Deciding to end your marriage can be the beginning of a difficult time in your life.
There is a lot to think about when you are considering leaving your spouse, and the process can feel overwhelming.
Here, we will discuss the basics of marriage dissolution in Texas so you can decide if dissolution is right for you.
Dissolution vs. Divorce: What’s the Difference?
The dissolution of a marriage means that the marriage has legally ended. In Texas, dissolution of marriage is no different than divorce. The Texas Family Code uses the terms dissolution and divorce interchangeably. Both a dissolution and a divorce begin when one spouse files a petition with the court. This petition is most commonly called a petition for divorce, but it can also be called a petition for dissolution.
In some states, however, there is a difference between dissolution vs. divorce. Certain states consider a marriage dissolved when a couple reaches a complete agreement on the terms of the dissolution. Once the couple has reached an agreement on division of property, alimony, child custody, etc., they can jointly file a petition for dissolution.
In Texas, when both spouses agree on the terms for ending their marriage, they can file an uncontested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, a couple presents their written divorce agreement to a judge at a hearing. The judge then finalizes the divorce if the agreement is reasonable. Texas courts refer to both uncontested and contested divorce proceedings as marriage dissolution.
How Do You Get a Marriage Dissolution Texas?
The marriage dissolution process in Texas involves several steps.
Talk to Your Spouse
If you and your spouse are on decent terms, you should talk to your spouse about a dissolution before taking any action through the court. Dissolving a marriage is a major change. It may mark the end of a partially happy time for you or your spouse, so this conversation may need to take place over a period of time. If you and your spouse agree on the terms of the dissolution, the rest of the process will be much easier.
Filing a Petition
To formally start a marriage dissolution in Texas, one spouse—the petitioner—must file a petition for divorce and other divorce forms with the court. The court clerk will then assign a hearing date. The petition states the reason the petitioner is seeking dissolution. It also outlines the petitioning spouse’s desired terms for the divorce, including how they want marital property to be divided.
In some cases, the petition for dissolution may state the divorce terms that both spouses agreed upon together. If you and your spouse do not completely agree on the terms of your dissolution, it is a good idea for each of you to hire an experienced divorce attorney. When both sides are represented by an attorney, the dissolution process can be much smoother and less stressful.
Even if you agree on all terms, it is a good idea to have an attorney look over your proposed agreement before you sign it. This can help you protect your interests.
After filing, the petitioning spouse must give the other spouse—the respondent—legal notice of the dissolution proceeding. This notice must be in writing and is usually handed to the respondent spouse in person, either by the petitioner or by another adult. Legal notice of a dissolution includes a copy of any divorce papers that the petitioning spouse filed with the court.
If the respondent spouse disagrees with any of the dissolution terms in these papers, they can file an answer with the court. The respondent’s answer will state the divorce terms that the respondent wants.
Hearings and Mediation
When the petitioning spouse files for dissolution, the court schedules a hearing. What happens next depends mostly on whether both spouses agree on the dissolution terms. If the original petition for divorce included terms to which both parties agreed, a judge will most likely finalize the dissolution at the original scheduled hearing.
If the spouses disagree over one or more terms, they must engage in mediation. Mediation is a process where a neutral third party tries to help the couple reach an agreement. If each spouse has an attorney, the attorneys participate in the mediation process as well.
If the couple cannot reach a settlement through mediation, the court will schedule a trial. At trial, each spouse presents evidence that supports their position in the disagreement. A judge will determine the terms of the dissolution after both parties present their evidence and arguments.
When Is a Dissolution Final?
In Texas, your marriage dissolution is final when a judge signs the decree of divorce in court. If your spouse contested your dissolution, this may happen at the conclusion of trial. If your spouse did not contest the dissolution, the judge may sign a decree at the hearing that reflects the requests in your petition.
Texas law states that a judge must wait at least 60 days after a petition for divorce has been filed before signing a decree of divorce. This 60-day window is called a cooling-off period. The cooling-off period theoretically gives you and your spouse a chance to resolve your differences before your divorce becomes final. Even if you and your spouse agree on everything, it will take at least two months for your marriage to be legally dissolved.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me Dissolve My Marriage?
An experienced family law attorney can make sure you comply with all court requirements for marriage dissolution in Texas. Your attorney can make sure you give your spouse proper legal notice. In addition, it is particularly important to hire an attorney if your spouse contests the dissolution proceeding. An attorney can help you negotiate the terms of your marriage dissolution with your spouse.
The Larson Law Office can help reduce your stress during your marriage dissolution. By offering personal, responsive client service, The Larson Law Office will make sure that you are in experienced and capable hands throughout your dissolution proceeding. Contact The Larson Law Office today to speak with a family law attorney.