With a divorce rate lower than the national average and notable cases shaping the interpretation of divorce laws, Texas provides a comprehensive and evolving legal landscape for couples seeking to end their marriages.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the divorce rate in Texas was 2.1 per 1,000 in 2020, which is lower than the national average of 3.6. Notably, in the 2009 case of Sharp v. Sharp, the Texas Supreme Court held that the unequal distribution of property in a divorce settlement can be considered unfair and may be overturned. This decision changed how property division is approached in Texas divorce cases and has been widely cited in other state and federal courts.
As a no-fault divorce state, Texas can grant a divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences between spouses without the need to prove fault. Provided there aren't exceptional circumstances at play, like domestic violence, the state has a waiting period of 60 days from the time the divorce is filed before it can be granted. These laws provide a framework for ending a marriage in the state, taking into account the rights and interests of both parties.
How to File for Divorce in Texas
Filing for divorce in Texas can be a complex and overwhelming process, but it can be simplified by breaking it down into steps. Here is a brief overview of the steps involved in filing for divorce in Texas, including how to serve and answer papers and what to do after.
Filing for Divorce
To file for a divorce in Texas, at least one person must have lived in the state for the last six months. In addition, parties must file in the district court country where either person has lived for the previous 90 days.
Only one official divorce form in Texas applies explicitly to an agreed divorce without real property and minor children. While there are no "official" forms for other situations, several may apply to individual cases.
The following list contains links to forms for most divorce situations in Texas.
No Children, No Property: This form can be used for an agreed divorce that does not involve children or real property.
No Children: This guide can help you navigate your divorce if no minor children are involved but you and your spouse share property.
Minor Children Involved: This guide can help you navigate your divorce if you and your spouse have children younger than 18 or are still in high school.
Minor Children Involved with Existing Final Custody Order: This guide can help you navigate your divorce if minor children are involved and a custody order is in place that you do not want to change.
Serving Divorce Papers
After completing the necessary forms, you must serve your spouse the divorce papers. While there are many ways to serve divorce papers, Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 106 requires that the process server first try to deliver the documents in person or by certified mail. If neither of these options work, Texas rules now allow you to serve divorce papers by substituted service, meaning that the documents are served by email or social media.
In cases where the spouse cannot be located, and divorce papers cannot be served even by substituted service, the party requesting the divorce is responsible for finding the spouse. Before alternative methods can be used, you must swear to the court about how you have tried to locate them. This may include speaking to their friends and family and contacting their former employers. In addition, you will have to check social media, telephone directories, voter registries, and property tax listings before an alternative method can be used.
If the spouse still cannot be found, you can ask the court to let you serve by posting or publication. Service by posting is where a notice of the divorce suit is posted at the courthouse. Service by publication is where a notice is printed in the newspaper that meets specific requirements.
Answering Divorce Papers
If your spouse filed for divorce and you were served with divorce papers, you can file an answer. An answer is a legal form you (the respondent) file with the court to protect your right to have a say in the divorce.
Divorce papers must be answered within 20 days of the date you were served the documents, including weekends and holidays. If the papers go unanswered, your spouse will be granted a default judgment, and you will not have a say about what happens to your debts, your property, or any issues involving minor children.
If you disagree with the divorce, you can contest it and file a counter-petition. A counter-petition will inform the judge about the alternative outcome you prefer and may provide you with feasible options to suit both parties better.
How Property is Divided in a Texas Divorce
In Texas, property division in a divorce is governed by the principle of "community property," which generally means that all property acquired by either spouse during the marriage is presumed to be owned equally by both spouses unless otherwise agreed upon or excepted by law. In a divorce, a court may divide the community property in a manner that it deems just and right, taking into account various factors such as the length of the marriage, each spouse's earning capacity, and the needs of each spouse.
Property division during a divorce is enforced through a court order. A judge will issue a final divorce decree outlining how the marriage's property and assets will be divided between the two parties. If one party fails to comply with the terms of the divorce decree, the other party may take legal action to enforce the court order and ensure that the property division is carried out as directed by the court. This may involve obtaining a writ of execution, allowing the court to seize and sell the property to satisfy the outstanding obligations.
Texas Divorce FAQs
The state of Texas has its own unique laws and procedures that govern divorce. To help you better understand what to expect in a Texas divorce, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs). From filing for divorce to dividing property and settling custody issues, this FAQ guide covers the most common concerns and provides helpful answers to get you started.
How long does a divorce take in Texas?
The length of a divorce in Texas depends on several factors, including the complexity of the case and the cooperation of both parties. A typical divorce in Texas can take anywhere from several months to over a year, but the process can be expedited if both parties agree to an uncontested divorce.
It may take longer to resolve if the divorce is contested and the parties cannot reach a settlement agreement on the divorce terms. In such cases, the court may need to hold hearings or trials to determine the divorce terms, which can add significant time to the process.
It's important to remember that each divorce case is unique, and the length of the process may vary depending on the case's specific circumstances.
How much does a divorce cost in Texas?
The cost of a divorce in Texas can vary greatly depending on several factors, such as the complexity of the case, the attorney’s fees, and the cost of any necessary court filings.
If the divorce is uncontested, meaning that both parties have reached an agreement on the terms of the divorce, the cost is typically lower as the process is quicker and less complex. In such cases, the cost of an uncontested divorce can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, including attorney’s fees and court costs.
The cost can be significantly higher if the divorce is contested, meaning that the parties cannot reach a settlement agreement. The cost of an uncontested divorce can range from several thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the length and complexity of the case, as well as the attorneys' fees.
Additionally, some parties represent themselves in a divorce to save on legal fees. However, this can result in a longer and more complicated process.
Can you file for a divorce online in Texas?
Yes, it is possible to file for a divorce online in Texas. However, it's essential to remember that filing for divorce is a complex legal process that requires a thorough understanding of the law and court procedures.
Various online divorce services can assist with preparing and filing divorce documents. Still, it's important to be cautious of these services and to ensure that the documents are complete and accurate. In addition, some online divorce services may not provide legal advice or representation, which can result in negative consequences.
It's always recommended to seek the advice of an experienced divorce attorney before filing for a divorce, whether done online or in person, to ensure that the process is handled correctly and to protect one's legal rights and interests.
How long after a divorce can you remarry in Texas?
In Texas, there is a waiting period before you can remarry after a divorce. The waiting period is 60 days from when the court signed the final divorce decree. Therefore, you cannot legally remarry until 61 days have passed since the court signed the final divorce decree.
Since you will need to provide proof of the divorce to the county clerk’s office when applying for a marriage license, it’s recommended to wait until the divorce is finalized before making plans to remarry.
Can I get divorced without my spouse present in Texas?
Yes, getting a divorce in Texas is possible without your spouse being present through a default divorce or a divorce by publication.
In a default divorce, one party files for divorce and serves the divorce papers on the other party, but the other party fails to respond or appear in court. In this case, the court may grant the divorce by default and make a ruling on the terms of the divorce without the participation of the non-responding spouse.
In a divorce by publication, one party files for divorce, and the other party cannot be located. In this case, the court may allow the divorce to proceed by publishing a notice of the divorce in a newspaper of general circulation in the area where the missing spouse is believed to reside. If the absent spouse does not respond within a specific timeframe, the court may proceed with the divorce without their participation.
Can I get a divorce while pregnant in Texas?
In an opposite-sex marriage, you must wait until after the child is born to finalize your divorce. You can, however, begin the filing process during pregnancy.
If the husband is the child's biological father, orders for custody and child support must be included in the final Decree of Divorce. Alternatively, if the husband is not the child's biological father, the child's paternity must be established when the child is born.
Those in a same-sex marriage should consult with a lawyer familiar with LGBTQ+ family issues if either spouse is pregnant and seeking a divorce. Unfortunately, this area of the law is still undetermined.
Are Texas divorce records public?
Yes, divorce records in Texas are public records and can be accessed by the public. However, some personal information, such as social security numbers and financial information, may be redacted for privacy reasons.
Legal Resources for Getting a Divorce in Texas
Going through a divorce can be a complicated and overwhelming process, but it is crucial to have access to reliable legal resources to help you understand your rights and options. In Texas, several resources are available for individuals seeking a divorce, ranging from government agencies to private organizations.
This list provides a comprehensive overview of the legal resources available to anyone getting a divorce in Texas, including information on the court process, legal representation, and support services. With these resources, you can navigate the divorce process confidently and make informed decisions about your future.
TexasLawHelp.org is a non-profit organization that provides free legal information and resources to individuals in Texas. For someone going through a divorce, it can be a helpful resource because it offers a variety of information, such as:
Information on the divorce process, including steps and requirements
Forms and instructions for filing a divorce
Information on child custody, support, and property division
Information on legal aid organizations and pro bono services
Links to relevant laws and rules in Texas
TexasLawHelp.org aims to help individuals understand their rights and options during the divorce process by providing access to this information.
Texas State Law Library
The Texas State Law Library provides access to legal information and resources, including Texas divorce laws and regulations, information on filing for divorce, forms, instructions for divorce proceedings, and information on child custody, support, and property division. In addition, The Texas State Law Library provides resources for alternative dispute resolution, including mediation and arbitration.
This organization offers free access to its resources, which can be helpful for someone trying to navigate the divorce process without the help of an attorney. The library staff can also assist individuals with their research and provide information on other available resources.
American Family Law Center
American Family Law Center assists individuals who are going through a divorce without the representation of an attorney. They offer informational resources, assistance with court forms, and limited legal advice to help individuals navigate the divorce process. They may also provide guidance on child custody, property division, and support.
Texas Supreme Court
The Texas Supreme Court provides information about the state’s divorce laws and procedures. The court’s website offers a variety of resources, including information brochures, self-help guides, and forms for divorce proceedings. Additionally, the website provides access to the state’s court rules and opinions, which can be used to research specific legal questions related to divorce. In some cases, the Texas Supreme Court also hears appeals from lower courts regarding divorce cases, which can help to clarify legal issues and provide guidance for future cases.
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