Many people in deteriorating marriages will run out and hire an expensive divorce lawyer to fight for every penny they are entitled to. That may not be the best choice, though. You can save a lot of money by handling your own divorce, and below are the important steps on how to file for divorce in Texas.
1. Decide on your grounds for divorce
Texas law has several grounds for divorce. In the past, a person seeking a divorce needed to prove “fault” on the part of his or her spouse. Texas law still has fault grounds like cruelty, adultery, and conviction of a felony. A divorcing spouse might still use fault grounds to get a leg up when seeking child custody or dividing property. The vast majority of people will use no-fault grounds for divorce, though. The basic no-fault ground for divorce in Texas is “insupportability.” One spouse simply has to convince a judge that their “marriage has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities” This is similar to the “irreconcilable differences” divorce in many other states.
2. Petition for divorce
The court’s divorce process is started when one spouse petitions for divorce. Texas law generally allows either spouse to file for divorce in Texas so long as one spouse has lived in the state for at least six months and the specific Texas county for 90 days. Once the petition is filed, the spouse that filed, called the “petitioner,” has to “serve” a copy on the other spouse, who is called the “respondent.” In a relatively simple situation, such as a couple with no kids and few assets, the major issues of the divorce may already be sorted out before the petition is filed. In more complicated situations where one spouse is the instigator, the petition may be just the first step in a painful court process.
3. Work out child custody, support, and property division
Except in cases involving domestic abuse, a judge in Texas cannot issue a divorce until 60 days after the petition was filed. This time is often used to settle issues involving children and property. If these issues have already been sorted out, then the 60 days simply functions as a waiting period before anything is finalized. In more complicated cases the two spouses will be intensely negotiating a settlement. They may use mediators or arbitrators to help.
If the couple cannot come to a voluntary agreement, the judge will move forward much like any other court case. Each spouse will be allowed to ask for information from the other spouse in a process called “discovery.” Then the couple will have a trial-like hearing where the judge can review records or hear testimony from witnesses. The judge can then order a final settlement of property division and child care issues.
4. Get a final decree of divorce
Once a settlement is in place and at least 60 days have passed, the couple simply needs a judge to review the settlement and issue a final decree. If the couple has come to a voluntary agreement this is typically just a short hearing where a judge briefly checks to make sure the agreement is fair. If the judge has already had a hearing to determine child care and property division issues, then a final decree will be the final step in that process.