, Galveston County, and Matagorda County. If you live in one of these counties, contact us to discuss your divorce.
You can reach our offices at 979-267-7660 (Angleton office) or 281-944-5485 (Sugar Land office) to speak with a helpful and knowledgeable attorney.