If you are considering filing for divorce in Harris County, or wondering how to file for divorce in Houston, Texas, you probably have a lot of questions.
You’re probably asking yourself, Where do I go to file divorce papers in Harris County? Is it different from filing for divorce in Houston? What papers do I file? How do I file? How much will this cost me? Where do I find a good attorney? Is the process quick?
Divorce is a complicated, time-consuming process. Hopefully this article can help answer some of your questions.
Where to File Divorce Papers in Harris County
If you are a resident of Harris County or Houston, you would file your divorce with the Harris County District Clerk’s office. You can file online. However, you may also be able to file in person. If you reside in a suburb of Houston, such as Montgomery, Galveston, or Waller, you would file with the local county district clerk there.
When you are filing for divorce in Harris County or Houston, you must be a Texas resident for at least six months prior to filing and a Harris County resident for 90 days prior. It is not mandatory that both spouses be residents of Harris County, or even of Texas.
Steps to File for Divorce in Houston and Harris County
Filing for divorce must be done with care, and it is very important not to leave any information out on the forms.
- Divorce proceedings begin when an original petition for divorce is filed online with a Case Information Sheet.
- The local county clerk also gets a copy of the petition, and the filing spouse pays the filing fee.
- A process server or constable serves your spouse with the petition. If your spouse is agreeable, you can have them sign a waiver of service instead. If you do not know where your spouse is residing, you must make a reasonable effort to locate them. If you’re not able to find your spouse, you would have them served by posting, so long as there are no kids involved.
- Next your spouse must answer the petition, either with an original answer or a counter-petition for divorce.
- The Harris County court coordinator can provide information about when the judge schedules final hearings. You or your attorney must make a reasonable effort to reach out to your spouse and agree upon a final hearing date. If you could not agree upon a date with your spouse, they must at least get 45 days notice.
- Your spouse must be served with a file-stamped copy of the hearing notice.
- There is a mandatory 60-day waiting period after you file the petition before the hearing, though most divorces do not happen even that quickly. The court will make exceptions for annulments or in domestic violence situations.
- At the hearing, the judge will review your and your spouse’s requests, and you can present testimony or other evidence and information. The judge will make his or her findings and sign the final decree of divorce.
Though you do not necessarily need an attorney for a divorce, it is not advisable to proceed pro se. it would be smart to at least hire a lawyer for advice.
What If Your Spouse Doesn’t Want a Divorce?
If your spouse doesn’t want a divorce or if there are any issues that you both cannot easily agree upon, it is a contested divorce. You will need to have your spouse served, as they likely will not be amenable to waiving process.
The court may appoint an amicus attorney or guardian ad litem to act in the best interests of the children. The court may also order you and your spouse to meet with a mediator to try to resolve any lingering issues about custody, child support, or property division.
What Is an Uncontested Divorce?
An uncontested divorce is common in simpler situations such as where the parties do not have much property, do not have children, or have already agreed on all issues. To qualify for an uncontested divorce, the parties must:
- Agree to be divorced;
- Agree on all issues; and
- Voluntarily sign all papers.
If the parties disagree on any issue, they can not get an uncontested divorce.
How to File for an Uncontested Divorce in Harris County
The process for an uncontested divorce follows pretty much the same steps as those outlined above, with a few small differences:
- The filing party files the original petition of divorce and the other party signs a waiver of service or is served with process.
- The filing spouse provides all the information about the agreements made between the two parties.
- The attorney prepares the final decree of divorce, which both parties sign.
- Sixty days after the petition, one spouse (usually the filing party) appears in court to present the final decree to the judge in a prove up hearing.
An uncontested divorce is cheaper, less stressful, and less time-consuming but, unfortunately, not common.
What Are the Benefits of Working with a Divorce Attorney?
Divorce is a very complicated and time-consuming process. It can be an exhausting, emotional process even if you are confident in your decision. An experienced divorce attorney that is familiar with the laws, processes, and local judges can take a lot of that stress off your shoulders. Attorneys are trained to protect your legal rights.
Divorce involves family relationships, property rights, and personal finances. It is especially important to have an attorney if you have a large amount of assets or debts, if your spouse has an attorney, or if you are afraid for your or your children’s safety.
Contact the Larson Law Office to Handle Your Divorce in Houston and Harris County
At The Larson Law Office, our practice focuses on family law matters including divorce, custody, mediation, marital property division, and spousal support. We will work closely with you to help you make the best possible decisions for yourself, your children, and your property. Contact us today and discover why we are Houston’s trusted family law attorneys.