If you filed for divorce in Texas and your spouse is unresponsive, you likely have questions about what to do next to finalize the divorce and how long this process might take.
Fortunately, spouses that file for divorce in Texas can pursue what’s called a default divorce if your spouse does not respond to the petition for divorce or if you believe that your spouse will not be willing to participate in the divorce process.
A default divorce is not automatic, though. You must allow the other spouse ample time to respond to your formal request for divorce. There are other factors in play depending on whether you have children or do not have children. Let’s examine this option for a legal divorce.
General Timeline for Pursuing a Default Divorce in Texas
In Texas, there is a 60-day waiting period after filing an Original Petition for Divorce. The Texas Family Code requires this to allow ample time for both parties to determine if this is actually what they want to do.
Even if your spouse has given no indication that they will respond to your divorce request or have made it clear they want nothing to do with the divorce process, you cannot finalize the divorce before 60 days has expired. The only exceptions allowed by Texas law include the following:
- Your spouse has been convicted of an offense involving family violence.
- You have an active protective order or have been approved for an emergency protection order against your spouse based on family violence during the marriage.
There are two other key timeline aspects. This can be confusing to keep track of, but the bottom line is that your spouse must be given ample time to file an answer to your petition for divorce.
- 20-day waiting period: your spouse must be given the opportunity to file an answer after being served with divorce papers. If your spouse does not respond within this window – and the initial 60 days have passed – then you can complete the divorce by default.
- 10-day waiting period: the court-appointed individual who serves your spouse with divorce papers will file a timestamped “Return of Service” form stating when your spouse was served. This form must be filed for at least 10 days before you can finalize the divorce.
At a minimum, it will take about two months to finalize a default divorce (unless there are exceptions to the 60-day rule). It could take longer depending on circumstances such as when your spouse is served, whether your spouse eventually files a response, and other extenuating circumstances such as whether there are holidays involved in the timeline or whether the court is backlogged and unable to finalize your divorce in a prompt manner.
Finalizing the Divorce Divorce Without Children Involved
The actual process of finalizing a default divorce is different with respect to children. If you do not have children with your spouse, you will be able to finalize the divorce through a specific set of legal documents.
You will file an Original Petition for Divorce not involving children. You will then want to follow these steps to finalize the divorce:
- After the waiting period is over, call the country clerk where you filed the divorce papers. Find out whether your spouse filed an answer. If your spouse did not file a response, you can take the appropriate steps to finalize the divorce by default. However, if your spouse filed an answer, you are not allowed to finish the divorce by default. You will then need to finish the divorce through an agreement, which is another process in itself. I recommend immediately contacting me for legal representation in this situation.
- If your spouse did not file a response, the next step is to verify that your spouse was served with papers, verify that all of the waiting periods have been met, and then complete the final paperwork at the county clerk’s office.
- You will need to visit the court to finish the divorce by default. You should call the county clerk to check when the court will hear an uncontested divorce case. Then, during your court appearance, you will need to provide testimony to finalize the divorce. After hearing your testimony, the judge will then sign the Final Decree of Divorce. I recommend having me present during the court hearing to guide you through this process.
- You will then file the Final Decree of Divorce with an indication that you are requesting a Default Divorce without children. The clerk will then provide you with certified copies of the finalized divorce, which you can utilize for follow-ups such as changing your name and other personal matters.
Finalizing the Default Divorce With Children Involved
Pursuing a default divorce with children requires a different set of legal documents. There are also additional verification points regarding child custody and child support if you and your spouse have children that are 18-years-old or younger (or are still in high school).
Mainly, there cannot be any existing court orders for child custody or child support of your children. If there is such a court order, then you will need to walk through the standard divorce process. I can help you with that.
Another main difference when children are involved is that you will file a different type of Original Petition for Divorce so that you can make note of your children included in the divorce process.
Then, you will follow the same steps of waiting for the appropriate waiting periods to be completed, verifying that your spouse has not responded to being served, and appearing before the court.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will sign the Final Decree of Divorce and will typically include additional orders regarding your children and related situations involved in your case.
- One of these orders is typically a Standard Possession Order. I will provide you with legal support to ensure that this order is satisfactory for you and your family.
- Another typical order is an Income Withholding Order for your ex-spouse to provide child support. If your ex-spouse remains unresponsive, I can provide legal help with enforcing the order.
Contact Me For Default Divorce Support in Texas
Whether or not children are involved in the process of ending your marriage, the process of pursuing a default divorce in Texas comes with many challenges. I can help you navigate the timeline and help you arrive at the best possible outcome for you and your family.
I help individuals in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County by providing expert legal representation. If you live in one of these counties and need support finalizing a divorce, please contact me for support.
Call my offices right away at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to discuss a default divorce. I’m here to help you complete the process.