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.

  1. Step One: jurisdiction. If you have lived in Texas for more than 6 months, you can file for divorce in Texas.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 once signed.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
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