A Guide to Divorce in Texas
When you start thinking about ending your marriage in Texas, you are going to encounter a wide variety of emotional, financial and social issues that will impact you in a number of ways. Although the circumstances of your divorce are unique, all Texans must go through many of the same things before a final decree can be issued.
We’ve covered many of those topics here, but it’s impossible to provide information on everything, so you should also consider seeking answers from many other places such as attorneys, online resources, county courthouses, and from friends and relatives who have gone through a divorce and can provide you with their personal perspective.
Here are many of the important things you should know:
- The differences between divorce, annulment and separation
- What are the grounds for divorce in Texas?
- Deciding what kind of divorce you will go through
- The process of filing for divorce
- Filing for a divorce online
- Filing for divorce in Texas without using a lawyer
- How much does divorce cost in Texas?
- How long does it take to get a divorce?
- Should I retain the services of a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst?
- Bifurcation of Marital Status
- Can I cancel, refuse, contest, stop or reverse a divorce in Texas?
- What is a divorce decree?
- What is proof of divorce?
- Changing Your Name
- Bonus: Recommended Resources
The differences between divorce, annulment and separation
In Texas, married couples can end their marriages through annulment or divorce. Each of these has their own special requirements and rules, and a good basic understanding of these options is a good place for you to start. You should also be familiar with legal separations, even though Texas does not recognize this as a way to end a marriage.
When a marriage is no longer working and one spouse moves out of the home, couples may consider themselves separated. While this is physically the case, they are not legally separated, and there is a big difference between the two. In many states, a legal separation must be granted by the courts, just like a divorce.
However, Texas does not recognize legal separations. It does not allow spouses to enter into agreements concerning issues regarding a division of assets or spousal support if a divorce petition is pending. Any written agreement executed by spouses will be considered by the court and if they are deemed fair, they will be incorporated into the final divorce decree.
When a couple is granted an annulment, their marriage is considered null and void. Basically, this means that both people can move forward with their lives as if their marriage never happened. Some people choose this option for religious reasons.
For example, the Roman Catholic Church does not recognize divorces and an annulment is the only officially sanctioned way to end a marriage. In some cases, when a Catholic person gets a divorce, they may be denied certain religious rights, and any future marriages will not be recognized because in the eyes of the church, that person will still be considered to be married.
In Texas, annulments may be granted for several reasons. The state divides annulment into two categories:
- Void Texas Annulment Grounds include ending the marriage because you got married to a blood relative such as a father, mother, sister, brother, uncle or an aunt. You also can get an annulment if you are already married to someone else.
- Voidable Annulment Grounds can be filed if someone:
- Gets married under the age of 18
- Got married under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- If a spouse is shown to be impotent
- If a person got married under fraud or duress
- Or if one of the spouses suffers from mental incapacity.
Divorce in Texas is the permanent and straightforward solution to end a marriage. Couples can cite insupportability as a reason for getting a divorce, or they may also cite one of several other reasons if they choose to affix blame for the end of a marriage.
There are seven grounds for divorce in Texas
In Texas, you can be granted a divorce based on one of seven reasons that are recognized by the state:
- Insupportability. You simply cannot overcome disagreements and differences in your marriage. This is considered the “no fault” reason and no blame is affixed to either spouse.
- Cruelty. This reason is allowed when your spouse uses cruel treatment toward you and you can no longer continue in your marriage.
- Adultery. When your spouse cheats on you and you want a divorce.
- A felony conviction. If your spouse is convicted of a felony and must serve at least one year in prison you can file for divorce. Your spouse cannot be convicted or receive a pardon based on your testimony for this reason to be valid.
- Confinement in a mental hospital. If your spouse has been confined in a private or a state mental hospital for at least three years, and they show no signs of getting better, you can file using this reason.
- Living apart. If you have been living apart from your spouse for at least three years, the state will grant you a divorce.
- Abandonment. If your spouse left you for at least one year with no intention of coming back, the state will allow you to use this as grounds for a divorce.
Deciding what kind of divorce you will go through
Aside from the decision to get a divorce, the single most important decision you will make is the type of divorce.
You see, there are only two ways that you reach a final resolution:
- You and your spouse agree
- A judge decides
That’s it. Those are the only two ways to get a divorce in Texas.
The type of divorce sets the frameworks for how you get to a final resolution. The process you and your spouse choose sets the tone and shapes the outcome of your divorce.
I think it’s important that we before we jump into all the different types of divorce that you keep something in mind:
There is no “best type” of divorce. No divorce is cookie-cutter, so there can only a best type of divorce for you. Keep this in mind as you consider your options.
Okay, here are the types of divorce:
What I like to call the kitchen table divorce. This one is pretty straight forward. You don’t hire any professionals and attempt to resolve all your differences with your spouse. The biggest downside is you don’t know what you don’t know. I’d steer clear of this approach unless you don’t have kids or any money.
A far superior choice to DIY divorce. Navigating the divorce process and legal procedures can be a minefield. A good online divorce platform removes the guesswork. Through guided interviews, you’ll complete the forms while getting educated on the key legal issues in the process. This can be a great option if you have a relatively straightforward situation and you’re on the same page with your spouse.
The default option and also the most expensive. If you and your spouse can’t agree on one of the other options, then you’re headed for litigation. Litigation is an attorney-driven process. While the majority of cases settle before going to trial, that doesn’t mean litigation won’t wreak havoc on you and your kids.
Sometimes, however, it’s the only viable option.
If your spouse has a high-conflict personality (narcissist, borderline, etc.) or there is domestic violence, litigation might be your only option. It’s also the right choice if your primary objective is to punish your spouse. As tempting as that might be, I encourage you to think about the big picture.
With mediation, you and your spouse retain a neutral professional (typically an attorney) to help facilitate agreement. The mediator will help you brainstorm options, understand each other’s perspectives, and make compromises to reach a resolution that you and your spouse can both live with.
Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t just mean that you and your spouse are going to work out your divorce “collaboratively.” There’s much more to it. Collaborative divorce is a structured process that takes a team approach. Divorce is much more than a legal process. It’s about money, kids, and emotions.
That’s why a Collaborative team includes collaborative lawyers, a divorce coach, and a neutral financial specialist. Unlike any other process, everyone commits not to go to court. The idea is that this removes the threat of litigation which fosters creative solutions and interest-based negotiation. It’s far and away the most supportive type of divorce.
Learn More: There is a lot more to each type of divorce than we can give you in this short list. For a deep dive into the pros and cons of these options, be sure to check out our guide on the types of divorce.
The process of filing for divorce
Although there are many ways to get divorced in Texas, the basic process of filing for divorce is pretty much the same no matter type of divorce you choose.
Gather important information.
To give yourself the best chance at achieving the best possible outcome, you need to be organized and proactive when it comes to pulling together the information you will need.
By doing so, you can ensure your rights are protected while also saving time, money and anxiety for the next steps in your divorce.
Before you begin collecting all of your important financial information, we highly recommend you do these things:
- Open a new checking and savings account in your name alone.
- Open a credit card in your name alone.
- Order a free credit report.
- Make a list of all the assets and liabilities that you’re aware of. Include any memberships, reward points, and other perks that may be considered as assets.
Okay, now it’s time to start gathering your information. Here’s a short list of what you need:
- Tax returns (including W-2’s, K-1’s, and 1099’s) for the last 5 years
- Pay stubs for the last 3 months
- Bank statements
- Credit card statements
- Retirement account statements
- Pension plan statements
- Grant notice for stock options, RSUs, etc.
- Investment account statements
- Life insurance policies
- Mortgage statements
- Real estate appraisals
- Deeds to real estate
- Car registration
- Kelley Blue Book printouts (“private party value”)
- Car loan statements
- Social security benefit statement
This is only a partial list. You can check out the complete divorce document checklist here.
Fill out and file your forms.
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 tool kits here.
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.
Serve your spouse and complete proof of service.
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.
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. You can also choose to have service completed by a private process server or the court clerk
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.
Filing for a divorce online
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.
Our favorite resource for a fast and effective online divorce is: 3 Step Divorce.
3 Step Divorce checks all the boxes that make an online divorce worthwhile.
They aim to make it easy – and they certainly deliver.
From step-by-step instructions to unlimited live support, here are just a few of the reasons why 3 Step is our #1 recommended online divorce resource:
- $299 flat-fee with no hidden charges
- Monthly payment options as low as $84/mo
- Initial questionnaire takes less than 1 hour
- Library of free tools and resources
- Unlimited access to support agents by phone or email
- Immediate access to completed forms
- Assurance of 100% court-approval (or your money back!)
3 Step Divorce also boasts the highest customer rating in the industry (4.6 stars based on 1,575 reviews).
You can learn more by reading our 3StepDivorce review.
Better yet, you can Start Your 3 Step Divorce NOW (as low as $84/month).
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 have your documents reviewed by an attorney or a paralegal, as well as other service options.
Filing for divorce without using a lawyer
In Texas, you can file for divorce without using a lawyer. In most all cases, this happens as part of 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.
How much does divorce cost in Texas?
Filing fees vary by county in Texas, but generally you can expect that the cost will be around $300. There may also 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.
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.
When you go through the actual divorce process, if you need to retain an experienced divorce attorney, expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $500 per hour. You will also need to pay some sort of a retainer up front to start the process. If you decide to use a mediator or an arbitrator, expect your costs to be somewhere between $3,000 and $7,000, and possibly more.
If you go through a contested divorce, your costs could run considerably higher and take well over a year to resolve.
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.
Should I retain the services of a certified divorce financial analyst?
If you are going through a financially complicated divorce, you may need someone who can assist you with an accurate and objective analysis of the financial and tax implications of your decisions.
This will help you make the right decisions now when it comes to reaching a settlement with your spouse. It’s important to get this right from the start – you won’t get a second chance.
While some people with simple situations may only need a family law attorney to help them with this process, many others will benefit from working with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA), and preferably someone who is also a Certified Financial Planner (CFP).
Divorce is complicated enough without trying to reach critical decisions when you may not understand all the consequences of your actions. To help you better understand the benefits of working with a divorce financial specialist, take a look at our article What is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst? (and why you need one).
Bifurcation of marital status is generally not allowed in Texas
Bifurcation means that both parties in a divorce can legally declared as a single person while the other issues in their divorce are still being worked out. It does not affect things such as child custody, visitation, child support, alimony or other contentious issues that may have stalled or become major sticking points that are keeping the divorce from being finalized.
In Texas, family law courts are generally not allowed to bifurcate divorces. All property, child support and child custody cases must be decided before a divorce can be finalized. This means if you want to remarry or file your taxes as a single person, you must find a way to compromise with your spouse so that your divorce will move forward to completion.
Can I cancel, refuse, contest, stop or reverse a divorce in Texas?
Only a petitioner can stop a divorce in Texas. This is done by filing a “nonsuit” with the court. If you are the respondent, then you probably cannot stop the divorce from taking place. You cannot force somebody to stay married to you if they do not want to anymore. Contact the clerk of the court where you filed the original petition.
In most cases, you’ll simply need to complete a one-page document and you won’t need to provide an explanation. The clerk with file your request and also give you one copy to be served on your spouse.
What is a divorce decree?
In Texas, a Final Decree of Divorce is the court’s final order that terminates a marriage. It provides a summary of the rights and responsibilities of each party, including financial responsibilities and a division of assets. it also covers child custody, visitation, alimony, child support and other similar issues.
Once the divorce decree is issued, parties are legally free to marry another person after 30 days. The divorce decree is a legally binding document, and if either party does not meet the requirements and obligations set forth in the decree, the other party can take legal action to correct any deficiencies.
What is proof of divorce?
After a final divorce decree is granted, the State of Texas will issue a divorce certificate also known as a Divorce Verification. The certificate shows minimal information, such as the names of both spouses and the date and place a divorce was granted, but typically no other information.
Rather than having to produce the lengthier divorce decree, a divorce certificate can provide proof of divorce for many legal purposes. It can be used when a person wants to change the name on any state issued documents, or as proof that the person legally has the right to get married again.
You can order a Divorce Verification online in Texas. It takes about 20-25 days to process your request.
Changing Your Name
As you prepare your divorce forms, you will be able to choose to either restore your former name or request a court order for changing names.
The name change will be granted as part of your divorce. You can choose to receive a separate court order to make your name change official, or you can have your name change recorded on the final divorce decree. Both of these documents are acceptable for all U.S. agencies and organizations as evidence of your name change.
Start by updating your name with the Social Security Administration. After you’ve done that you can start to change names everywhere else.
It’s a long process to contact each company and figure out what to send where. To lighten the load, we recommend using an Easy Name Change kit to prevent the 10+ hours of paperwork and research that you would have to do by yourself.
Additional Reading: 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Changing my Last Name
Recommended Divorce Resources
There are a ton of divorce resources out there that make big claims. Most don’t meet our expectations, but we’ve kept a close eye on those that do.
These are the tools and resources we’re excited to share with you because we know they can help you have a better divorce.
If you’re looking for recommendations in any of the following areas, we’ve got you covered:
- Online divorce
- QDRO preparation to divide retirement plans and pensions
- Masterclass on ninja tricks to negotiating with a narcissist
- Co-parenting apps
- Online dating (after divorce)
- Personal finance and budgeting apps
- Best place to sell your engagement ring
- And a whole lot more