A Guide to Filing for Divorce in Texas
Getting a divorce in Texas can force several emotional and financial challenges on you that you will have no choice but to deal with, like it or not.
The best thing you can do when going through a divorce is to arm yourself with the information you’ll need along every step of the way. Understanding the process won’t remove all the fears, doubts and anxiety you may experience, but knowing what to expect and what steps you will need to take will at least make things more tolerable in most cases.
Divorces can take many paths to completion and each one will have a unique set of circumstances, but there are many things that are common to the vast majority of them. You should be familiar with this information as you start the process of filing for divorce in Texas.
Here are the most important things to know as you begin the divorce process:
- Gathering Important Information
- Deciding Which Type of Divorce is Right For You
- Filling Out the Necessary Forms
- Filing Your Divorce Documents
- Serving Your Spouse With Divorce Papers
- FAQs About Filing For Divorce in Texas
Important information you need to gather
There are many complicated issues in divorce that you will need to be prepared for. Getting organized early on and having the documents you need at your fingertips will make the entire process a little bit less daunting.
It will also save you time and money, while helping to expedite the divorce process.
What type of divorce is right for you?
Deciding on what divorce process to use (litigation, mediation, collaborative divorce, etc.) provides you with the framework to begin moving forward. That’s an important decision and not one that should be taken lightly.
It will drive how amicable or contentious your divorce will be and set the tone for your future co-parenting relationship if you have kids. With so much at stake, it’s imperative that you understand all of your options and how they will play upon your individual situation.
Determine what divorce forms you will need to complete
Once you have decided what kind of divorce procedure you will follow, the next step is to complete a series of forms that will be submitted to the court to start your official divorce process.
If you are using a lawyer, they will work closely with you to make sure you complete the right forms and that they are filled out appropriately to help you avoid delays in the process.
Using a lawyer will cost more money, but the trade-off you experience in knowing that your divorce will be handled in a professional way may be well worth the investment for you.
If you decide to complete the forms on your own, you will be able to access the forms you need either online or in person at your local county courthouse. Paperwork to complete a divorce varies from county to county in Texas, so before proceeding you should check with your local court clerk to make sure you have all the forms that you will need.
In most cases, you will need to file the following forms:
- Civil Case Information Sheet
- Bureau of Vital Statistics Form
- Petition for Divorce
- Waiver of Service
- Certificate of Last Known Address
- Final Decree of Divorce, and
- Affidavit of Military Status
If you and your spouse have children together under the age of 18, then the following forms must be filed as well:
- Child Support Worksheet
- Income Withholding for Support Order
The website TexasLawHelp.org has created a series of online toolkits with forms, instructions, frequently asked questions and articles to help Texans better understand the process and their options regarding divorce. You can access the toolkits here.
Filing Your Divorce Documents in Texas
If you are working with an attorney in Texas, they will make sure all the forms are correct, and walk you through the necessary steps involved with filing your papers with the court.
If you are not working with an attorney at this point, you will need to file the original petition and two copies with the district clerk’s office in your county along with fees that will be due. You can either mail or deliver the petition in person.
Serving Your Spouse in a Texas Divorce
After you file your papers with the court, you must provide your spouse with a copy of those papers. In Texas, this is known as effectuating service, and it can be completed in a number of ways.
When you file your divorce petition, you will need to get a citation form. This gives your spouse instructions on what they must do to respond and how much time they will have to do it.
There are two different versions of a citation form. One is used when your spouse lives in the county where you filed your petition, and the other is used if your spouse lives somewhere else. Make sure you get the right form when filing.
You will need to complete a copy of the Information for Service of Process form which identifies where your spouse lives, what they physically look like and when they are most likely to be home.
Take the petition, citation and process forms to the sheriff in the county where your spouse lives. The sheriff will then serve your spouse with the papers and you will receive a form indicating that service of process has been completed. You will need to file this document with the court.
If your spouse cannot be located, you will need to file a special motion with the court. At this point, you can request that the court allow you to pursue other service of process options. This will include serving your spouse either through service by posting when no children are involved, or service by publication if children are involved.
When serving by certified mail, the spouse must sign for the paperwork with return receipt requested.
Your spouse may not need to be served with initial divorce papers if he or she agrees to fill out a Respondent’s Original Answer form or a Waiver of Service Only which needs to be signed in front of a notary.
Frequently Asked Questions About Filing for Divorce in Texas
What is the cost to file for a divorce in Texas?
Filing fees vary by county in Texas, but generally you can expect that the cost will be around $300.
There may be other fees you will have to pay as well. These could include paying for copies or having to pay to have your court papers served on your spouse. Contact the district clerk’s office where you plan to file for your divorce to get a more accurate accounting of the fees for your case.
Can filing fees be waived in Texas?
You may be able to have the filing fee waived if you don’t have enough money. To do so, you must ask a judge to waive the fees by filing a Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs.
Your fees should be waived if you can prove you get government benefits because you are poor, you are represented by a free lawyer through a legal aid provider, or you do not have enough money to pay for the basic needs of your household.
Can I file for a divorce online in Texas?
Most counties in Texas will allow you to file for divorce online, but some county courts in less populated areas will not. Check with the court in the county where you have lived for the past 90 days to see if this option is available to you.
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There are also several online divorce services that you can use to file for divorce. The exact costs will vary by vendor and will depend on what benefits they offer. Some help you prepare the right forms, while others provide educational tools or review your documents as well as other options.
What are the Texas residency requirements for filing for a divorce?
If you want to file for divorce in Texas, you must have lived in the state for at least six months and also be a resident in the county where you plan to file for at least 90 days before you can submit paperwork to the courts.
How long does it take to get a divorce in Texas?
After divorce papers are filed, there is a 60-day minimum wait before a divorce can be granted. This is a best-case scenario in an uncontested divorce. Most divorces actually take longer because it takes time to work through a variety of issues.
When you can reach agreement on all issues, then the document can be written and submitted to the court for approval after the 60-day waiting period has elapsed. Most divorces will require that one or both spouses attend a short meeting in front of a judge. This is known as a “prove-up” of the case and these meetings are held every weekday morning in most court systems throughout the state.
Contested divorces take the longest amount of time. If your divorce goes to trial, then it could take as long as six months to a year before your case could be heard in front of a judge. How quickly this happens depends on how congested the court’s calendar is, your schedule and your attorney’s schedules, how long your case is expected to last and whether a just a judge or a jury will hear your case.
Can I file for divorce in Texas without using a lawyer?
Yes. In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse will work out all issues in advance, including dividing assets, child custody and support payments. Because you are in agreement, no trial will be needed. You will only need to appear in front of the judge for a brief divorce hearing at the end of a 60-day waiting period.
At the end of the hearing, the judge will sign the final decree. The decree will then be recorded by the clerk of the court and your divorce will be finalized.
Are there special considerations in filing for divorce while I am pregnant in Texas?
If one spouse is pregnant, even if it is not the other spouse’s child, then courts will not finalize a divorce until after the baby is born. This is done so that orders regarding the child can be included in the final divorce decree.
Is the divorce process different if I am a member of the military in Texas?
Special laws that supersede state laws in many instances are in place for members of the military who will be going through a divorce in Texas. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act eases legal and financial burdens of military personnel and their families who face the added challenges of active duty. Divorce proceedings can be postponed until the servicemember finishes active duty obligations as part of the Act.
Active duty servicemembers stationed outside of the United States or Texas may still be considered Texas residents. Members of the military who have not lived in Texas before, but who have been stationed in Texas for at least the previous six months, and at a military installation in a particular county of Texas for the 90 prior days are considered Texas residents and residents of the county where they have been stationed.
For military divorces, the grounds are the same as non-military divorces in Texas. Couples seeking a divorce may claim the no-fault option of insupportability, or they may file a divorce based on a finding of fault, such as for adultery, cruelty, abandonment, ongoing conflict, or confinement in a mental hospital.
Looking for more great tips about filing for divorce? Check out a few of our favorite resources: