How to File Divorce in Texas

How to File Divorce in Texas

There is an old saying that “everything is bigger in Texas.”  It is the largest state in the contiguous United States (twice the size of France), produces more oil than Iraq, and is home to NASA and over ten percent of the world’s Fortune 500 companies.  

If you are looking at a big divorce in Texas, here is what you need to know.

Texans only

You cannot file for divorce in Texas unless either you or your spouse has been domiciled in the state for at least six months first.  

Domicile basically means the last place where you lived and intend to remain (for example a college student is often domiciled in their parents’ home because they do not intend to remain in their college town).  You must also be a resident of the county where you are filing for divorce for at least 90 days.

Fault and no-fault grounds

In today’s world, divorce is almost always granted on a no-fault basis.  That just means the couple wants to terminate their relationship and live their own lives.  

In Texas, the no-fault ground for divorce is called “insupportability.”  

The legal definition is that the marriage is insupportable because of discord or conflict that destroys the legitimate ends of the marital relationship and prevents reconciliation.  You can also get divorced after living apart for three years, but it makes no sense to wait that long.

It used to be required to prove your spouse did something wrong before you could get a divorce, and Texas can still grant divorces on a so-called “fault” basis.  

The current fault grounds include cruelty, adultery, conviction of a felony, abandonment, and confinement to a mental hospital.

Property division

Texas is one of a handful of community property states.  In a community property state, pretty much everything a couple acquired during their marriage is owned jointly regardless of whose name is on it.  There are a few exceptions like gifts and inheritances.

At divorce, the court in Texas must split up the community property in a way that it deems “just and right, having due regard for the rights of each party and any children of the marriage.”  

In other words, the judge has a free hand to divide up the property.  For this reason, most couples will eventually come to an agreement on how to split their assets so that they are not subject to the whims of a judge.

Child custody and support

Divorce proceedings often include orders related to a couple’s children.  The law actually requires the judge to speak with a child under 12 privately in many circumstances to get a sense for what the child’s wishes are.  The court will address who will have both physical custody (where the child is living) and legal custody (who makes decisions on issues like school and religion for the child).  

One parent is often ordered to pay support to the other as well.  Presumed child support rates are calculated by the state and those numbers consider issues like how much each parent makes and what their living expenses are.

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