DIFFICULTY: Legal assistance is required
Initial Filing Fee: $250 to $300
In Texas, there are two types of divorce: contested and uncontested. In a contested case, one of the parties does not agree about getting a divorce, what to do with your children (if any), or how to divide your property and / or debt. A case is considered uncontested if both parties agree on all issues, such as those mentioned above. You can get divorced in Texas as long as you or your spouse have lived in the state for at least 6 months, and you will want to file for divorce in the county where at least one of you has lived for 90 days. It is possible to proceed without involving lawyers in the case of an uncontested divorce. In the case of a contested divorce, however, it is highly suggested that both parties employ lawyers to help with the negotiations. Should your spouse and you have any substantial investments or sources of money, such as property or a 401(k), you will also want to gather this information together, if possible, before filing for divorce. Also, if the wife in a relationship is pregnant, then a court will usually refuse to finalize a divorce until the baby is born so that it can be included in the terms. This includes cases where the husband is not the father as well.
Step 1: Fill Out the Divorce Petition
You need to begin by filling out a divorce petition and submitting it to your local court. You will need to make two copies of the original, one for yourself and one to be sent to your spouse. The court will then file the original after you have paid the fee. There are two types of forms, one for cases where children aren’t involved and one for cases where children are involved.
Step 2: Give Your Spouse Notice
After you file the petition, you need to provide your spouse with a copy of the Divorce Petition stamped by a clerk. You can either give the copy to your spouse yourself, have an official server provide it to them, or, in cases where they cannot be found, you can have a notice of intent to divorce published or posted. Your spouse will then either answer your petition, meaning they will go to court, or provide a Waiver of Citation saying they agree to everything and do not wish or need to be involved in the proceedings. Again, the two forms differ depending on whether or not children are involved in the divorce.
Step 3: Wait for Finalization
In Texas, you generally wait at least 61 days before the divorce can be finalized. While it is fine to wait longer, the period is usually only shortened in cases where the spouse was officially served or a publication / posting had to be made.
Step 4: Determine if the Divorce is Contested or Uncontested
If your spouse did not answer or if they signed the waiver, then your divorce is uncontested and can proceed whenever you can get a date to be before a judge. If your spouse did answer, however, then the divorce is considered contested. This means they do not agree to one or more of your stated conditions in the petition for divorce. If this is the case, you will need to work with them until you both reach a settlement you can agree on. This is where lawyers routinely become involved, if they have not been already.
Step 5: Compose Your Decree of Divorce
Once you and your spouse agree upon a settlement, you will fill out a final decree of divorce to bring with you before the judge and have signed. This form essentially tells the judge how everything will be divided in the divorce, laying out all the details. In the case of couples with children, there is again a separate form and you will want to provide additional details about each area in the form of Exhibits.
Step 6: Go to Court
Once you and your spouse have reached an agreement, you will want to bring a copy of your Original Petition for Divorce, the Waiver of Citation or Answer, and your final Decree of Divorce. If your spouse never answered, then you proceed by default and need to provide a copy of the Original Petition for Divorce, your final Decree of Divorce, a Certificate of Last Known Mailing Address concerning your spouse, and an Information On Suit Affecting the Family Relation form. The judge will review these and sign all relevant forms.
Step 7: File the Divorce Paperwork
Once you are done in court, you need to file all the divorce paperwork at the Clerk’s Office. The Clerk will make copies of the paperwork and certify a copy of the divorce decree if you request it, though this will likely cost a fee.