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1. Get the legal information
Marriage is a civil contract entered into by a marriage ceremony, or in certain circumstances, by common law cohabitation.
A legal marriage can only be dissolved by a court order.
Before the court will consider your Divorce in Texas, you must meet the requirements for residency and state the reasons for wanting a divorce.
When the parties agree or there is little property and no children.
The process is very straightforward and can be handled without a lawyer.
When there are disagreements about children or property.
You should strongly consider seeking the advice of an attorney before proceeding.
2. Confirm that you need to get divorced.
Most marriages are by license and ceremony.
If a marriage certificate was filed after a church or civil ceremony.
Then you will need to get a divorce.
Texas has historically recognized common-law marriages.
Common law marriages occur when an adult couple openly lives as married.
Even though a marriage certificate was never filed.
3. Decide your county of filing.
5. Decide on name changes.
6. Prepare to pay the fees.
There may be additional fees for a process server, document preparation, and administrative costs such as copies.
- If you are low-income, you may be eligible to have the filing fee reduced or waived by the court. This is called proceeding In Forma Pauperis.
- Legal Aid of Texas has a fill-in-the-blanks application you can file with your petition.
- If it is accepted by the court, your case can proceed.
- If it is denied, your divorce will not be put on the court’s calendar until the fee is paid.
7. Determine the reason for the divorce.
The last, and most common, is the no-fault option, a simple statement that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”
- The fault-based grounds include adultery, impotence, habitual drunkenness, drug addiction, and that the marriage was fraudulent.
- Many of these grounds date back to the original laws of over a century ago.
- Divorce is a very stressful time and it is not uncommon to want to punish your spouse for wrongdoing and to list as many faults as possible in the divorce petition.
- Before you do this, you should consider speaking with an attorney.
- When a fault is used as grounds for divorce, your spouse has the right to not only claim defenses and demand you provide proof for your accusations but also file a counterclaim with allegations of fault against you.
- Unless an attorney counsels you that a fault-based divorce is in your best interest.
- Such as physical violence, strongly consider using the no-fault option.
8. Prepare your divorce petition.
A well-prepared divorce petition is the first step to an uncomplicated divorce.
- Legal Aid of Texas has a fill-in-the-blank divorce package for agreed and uncontested divorces both without children and with children.
- These forms can only be used if you and your spouse are in complete agreement about the terms of the divorce and are both willing to sign off on the documents.
9. Texas allows for unbundled legal services.
This means that attorneys can prepare divorce petitions.
And other documents for either an hourly or flat fee.
Expect to pay between $100 and $500 depending on the complexity.
Even if you and your spouse agree on terms if you have a complex property situation.
It may be worth it to have an attorney prepare and review your settlement.
10. Third-party document preparation and online document generation services.
There are several for-profit and self-help services available.
To prepare documents at little to no cost.
Quality may vary and you use them at your own risk.
One way to check the quality of the service is to perform an online search.
With the name of the service and “complaint” or “review” to see if anyone has any opinions on the site.
11. Prepare the child-specific documents.
If you and your spouse have children under the age of 18.
You will need to include plans for the parenting and financial support of your children.
- Texas law requires that divorcing parents abide by a parenting plan.
- This document will detail parenting time schedules, holiday times, and any responsibilities that you and your spouse want to detail in the plan.
- The more cooperative the parenting plan is, the more likely the court will accept it without modification.
- All divorces with minor children must include a child support calculation.
- If you or your spouse are unemployed and not disabled, the court will assume that you are capable of earning minimum wage and will base calculations on that wage.
- Child support is not a static number.
- The support amount depends on the number of children and is set by the legislature in obligation tables.
- In a simple calculation, if there are three children and the combined gross monthly income of both parents is $4,000, the table sets the total support at $1,280 per month.
- That amount will be split between the two parents based on their percentage of the gross income. If the custodial parent contributes 40 percent of the gross income and the non-custodial parent contributes 60 percent, then the child support obligation will be 60 percent of $1,280 or $768.
12. Sign and notarize your documents.
If you and your spouse are in agreement.
You will both sign the documents in the presence of a notary.
Blue ink is preferred to show the signatures are original.
13. File your documents at the courthouse.
If your spouse has agreed to the divorce, you will be filing a waiver of service document.
If not, you will take a set of file-stamped documents to either the sheriff.
Or a private process server who will deliver them to your spouse.
Expect to pay between $20 and $50 for this service.
This fee cannot be waived by the court.
Your spouse has approximately 20 days after being served to answer the petition.
14. Schedule your court date.
Depending on the complexity of the divorce, the case may be scheduled for a preliminary hearing date.
Otherwise, on an agreed-to consensual divorce.
You will most likely be scheduled for a single final hearing date after the expiration of the service period.
15. Attend your court hearing.
Whether this is a preliminary hearing or the final hearing, you, as the petitioner, must be present.
If you fail to appear, your divorce could be seriously delayed or even dismissed.
- Be on time. Give yourself plenty of time to park and find the courthouse.
- Arrange for childcare, judges do not typically allow children in the courtroom and they can’t be left unattended.
- You can bring a companion for assistance and moral support, but your friend cannot come up to the table with you.
- Stand when you are addressing the judge and answer all questions.
- If you don’t understand a question, ask the judge to explain.
16. Receive your documents.
You and your ex-spouse can begin separating property and arranging child visitation.
- You can make copies of your divorce decree as needed for changing your name on your identification, leases, contracts, and for your child’s school.
- Most entities will accept a photocopy of the decree.
- However, some agencies or organizations may require a certified copy of the decree.
- Contact the court clerk for instructions on how to order certified copies.
- There may be a small fee for this service.
17. Wait for your divorce to finalize.
Even though the judge’s signature granted your divorce.
It is not legally finalized until 31 calendar days after the divorce decree is filed with the court.
This is the appeal period where your spouse can file an appeal to change the terms of the agreement.
This is extremely rare and very difficult to do, so don’t worry.
The primary significance of this is that you cannot get married until the 31-day period has expired.
- You should consult with an attorney before signing anything that may affect your legal rights or obligations.