Approximately 50% of married couples in the United States divorce, representing the sixth-highest divorce rate in the world.
Second marriages see an even higher divorce rate of 60%. About 11% of Texans are divorced.
No one begins their marriage expecting it to end in divorce. As you can see, it happens rather frequently. Typically, the first thing someone asks is how to file for divorce in Texas without a lawyer.
However, not every party seeking a divorce in Texas should proceed without a lawyer. We’ve outlined the steps you should follow to determine if you can finalize your divorce without lawyers in Texas, and when you should contact a divorce attorney. If you need a divorce lawyer or have questions about the DIY divorce process in Texas, contact The Larson Law Office today.
Steps for Securing an Uncontested Divorce in Texas Without a Lawyer
In some cases, divorce proceedings contain explosive and divisive allegations that justify the need to hire a divorce attorney to help you navigate the case. Alternatively, some divorce cases conclude with both parties coming to an agreement with minimal resistance.
Texas refers to the latter as uncontested divorces. Uncontested means the parties to the divorce came to an agreement on what they want to happen. In some cases, you can obtain an uncontested divorce in Texas without a lawyer.
Texas is a no-fault divorce state. That means that a court can grant your divorce without assigning “fault” to either party. Instead, parties typically file for divorce on grounds of “insupportability.” Insupportability means that neither party wants the marriage to continue.
To establish insupportability, the court will typically ask both parties if the marriage has become insupportable because of a discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marriage relationship and that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. As long as you and your spouse answer yes, these grounds will typically be sufficient.
Step 1: Meet the Texas Residency Requirements
To file for divorce in Texas, you need to meet the residency requirements to do so. You can file for divorce in the Texas county where you reside as long as: (1) you have lived in the county for at least the last 90 days; and (2) you have lived in the State of Texas for at least the last six months.
You can file for divorce in the Texas county where your spouse resides as long as: (1) your spouse has lived in the county for at least the last 90 days; and (2) your spouse has lived in the State of Texas for at least the last six months. If you do not meet these residency requirements, you cannot file for divorce in Texas until you do.
Step 2: File Your Original Petition for Divorce
You begin the process of divorce by filing an Original Petition for Divorce at the courthouse. The Petition asks for your name, your spouse’s name, confirmation that you meet the Texas residency requirements, the date of your marriage and separation, and other information about your marriage.
If you have minor children, own property, or have a protection order against your spouse, the Petition will require more information. Additionally, if you have minor children with your spouse, you must complete the Information on Suit Affecting the Family Relationship form. If you need help filling out your Petition, one of our divorce attorneys at The Larson Law Offices can help.
Step 3: Have Your Spouse Waive Service or File an Answer
Step 4: Complete the Final Decree of Divorce Form
In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse will complete an agreed-upon Final Decree of Divorce. Make sure you fill out the entire decree, except the space for the judge’s signature. A judge will most likely approve an agreed Final Decree of Divorce as long as you can show that the distribution of property and debt are fair to both parties and that proposed orders about the children are in their best interests.
After you and your spouse sign the Final Decree of Divorce, keep the signed copy until it is time to conclude your case. Keep in mind that if your spouse refuses to sign the final decree, that means your divorce is contested.
Step 5: Wait 60 Days
Texas requires a 60-day waiting period before you can finish your divorce in court. The 60-day count begins on the day after you file the Petition. Two exceptions exist to the 60-day waiting period.
If your spouse was convicted of or received deferred adjudication for a crime involving family violence against you or a member of your household, the waiting period is waived.
The same is true if you have an active protection order or an active magistrate’s order for emergency protection against your spouse because of family violence during the marriage.
Step 6: Go to Court
After the waiting period expires, you’re ready to go to court and finalize your divorce. At court, you’ll have to attest to some basic facts to complete the divorce process. If you are concerned about providing truthful testimony, consult with a divorce attorney before going to court. Remember, lying to the judge constitutes a crime.
Step 7: File Your Final Decree of Divorce with Judge’s Signature
Go to court with your Petition, a file-stamped copy of the Respondent’s Original Answer or Waiver of Service Only form, and your Final Decree of Divorce. You might need additional documents if you have minor children.
When the judge calls your case, the judge will speak to you briefly and review your documentation. As long as you meet the requirements laid out above, the judge will sign your Final Decree of Divorce. After receiving the judge’s signature, file your Final Decree of Divorce with the court clerk. This step finalizes the divorce.
When Should I Avoid Filing for Divorce in Texas Without a Lawyer?
While getting a divorce in Texas without a lawyer might seem like the best option, it’s highly recommended that you consult with a divorce attorney if the following is true:
- You are afraid for your or your children’s safety;
- Your spouse hired a divorce lawyer;
- Your spouse plans to contest the divorce;
- You need spousal support;
- You and your spouse own real estate;
- You need assistance with child support issues;
- You are dividing retirement accounts;
- You are dividing other investment accounts;
- You want financial disclosures done by your spouse before reaching an agreement;
- You suspect money or assets have been hidden by your spouse; or
- You want help navigating complicated visitation, and rights/duties issues.
If you have more questions about the divorce process in Texas, our team of divorce attorneys can help. Erik and Diana Larson each have over 20 years of experience practicing law in Texas and can use that expertise to your benefit. Contact our office today for a free consultation.