This post is first in a series of super simple FAQs related to Texas divorce
How do you file for divorce in Texas?
A Texas divorce follows basically the same process whether you have attorneys
or represent yourself, whether you have children or not, whether you have
a lot of assets or little.
Step One: jurisdiction. If you have lived in Texas for more than 6 months, you can file for divorce in Texas.
Step Two: venue. Determine what county either you/your spouse or your children live in
for at least 90 days. If not the same for all, the county the children
live in will control.
Step Three: petition. Prepare a petition for divorce. This is the document that opens the court’s
file and begins the process. The petition will tell the court what your
position is regarding the issues in the divorce. This may include whether
a no-fault divorce or fault-based divorce is alleged, who should have
conservatorship of the children, and whether any separate property exists
that should be confirmed to a spouse. The petition must remain on file
at least 60 days before finalizing the divorce – called the “cooling
off” period. A contested divorce may last much longer than 60 days.
Step four: service. Notify your spouse of the filing of the petition. If it is an agreed divorce,
then the spouse can sign a waiver of service. Otherwise, the spouse must
be formally served with citation of the divorce. The clerk of the court
will issue the citation and it should be served personally upon the opposing
spouse by a constable or private process server.
Step five: temporary orders. If the divorce is not agreed, temporary orders may be necessary to set
out some operating rules while the divorce works through the process.
This could include seeking temporary orders on conservatorship or custody
of the children, temporary child support, temporary spousal support, determination
of who will live in the marital residence, how the marital bills will
be paid, and how the attorneys will be paid.
Step six: discovery. Written discovery can be sent to the other spouse if information is needed
prior to resolving the issues. This may include standard questions in
a request for disclosure, written questions in interrogatories, request
for document production, oral questioning in a deposition, or request
documents or information from third parties. In most divorces, agreed
or contested, the parties will exchange sworn inventories listing that
spouse’s opinion about the nature, character, and value of the marital
assets and debts.
Step seven: settlement negotiations. The parties should make a good faith effort to settle their case prior
to a contested trial. Settlement negotiations can be attempted either
between the parties or through the attorneys. Some find success in holding
a settlement conference with the parties and attorneys all in one room
together. If that is not successful, the parties should attempt mediation.
Mediation is required by most courts prior to having a final contested
trial. Mediation is a process where the parties and attorneys meet with
a neutral third party to try to reach a settlement. If settlement is reached,
the parties will sign a mediated settlement agreement, which is irrevocable
Step eight: final trial. Finally, if the parties cannot settle their differences between themselves
then the case will be submitted to a judge for decision on the contested
issues after presentation of evidence and trial.
Step nine: divorce decree. The divorce is concluded with the entry of a final divorce decree, signed
by the judge, which addresses all of the issues regarding the marriage,
children, and property division.
Step ten: closing documents. Certain closing documents may be necessary to complete the divorce process.
The most common extra document is a child support withholding order so
the child support amount is automatically withheld from the obligor’s
paycheck. Other closing documents may be necessary to divide real property,
retirement accounts, or cars, especially when such items are held jointly.