Not all divorces in Texas need to involve heated, drawn-out court battles. In some situations, it may be possible to resolve all divorce-related issues outside of court through an amicable divorce. But what is an amicable divorce, exactly?
An amicable divorce is an alternative to the stereotypical contentious divorce that is often portrayed in the media. This option allows couples to negotiate a mutually favorable agreement about the terms for ending their marriage without involving a judge in the decision-making process.
By pursuing an amicable divorce and negotiating the terms of your divorce without the court’s involvement, you can save a substantial amount of time, money, and emotional energy. However, this type of divorce is not right for everyone. If you are interested in this option, there are a few things you need to know before getting started.
“What is An Amicable Divorce?” – the Classification in Texas
The official term for an amicable divorce in Texas is an “uncontested divorce.” A divorce is uncontested when both spouses agree on all of the terms of their divorce, including:
- Property division
- Child support
- Spousal support
- Child custody
- Parenting time
- The grounds for divorce
If even one issue is disputed, the divorce is no longer classified as uncontested. Rather, the divorce would be classified as “contested.” The entire divorce process would be handled in court rather than through an independent divorce agreement between the spouses.
Qualifying for Amicable Divorce
The grounds for divorce is one of the biggest factors affecting whether the divorce is uncontested. When filing the initial divorce petition, the petitioning spouse will need to specify what grounds they are seeking the divorce on.
A Texas divorce can be filed on “fault” or “no-fault” grounds, which implies whether or not the other spouse is to blame for the dissolution of the marriage due to factors like adultery or cruelty.
If the petitioner files on “insupportability” grounds, the divorce is considered no-fault. While state law doesn’t explicitly prohibit a fault-based divorce from being uncontested, it’s highly unlikely that both spouses will be in full agreement on this issue — which is essential for uncontested divorces.
Even if your divorce is filed on no-fault grounds, it can only be amicable if both spouses can come to a good-faith agreement about all of the other matters related to the divorce.
Aside from simply ending the marriage, the desired end result of a divorce is a final divorce decree. This legally-binding document outlines the rights and responsibilities of each party post-divorce, including child support or spousal support obligations, how assets and debts will be divided, and more.
These are the terms that the spouses must negotiate when seeking an uncontested divorce, and if they can’t reach an agreement about every single issue, the divorce will need to proceed as a contested case.
The Process of Obtaining an Amicable Divorce
The uncontested divorce process in Texas begins just like any other divorce.
One spouse, called the petitioner, initiates the divorce case by filing a divorce petition with the court in their county of residence and paying the mandatory filing fees.
To complete this step, the state’s residency requirements for divorce must be satisfied. This means that either spouse has lived in the state of Texas for at least six months before filing and in the county where the divorce will be filed for a minimum of 90 days.
In the divorce petition, the petitioner will need to indicate the grounds for divorce and the desired terms of the divorce. Once the court receives the petition, an authorized third party generally needs to serve a copy of the petition to the other spouse, known as the respondent.
However, this requirement can usually be removed in an uncontested case if the respondent files a Waiver of Service Only form, which acknowledges that they have received the petition directly from the petitioner.
After receiving the petition, the respondent has 20 days to respond to it by filing a formal answer with the court. This step is where the divorce is classified as either contested or uncontested. If the respondent’s answer indicates that they don’t dispute any of the terms being sought, the case will proceed as an uncontested divorce.
If they have not already done so, the spouses will need to iron out the details of their divorce settlement and outline its terms in the Final Decree of Divorce.
Once this document is completed and signed by both parties, it must be submitted to the court for the judge’s final approval. After the judge reviews the Decree, they will sign it, officially dissolving the marriage.
The Importance of Working With a Texas Family Law Attorney
It is highly recommended that anyone seeking a divorce in Texas – whether contested or uncontested – works with an experienced divorce lawyer throughout the process.
Even though you and your spouse may have an amicable relationship, having a divorce attorney on board is critical to ensure that all of the necessary paperwork is filed correctly and that any proposed agreements are fair and legally sound. Otherwise, you risk giving up certain rights or putting yourself in a difficult legal situation that could affect you later in life.
If you’re interested in seeking an amicable divorce, the Texas family law office of Parker & Aguilar is here for you. We’ll help you determine if an amicable divorce suits your situation. We’ll also offer sound legal advice through each step of the divorce process.
We currently support spouses in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, Galveston County, and Matagorda County. If you live in one of these counties, contact us today to discuss your situation.
You can reach our offices at 979-267-7660 (Angleton office) or 281-944-5485 (Sugar Land office) to speak with one of our helpful attorneys. We can help answer more of your questions related to, “What is an amicable divorce in Texas?” and provide you with helpful guidance on the divorce journey.
Contact us today to learn more and get started on your case.