Whether you’re ready to file for divorce or just beginning to research your options, understanding the key steps in the divorce process can help you make informed decisions and plan ahead.
So, what is the process of getting a divorce in Texas? Let’s explore each step so you can better understand what to expect.
1. Getting Started on a Divorce in Texas
There are two types of divorces to be aware of in Texas: contested and uncontested. The type of divorce significantly impacts the later stages of the process, but all Texas divorces follow the same basic steps in the beginning.
Keep in mind that legal separation isn’t an option in Texas, so you’ll need to undergo the divorce process to split legally.
Choose a Divorce Lawyer
No matter how you anticipate your divorce to play out, it’s always wise to consult with a family law attorney before you file anything with the court. An attorney can help ensure you make decisions in your best interest. You’ll be asked to pay attorney fees sometime in the process, so keep this in mind when budgeting for your divorce.
Determine the Grounds for Divorce
Divorces in Texas are either no-fault or fault-based. A no-fault divorce is based on the parties’ incompatibility, whereas a fault-based divorce is based on specific grounds such as adultery, cruel treatment, or abandonment. Your attorney can help you determine which grounds are right for your circumstances.
Make Sure You Meet Residency Requirements
You must meet the state’s residency requirements to qualify for a Texas divorce. You or your spouse must have lived in Texas for at least six months before filing for divorce, and the county in which you file must have been your residence for 90 days.
File the Divorce Petition and Pay the Filing Fees
The next step is to file the Petition for Divorce with the court clerk. This document must include information about your marriage, including the grounds for divorce and your requests for the divorce terms. You’ll also be required to pay the appropriate filing fees.
Provide Official Notice to Your Spouse
Soon after filing for divorce, you’ll need to give your spouse official notice that they’ve been served with the divorce petition. This task is usually completed through a process server.
Wait for Your Spouse to Respond
Once your spouse has been notified of the divorce, they’ll have a limited window of time to respond. Your spouse will have the opportunity to either agree or disagree with the information in your petition. Their decisions at this point in the process will determine whether your divorce will be contested or uncontested.
2. If Your Divorce Is Uncontested in Texas
If both spouses agree with what was requested in the petition, the divorce will be considered uncontested. In this case, the process will move rather quickly.
Wait for the Mandatory Waiting Period to End
In Texas, there’s a mandatory 60-day waiting period between the date of filing and the date that the court can sign your final decree. You’ll need to wait until this period ends before finalizing the divorce.
Present a Signed Settlement Agreement to the Court
Part of an uncontested divorce includes agreeing to a settlement, which outlines the terms of your divorce. The included items will include:
- Child support
- Spousal support
- Real estate division
- Marital property vs. separate property
- Other items pertaining to your situation
The waiting period is a great time to negotiate and discuss these matters. Once you have a signed agreement in place, you’ll need to present it to the court for approval.
Attend a Final Hearing
The court may require you to attend a final hearing, which is usually brief. This hearing allows the judge to review your agreement and ensure it abides by the law. If the judge approves, they’ll sign the final decree, and your divorce will be finalized.
3. If Your Divorce Is Contested in Texas
If your spouse disagrees with the information in the petition, you will need to go through the contested divorce process.
Receive a Trial Date
After receiving your spouse’s response, the court will assign your case a trial date. The trial is usually scheduled several months after the filing date.
Even if the trial is a few months away, you should gather evidence as soon as possible. You’ll want to present all the documents and records that support your side of the divorce case.
Attend Temporary Order Hearings
The court may require you to attend one or more temporary order hearings. During these proceedings, the judge will decide on temporary orders covering the following areas:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Spousal support
- Domestic violence restraining orders (if applicable)
Undergo the Discovery Period
The discovery period is a chance for both parties to exchange any relevant information that will help their case. This step may include exchanging financial information, interrogatories, and depositions. Your attorney will help you navigate this process.
Attempt to Negotiate With Your Spouse
Before the trial, you should attempt to negotiate with your spouse. This option is a great way to avoid the costs and stress of a lengthy court battle. Mediation, collaborative law, or arbitration are all possible options for negotiating a settlement.
If Successful: Draft a Settlement Agreement
If you and your spouse can come to an agreement, you’ll need to draw up a settlement agreement that outlines the terms of your divorce, just like you would in an uncontested divorce. Your trial date will also be canceled, and you’ll proceed to the final hearing.
If Unsuccessful: Go to Trial
If negotiating a settlement isn’t successful, you’ll attend your trial. Both parties will present their case in front of a judge and jury.
After hearing all the testimony and evidence, the judge will rule on the various issues of your divorce and sign the final decree. At this point, the divorce is finalized, but neither party can remarry for at least 30 days.
4. Ultimately, Work With a Texas Divorce Attorney
Regardless of whether you pursue a contested or uncontested divorce, having a divorce attorney on your side through each step can help you avoid any missteps that could complicate the process.
If you’re considering filing for divorce in Texas, contact Parker & Aguilar to discuss your case. We’re here to help you navigate the family law system and achieve the best possible outcome.
We currently support clients in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County. If you live in one of these counties, contact us right away at 979-267-7660 (Angleton office) or 281-944-5485 (Sugar Land office).
We can provide you with additional information about your question of, “What is the process of getting a divorce in Texas?” and get started on your case. We are here to help you complete the legal process when pursuing a divorce.