Before a divorce is final, there are general steps to take in the Texas divorce process. Below, our North Texas divorce lawyers provide a brief overview of the steps to divorce in Texas, from filing the initial petition to obtaining the final divorce order.
Remember that every divorce is different. The steps to resolve your case will depend on your unique situation. If you have questions about your divorce case, we encourage you to contact our law firm to schedule a consultation. We can answer your questions and discuss your legal options for moving forward with or resolving your divorce.
Step One: File a Petition for Divorce
The first step is to start the divorce process by filing a divorce petition. The petition should be filed with the district court where either you or your spouse has lived for the preceding 90 days. Either spouse can file the petition as long as one spouse meets the Texas residency requirements. Whoever files it is considered the Petitioner.
Depending on your unique situation, the petition may include a range of information and requests. For example, in addition to information about you, your spouse, grounds for divorce, and residency, it may include requests for orders about child-related matters, property matters, and other divorce-related issues.
Texas Residency Requirements
At least one spouse must meet the state’s residency requirements to file for divorce in Texas. Either spouse must have:
- Been a resident of Texas for at least six months before filing
- Lived in the county where the petition is to be filed for the previous 90-day period
Grounds for Divorce
Texas requires you and your spouse to have a legally acceptable reason to end your marriage. In most cases, the reason stated will be insupportability, meaning irreconcilable differences. Insupportability is a way to move forward with the divorce process without blaming your spouse for the divorce. Another no-fault reason is living apart for at least three years.
However, Texas also recognizes fault-based grounds for divorce, which include:
- Felony conviction
- Confinement in a mental hospital
Step Two: Provide Legal Notice to Your Spouse
After filing the petition, the next step is to serve your spouse with a copy of the divorce papers. This process ensures that your spouse, known as the Respondent, is aware of the divorce proceedings and has an opportunity to respond.
Under Texas law, you have a few options to serve your spouse. The most common ways include:
- Service of process. Texas law requires that a sheriff, constable, or other person authorized by the law, such as a private process server, serve the papers.
- Waiver of Service. If your spouse agrees to forego a formal service of process, they can sign a Waiver of Service after the divorce petition has been filed. Your spouse must sign the waiver in the presence of a notary, have it notarized, and file it with the court. It is important to note that the waiver does not mean your spouse agrees with the terms of the petition.
Step Three: Your Spouse’s Response
If you officially served your spouse, they generally have 20 days from the date they were served to file a formal response to the divorce petition with the court. By filing a response, known as an Answer, with the court, your spouse indicates they want to participate in the divorce process.
In addition to filing a response, your spouse can file a counter-petition for divorce. A counter-petition states that your spouse also wants a divorce and may include their own order requests for the court to consider.
In the event your spouse does not respond, the divorce may proceed uncontested. If this occurs, your spouse will not have a say in the divorce proceedings or divorce-related matters, such as custody or property division.
Step Four: Temporary Orders
After the divorce petition is filed, either spouse can request a temporary orders hearing if you cannot agree on terms. Temporary orders address matters like child custody, support, and who will live in the primary residence during the divorce proceedings. It may also include temporary restraining orders.
These temporary orders help protect both parties’ interests until a final divorce decree is issued. It is important to understand that the final divorce decree will override any temporary orders.
Step 5: Settle Divorce-Related Matters
After the initial divorce filing, Texas has a mandatory waiting period of 60 days before a divorce can be finalized. The exception to this waiting period is if the case involves family violence.
You and your spouse may use this time to work to resolve divorce-related matters. For example, divorce usually involves issues like property division, child custody, and support.
Generally, you have two choices to resolve your divorce – come to an agreement or go to trial. To work toward a settlement agreement, you can pursue:
- Negotiation. Negotiation can be a more amicable and cost-effective method of resolving disputes. The spouses may negotiate directly with each other or through their attorneys to reach an agreement on divorce-related issues.
- Mediation. A mediator is a neutral third party who helps facilitate communication and negotiation between spouses to reach an agreement on specific issues. If negotiations stall or become contentious, the spouses may choose to participate in mediation. Additionally, the court has the right to require both parties to participate in mediation before trial.
If negotiation and mediation are unsuccessful, the case will proceed to trial. During a trial, each party presents their case to a judge, who decides on the contested issues. Litigation can be time-consuming, emotionally draining, and expensive, so it is generally in the best interest of both parties to resolve their disputes before reaching this stage.
Step Six: Final Divorce Order
Once all issues have been resolved through negotiation, mediation, or trial, the court will sign or issue a final divorce order. This document formally ends the marriage and dictates the divorce terms, including property division, child custody, child support, and spousal support.
Contact Warren & Migliaccio Today About Your Situation
Navigating the steps to divorce in Texas can be a challenging and complex process. A qualified divorce attorney from Warren & Migliaccio can help guide you through the divorce process, protect your rights, and advocate for your best interests.
If you are considering divorce or have been served with divorce papers, we encourage you to contact our North Texas divorce lawyers. We are committed to providing compassionate and effective legal representation to help our clients achieve the best possible outcome for their cases.
Please fill out our online contact form or call one of our offices to schedule a consultation to discuss your situation. We are happy to answer your legal questions and determine how we can help you during this difficult time.