Here is everything to know about a Texas divorce

How do you start a divorce in Texas?

One spouse begins divorce proceedings by filing an Original Petition for Divorce with the court. Those papers are then served to the other spouse.

Who is the “petitioner” and who is the “respondent” in a divorce?

The “petitioner” is the spouse who starts the divorce by filing an original petition for divorce with the court. The “respondent” is the other spouse.

Is Texas a community property State or equitable division state?

Texas is a community property state but does not necessarily divide items 50/50. Texas family law requires a “just and right division” between spouses; so if there is fault or blame in the divorce, that will be taken into consideration. Most community property states require an even division, but allowing “fault” divorces changes that equation in Texas.

Related: Divorce Mediation in Texas: The Ultimate Guide

Is there alimony in Texas divorce cases?

Texas is one of the most challenging states to obtain alimony or spousal support in a divorce. Spouses may seek an agreement with a contract allowing for more spousal support than a Texas court may offer. There are two reasons for alimony:

  1. The spouse from whom alimony is requested received deferred adjudication for family violence within two years from filing a dissolution of the marriage or while the suit is pending.
  2. The marriage lasted more than 10 years, the spouse seeking support does not have sufficient property or income and if the spouse seeking spousal support either:
  • Cannot support themselves because of a physical or mental disability
  • A custodial parent of a child who needs substantial care because of a physical or mental disability makes it impossible for that spouse to obtain employment
  • The spouse does not have the earning ability to provide for minimum needs

Related: Texas Spousal Support FAQs

Is Texas a Fault or No-Fault Divorce

In Texas, spouses can file for either a fault or no-fault divorce. In a no-fault divorce, the judge would not consider any “faults” when determining property, assets, and child custody allocation. The judge divides all items equally. Fault divorces may be more expensive and time-consuming, as the spouse needs to show the judge proof. In fault divorces, a wife may “blame” her spouse for the divorce, which may offer her additional benefits regarding child custody, property, and assets.

Grounds for divorce:

  • Insupportable (i.e. irreconcilable differences)
  • Cruelty
  • Adultery
  • Conviction of felony
  • Abandonment
  • Living apart
  • Confinement in a mental hospital

How long does a divorce take in Texas?

Texas requires a “cooling off period” after a spouse files the paperwork to initiate divorce. Uncontested divorces may occur just after this period ends, while those disagreeing over terms of the divorce can take months and even go to trial. Each case varies based on the parties agreeing to the terms.

Can couples “separate” in Texas?

No, the state of Texas does not recognize legal separation. However, spouses living separately for at least three years can be used when filing a “fault” divorce as a cause.

Do you need to be a resident of Texas to file for divorce in the state?

You need to be a Texas resident for a minimum of six months to file for divorce in Texas. You must also live in your local county for ninety days.

Do you need an attorney to get a divorce in Texas?

You do not need an attorney to obtain a divorce, but they can guide you through the process, paperwork, and any court hearings. It may be wise to have your own legal advice during a divorce and not share a lawyer with a spouse. If you represent yourself, it is called “pro se.”

What are temporary orders?

Temporary orders are instructions from a judge on specific items or situations that are to be followed until an official divorce agreement is reached. The temporary orders from the court can include items such as prohibiting the closing of bank accounts or credit cards, stopping parents from taking children out of state or moving, deciding where spouses and children will live, and temporary spousal and child support.

What is a divorce waiting period?

In Texas, the court can’t grant the divorce until at least 60 days have passed since a spouse filed the divorce petition. There are two exceptions to this:

  • A spouse received deferred adjudication for an offense involving family violence against the petitioner or a member of the petitioner’s household
  • A spouse has an active protective order against the responding spouse based on a finding of family violence

How long do you have to be separated before you can file for divorce in Texas?

There is no separation requirement to divorce in Texas. The only requirement is couples have to be living in the state of Texas for six months and a resident in the local county for ninety days to file for divorce.

Do I have to go to court?

No, you do not necessarily have to go to court to divorce in Texas. If you and your spouse agree on the division of possessions, access to children, child support, and property division, the only time you would need to be in court is for finalizing and signing. If you and your spouse cannot agree, you may need to go to trial.

What if my spouse cannot be found when serving divorce papers?

If you have done everything in your power to locate your spouse and you still cannot, papers will be posted in the courthouse and notices will be printed in the newspaper. This is called being served via publication. The missing spouse has 60 days to respond, if they do not, divorce proceedings will go on without them.

What if my spouse does not want a divorce?

The same process is used when a spouse refuses to acknowledge a divorce. When one spouse does not want the divorce and refuses to be served, the court, after a waiting period, continues on without them. Papers will be posted via publication if the spouse refuses to sign them.

What petitions do I need to file?

Initially, you will have to petition for divorce. If children are involved you may also need a Health Insurance Availability Affidavit. These papers will then be served to your spouse via a third party.

How do I prove “fault” in my divorce?

The court will hear witness testimonies regarding the accusation of fault. This can be any evidence from emails, Facebook posts, phone calls, and documents. When gathering evidence, work with a divorce attorney to be sure the evidence is effective.

Can I change my name during the divorce?

Yes, you can. When you file your petition you can request a name change that will be final upon the entry of the final decree of divorce. Then you will go through the necessary government agencies to get all of your government issues documents changed.

Can I get medical insurance benefits through my spouse’s employer after the divorce?

Due to COBRA, covered spouses may continue their medical insurance coverage through an ex-spouse’s plan for a maximum of 36 months after the divorce. The employer can charge you for this coverage. You must file the papers with your spouse’s employer no later than 60 days after your divorce.

What if my spouse does not live in Texas?

As long as you meet the residency requirements for divorce, you can get divorced in Texas even if your spouse lives in another state. The court must have personal jurisdiction over your out-of-state spouse to include orders in your divorce that impose a personal obligation on your spouse.

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