Getting a divorce in Texas is a tricky experience, especially without a legal background. Thanks—but really, no thanks—to the emotional and psychological rollercoaster you’re going through, reading through the requirements and relevant divorce laws can be overwhelming.
To reduce the frustration and stress of ensuring the legal compliance of the divorce forms, I’ve broken down all you need to know about Texas divorce laws below.
Divorce in Texas Summary
Here is a brief breakdown of everything you need to know to get a divorce in Texas.
Divorce Petition Requirements
The only requirement to file a divorce in Texas is that you or your spouse have been a resident of Texas for more than 6 months.
There are two grounds for no-fault divorce in Texas:
Insupportability: personal conflicts that go beyond reconciliation
Separation: living without cohabitation for over three years
There are five grounds for at-fault divorce in Texas:
Cruelty: if there is emotional, physical, or psychological abuse
Adultery: infidelity or unfaithfulness
Felony Conviction: when convicted of a felony or imprisoned for at least one year in any US state.
Abandonment: if your partner left with intention of abandonment or has been away for over one year.
Confinement in a Mental Hospital: if your partner has been confined in a mental hospital for three or more years
How to File A Divorce in Texas
The first step is to file an Original Petition for Divorce at your district or county court.
After filing the divorce petition at the court, you must notify and serve your spouse the divorce paperwork. There are a few different ways you can do this.
This step only applies to uncontested divorces.
After your spouse signs the Waiver of Service, they must also sign the Final Decree of Divorce.
In case they don’t sign the Waiver of Service, you must be the one filling out the Final Decree of Divorce, Certificate of Last Known Address, and Military Status Affidavit forms and have them signed by a notary.
Contested divorce petitions often go to trial because spouses are unable to agree on vital aspects of life after the dissolution of a marriage.
If the divorce is uncontested, all you have to do is tender the marital settlement agreement along with the Final Decree of Divorce.
After determining or adopting the terms of your divorce, the judge signs your Divorce Decree forms. You are then required to make copies of the Divorce Decree forms and file them with the court clerk.
This completes the divorce process in Texas.
Requirements for Filing a Divorce Petition in Texas
The only requirement to file for a divorce in Texas is residency. Texas Family Code requires either you or your spouse be Texas residents for six or more months before the divorce petition is filed. Texas law also requires you to file the petition in a county where you or your spouse have lived for three months (90 days) preceding the date of filing.
In addition to residency, Texas law provides seven grounds on which you can file for a divorce. These are grouped into fault and no-fault divorces.
The two grounds for a no-fault divorce include:
- Insupportability: This is where you and your spouse are unable to continue together due to personality conflicts or differences that go beyond reconciliation, which make it impossible to stay married.
- Separation: The court may also grant a divorce where you and your spouse live apart without cohabitation for three or more years
The grounds for a fault divorce include:
- Cruelty: You can also file for a divorce in Texas if your spouse abuses you physically, emotionally, or psychologically.
- Adultery: Texas Family Code lets you divorce your partner on the grounds of infidelity or unfaithfulness. On the other hand, lack of intimacy or sexual relations isn’t a legal ground for divorce in Texas.
- Felony conviction: You can also divorce your partner when they have been convicted of a felony or imprisoned for at least a year in any US state. However, the court will not grant a divorce where a spouse was imprisoned on the testimony of the other spouse.
- Abandonment: You can file for a divorce in Texas if your partner leaves you with the intention of abandonment or has been away for more than a year.
- Confinement in a mental hospital: You can file for a divorce if your spouse has been confined in a mental hospital for three or more years. The court will also grant a divorce if the mental disability is incurable or your spouse is likely to suffer a relapse.
How to File for Divorce in Texas
You can file for a divorce in Texas by following the steps below.
NOTE: The divorce process may be time-consuming, and the guidelines overwhelming when you’re trying to get things settled. For this reason, several online divorce services provide assistance with filing for a divorce and guarantee that the courts will accept these forms.
If you expect to need this kind of assistance in filing for a divorce, read my list of the best online divorce services in Texas.
Step 1: Filing a Divorce Petition
The first step in getting a divorce is to file an Original Petition for Divorce at your district or county court. This document outlines the names of both parties to the suit and includes what you want the court to order in the Divorce Decree (sometimes called an Order of Dissolution).
Texas courts provide separate divorce sets depending on the type of divorce you’re filing for (contested or uncontested). Each divorce set contains different forms. The uncontested divorce set is strictly for no-fault divorce petitions and applies to couples who are in agreement on the divorce and have no minor children or significant property.
The contested divorce set is applicable where you and your spouse disagree on the divorce, have minor children, or where one spouse is seeking spousal support. It will also apply where the grounds for divorce include cruelty, adultery, and other spousal faults.
You can download the appropriate divorce set and accompanying forms via the Texas courts’ website.
NOTE: You’ll be required to pay filing fees ranging between $150 and $300 depending on where you live. If you can’t afford this, file the Affidavit of Indigency form in the divorce set and contact the legal aid department at the courthouse.
Step 2: Serving Your Spouse the Divorce Papers
After filing the divorce petition at the court, the next step is to notify your spouse of the divorce. You can do this in any of the following ways:
- Have your spouse complete and submit the Waiver of Service form included in the divorce set.
- By official Service of Process—This method is court-assisted and is done by the court clerk, constable, a sheriff, or a private process server, depending on your preference. In all cases, the clerk, sheriff, or private process server will bring you a “return receipt” as proof that your spouse has been served the divorce papers.
- Service by posting or publication—If you’re unable to locate your spouse, the court allows you to effect service by posting the divorce paperwork at the court premises or publishing them in the newspaper.
The court recommends using an official Service of Process in cases where one spouse is under a protective order or has been cruel or violent.
Step 3: File the Final Decree of Divorce
After receiving the divorce notice, your spouse will generally file an answer to the petition (in a contested divorce) or sign the Waiver of Service form in an uncontested divorce. If your spouse signs the waiver, they must also sign the Final Decree of Divorce form.
Suppose your spouse doesn’t sign the Waiver of Service form? In that case, you’ll be required to fill out the Final Decree of Divorce, Certificate of Last Known Address, and Military Status Affidavit forms and have them signed by a notary to move on with the divorce process.
NOTE: This step only applies to an uncontested divorce. Where the divorce is contested, the petition will likely go to trial.
Step 4: The Divorce Trial
Contested divorce petitions often go to trial because spouses are unable to agree on vital aspects of life after the dissolution of a marriage. These issues often revolve around spousal support, child support, child custody, and property division.
During the trial, the judge may require “prove-up’’ testimonies from you and your spouse to determine the terms of the divorce and confirm the claims in the petition. The judge may also require both spouses to see a marriage counselor during the divorce proceedings to see if there is a reasonable expectation of reconciliation. The counseling period is usually a maximum of 60 days and the Counselor is required to submit a report on the chances of reconciliation at the end of the process.
You don’t have to worry about a back-and-forth divorce trial if you and your spouse agree on the terms of the (uncontested) divorce. In this case, you can tender the marital settlement agreement (a document containing joint resolutions on key divorce issues) along with the Final Decree of Divorce.
Step 5: The Divorce Order
This is the final hurdle before you regain your single status. After determining or adopting the terms of your divorce, the judge signs your Divorce Decree forms. Once signed, you’re required to make copies of the Divorce Decree forms and file them with the court clerk.
This puts paid to the divorce process and breaks the marriage covenant between you and your partner (now ex-partner).
If you need help with your divorce . . .
Several online divorce providers render assistance with any number of tasks in the process, from filing your divorce papers to spousal service, negotiating marital settlement agreements to ensuring the courts accept your forms. I’ve compared and ranked these services to help you finalize your dissolution of marriage in a timely fashion.
You can read the results of my investigation here: 10 Best Texas Online Divorce Services.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the different types of divorce in Texas?
There are two types of divorce proceedings: contested and uncontested. A contested divorce involves one spouse trying to leave the marriage while the other spouse still believes in reconciliation. This often involves marital faults and is subjected to a trial for the judge to determine whether the marriage can be saved.
An uncontested divorce is more straightforward because the parties agree on dissolving the marriage, and neither of them is seeking spousal support. An uncontested divorce only requires you to file the divorce forms with the agreement of your partner and submit a divorce agreement (which details arrangements like property division, child custody, and parental visits).
How long does it take to get a divorce in Texas?
It takes an average of 60 days to get a divorce in Texas, regardless of the type of divorce. Texas law requires courts to have a waiting period of 60 days. This means the court cannot grant your divorce earlier than 60 days from the date you filed the petition.
The exceptions to this rule include:
- One spouse has been convicted of a felony.
- One spouse has received deferred adjudication on the grounds of family violence.
- The petitioner has an active protective order against the other spouse (respondent) because of family violence committed during the marriage.
In summary, it may take anywhere between three months to several years to get a divorce in Texas, depending on the circumstances of the marriage. If the divorce is uncontested, you can get the divorce order in 60 days. Contested divorces often take more time due to the need for trial, testimonies, and the 60-day counseling requirement.
Do I need an attorney to get a divorce in Texas?
No, you don’t need an attorney to get a divorce in Texas. While it’s logical to approach a divorce lawyer for their expertise in family law matters, the court allows you to file for divorce without an attorney. Texas State Law Library provides guides and materials to help you prepare for a do-it-yourself process.
Like most states, the divorce paperwork is available for download from the family court website. Uncontested divorce cases are straightforward and you can handle them yourself without the need for a divorce lawyer. However, you may want to seek legal advice where your spouse is abusive or disagrees with your decision to file for divorce.
If you can’t afford a divorce lawyer, you can file the Affidavit of Indigency form to let the court know that you’re unable to pay the fees. You may also apply to the Legal Aid Department for free representation or an Online Divorce Service (they are much cheaper than hiring a divorce lawyer).
Do I have to prove separation to get a divorce in Texas?
You will have to prove that you and your spouse are separated if your decision to file for divorce is separation. If this is the case, you will have to prove that you and your spouse haven’t lived together (no cohabitation) for three or more years.
Separation is one of the no-fault divorce grounds in Texas. However, you don’t need to prove separation if you’re applying for a divorce under the other grounds.
Can I get a divorce in Texas if I was married in another state?
Yes, you can get a divorce in Texas even if you were married in another state. You’re free to file for divorce in Texas as long as either you or your spouse meet the residency requirement. You can get a divorce in Texas even if you live abroad or in another state, if your spouse is a Texas resident.
To be considered Texas residents, you or your spouse must have lived in Texas for a minimum of six months before the date of filing. The court also requires you to file for divorce in a county where either one of you has lived in the last three months (90 days).
If neither are Texas residents, the court will have no power to grant a dissolution of marriage order.
Is spousal fault necessary for dissolution of marriage in Texas?
No, spousal fault isn’t necessary for a divorce in Texas. Though Texas is generally a no-fault state, you may file for a divorce on any of the four fault grounds of adultery, criminal conviction, cruelty, and abandonment.
What factors influence alimony and child support payments?
The court grants child support and alimony (maintenance) payments. In considering alimony payments and how much is due, the court considers several factors, including
- the financial ability of each spouse to meet their independent needs upon the dissolution of marriage
- the education and employment status of either spouse and the necessary time needed for the spouse seeking alimony to earn sufficient income
- the duration of the marriage
- acts by one spouse resulting in concealment or fraudulent sale of community or marital property
- the contribution by one spouse to the education, training, and career advancement of the other spouse
- the contribution of a spouse as a homemaker
- how one spouse treated the other during the marriage (cruelty, adultery, and family violence)
- the property brought into the marriage by each spouse
The same factors apply to child support payments. The obligation to pay child support is usually on the noncustodial spouse (the parent without custody) and is calculated at 20% of the paying spouse’s monthly gross income.
If a spouse files for maintenance, the spouse seeking support has to prove their diligence in developing skills to earn a sufficient income to meet their needs independently.
The court will only grant alimony if the spouse seeking support will lack sufficient property, including that spouse’s separate property, once the divorce is finalized. The court will not grant alimony or spousal support where both parties are unmarried cohabitants.
In addition to this, the court will also grant alimony in the following cases:
- Where one spouse is convicted of an offense relating to family violence during the divorce process or within two years before the date the divorce petition is filed
- Where the spouse seeking support is unable to earn sufficient income due to a physical or mental disability
- Where the parties have been married for 10 or more years, and one spouse cannot earn sufficient income
- Where the spouse seeking support is the custodian of a child in the marriage requiring personal supervision due to mental or physical disability
Texas courts only grant temporary spousal support limited to the shortest reasonable period that allows the spouse seeking maintenance to earn sufficient income to provide for their spouse’s minimum reasonable needs. An exception is made if the ability of the spouse to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs is substantially or totally diminished due to any of the following situations:
- Physical or mental disability of the spouse seeking maintenance
- Duties as the custodian of an infant or young child of the marriage
- Another compelling impediment to earning sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs
NOTE: The maximum duration of spousal support applicable in a Texas divorce is 10 years from the date of the maintenance order unless the spouse receiving support is permanently incapacitated. In such cases, the obligation to pay spousal support will terminate when the receiving spouse dies or remarries.
How are marital assets shared?
Marital assets are shared equally in a Texas divorce. This is because Texas law regards assets acquired during a marriage as community property. The court will consider the nature of each property together with a written agreement of property division (where there is one) in determining who gets what. You can keep your assets from division by proving that they are “separate property”.
Separate property refers to assets acquired by a spouse before marriage. Assets acquired from individual earnings, gifts, or inheritance and treated as separate during the marriage are exempt from division.
Other factors the court considers in sharing marital assets include
- whether one spouse has sufficient property
- the contributions of one spouse towards the other spouse’s educational and career advancement
- the length of the marriage
- whether one spouse was a homemaker
- the contributions made by each spouse towards acquiring, maintaining or enhancing the marital assets
- the court will also consider spousal faults like violence, adultery, and fraud committed on community property
Overall, the court aims to ensure just and fair property division.
What is a spouse entitled to in a Texas divorce?
Aside from spousal support (where granted by the court), a spouse may also be entitled to health insurance and medical support from their former spouse’s employer. This is due to the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) of 1985, which allows ex-spouses to enjoy medical insurance benefits off a former spouse’s group plan for up to three years after the divorce.
You can obtain COBRA benefits by notifying your former spouse’s employer of your new status and requesting the application forms. The forms should be filed and submitted to your former spouse’s employer within 60 days of your divorce.
Is Texas a community property state?
Texas is a community property state. This means that all property acquired during the marriage belongs equally to both spouses unless either spouse can prove them as “separate property.”
You can prevent an asset from being divided between you and your spouse by showing that it is separate property. An asset is regarded as separate property if it was acquired by a spouse before the marriage or received as a gift or inheritance during the marriage. The court’s attitude towards the division of marital property in a divorce is a 50/50 split between the spouses.
Where there is a written agreement of property division between the parties, the court will be bound by the agreement if it was written before the divorce and deemed just and fair. If the court considers the terms of the agreement unfair, the judge may call for a hearing or ask parties to create another agreement.
Getting a divorce in Texas can be a tough experience, especially when you don’t see eye-to-eye with your spouse. I hope this guide will prepare and help you get through the divorce process with as little pain and frustration as possible.