Choosing to file for divorce is a difficult decision that will affect your family’s future, property, and well-being.
To officially start the divorce process, a petition for divorce needs to be filed to give the Texas divorce court jurisdiction to enter a final decree.
Whether the terms of your divorce are contested or agreed upon, every divorce starts with a Texas divorce petition.
At The Larson Law Office, our Texas divorce lawyers think the initial step is one of the most important. Here’s how divorce cases start in Texas.
Step 1: Find the Right County to File Your Divorce Petition in Texas
Before a court can accept your divorce petition, you or your spouse must meet the county and Texas residency requirements. First, you or your spouse must have lived in Texas for at least the last six months.
Second, you must have lived in the county where you want to file for at least the last 90 days. The divorce petition is filed in the corresponding county court, each of which will have its own rules for divorce petitions and related procedures.
Step 2: Determine if Your Divorce Is Agreed or Contested
If you and your spouse can agree on terms and sign the divorce papers, you can file for an uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce simply means that you and your spouse have agreed on all aspects of child custody and support, property division, and spousal support.
If you cannot agree, you have a contested divorce. Attorney representation when facing either a contested divorce or an uncontested divorce is often quite helpful.
Step 3: Texas Divorce Petition
The structure of the divorce petition depends on whether your divorce will affect children in addition to property. You should seriously consider hiring an attorney when you file a contested divorce.
Contact an attorney to file a divorce where you and your spouse cannot agree on the terms. Even with an uncontested divorce, it is important to have the divorce decree drafted correctly, so the assistance of an experienced attorney can be critically important.
Step 4: Additional Issues in a Texas Original Petition for Divorce
To complete a Texas divorce petition, the following issues need to be addressed:
- How you plan to notify the other spouse of the divorce petition;
- Whether you or your spouse meet the county and Texas residency requirements;
- The dates of your marriage and separation;
- The grounds for divorce (uncontested Texas divorces are typically “no-fault”);
- Your plans for child support, custody, and visitation;
- If the wife is pregnant;
- If the wife had children outside the marriage, the children’s names, and whether you have established paternity;
- Information about any protective order or pending application for protective order involving you and your spouse;
- Your plans to divide property and debt (Texas is a community property state, so all property acquired during the marriage is subject to fair division);
- Whether you want to change your name back to a name you used before marriage;
- Any effects on children’s healthcare or dental insurance; and
- Whether you need the court to keep your personal information private from your spouse for safety reasons.
Step 5: File Your Divorce Petition with the County Court
The Original Petition for Divorce and other completed starting documents are electronically filed with the county’s district clerk’s office. The clerk will assign your case a “Cause Number” and “Court Number” and stamp your petition with the time and date.
Step 6: Serve the Divorce Petition on Your Spouse or Obtain Waiver of Service
Filing a divorce petition in Texas starts the divorce, but your spouse must be served. Your spouse is served with a copy of the petition stamped by the clerk and a document generated by the district clerk’s office called a citation.
Filing the divorce petition begins the 60-day waiting period needed before you can finalize your divorce if it is agreed.
Step 7: Attend a Hearing to Finalize the Divorce
If you and your spouse are able to work out the details of your divorce, either informally or in mediation, you will appear before a judge to have your plans approved.
If you have an agreement outside of mediation, the family court judge will review your plans for child support and custody, spousal support, and property division.
If everything in your Final Decree of Divorce appears fair and complies with the law regarding property outside of mediation, judges typically approve uncontested divorces without issue.
Judges conduct a “best interest of the child” hearing for child-related agreements outside of mediation. If your agreement was established in mediation, the judge loses the ability to reject your agreement.
The Larson Law Office Can Help You File a Petition for Divorce in Texas
Texas divorce law is complicated. Let the experienced family law attorneys at The Larson Law Office help. We can discuss your options for filing your Divorce Petition.