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How to File for Divorce in Texas – Divorce Process & Laws

For most people, filing for divorce is an emotional and stressful time. Many people dream of marriage from the time they’re young. What rarely gets dreamed about or discussed is the divorce rate, which can shatter any preconceived ideas about marriage.

Understanding the legal process of filing for divorce in Texas can help to ease some of the anxiety involved.  With the assistance of a seasoned Houston divorce attorney, you can learn more about the basics of filing a divorce in Texas.

This article will break down the process of how to get divorced in Texas, and the related time and financial requirements.

Filing for Legal Separation in Texas

Divorce is the dissolution of a marriage. In Texas, a divorce petition determines issues related to child custody, property and debts. Once a divorce petition has been granted, either spouse is free to marry another person.

Texas Does Not Recognize Legal Separation

In many states, legal separation allows spouses to take a step towards divorce without being officially divorced. Filing for legal separation in Texas is not an option. Texas does not recognize legal separation; under Texas law, once they have married, couples are either married are divorced.

What Are the Grounds for Divorce in Texas?

Each state is different as to the rules for divorce, and divorce in Texas are no different. There are specific rules for filing for divorce in Texas, even though Texas is considered a no-fault state and no judge will require a couple to stay married.

Before filing there are a few things to know about divorce law in Texas. First, one person must have been a resident of the state for at least six months. If that requirement isn’t met, the person must file in their previous state of residence. Secondly, the spouse that files for divorce in Texas must have lived in the county they file in for the last 90 days.

There are seven main reasons for getting divorced in Texas as seen by the courts. These include:

  1. living apart
  2. confinement in a mental institution
  3. cruelty
  4. abandonment
  5. conviction of a felony
  6. adultery
  7. insupportability

All of these have specific guidelines with timeframes, and in many cases, there must be proof of what the petitioner is claiming. In cases where one party wants to get divorced but none of the above reasons pertain to their marriage, they can learn how to file for divorce in Texas as a no-fault divorce.

The only no-fault ground for divorce is known as an insupportability divorce in Texas. This simply means the marriage is broken and can’t be repaired with one or both people willing to call it quits. In other words, neither spouse needs proof of wrongdoing by their partner.

Does it Matter Who Files for Divorce First in Texas?


divorce in Texas

Is it better to file for divorce first in Texas? The short answer to this question is no, but the long answer is that it can. The first person who files is considered the petitioner and this person gets to file in their county if the couple have been living apart in different counties or if the other person moved out of state.

This can save time and money in travel expenses and time off work for the first party to file. The downside is that whoever files first typically pays a little more when it comes to court fees, such as the initial fee for filing which can be several hundred dollars.

Another benefit for the petitioner is having more time for their lawyer to prepare for the temporary orders hearing, in which the court tells both parties:

  • how they will behave towards each other
  • child visitation rights
  • amount of child support during this time
  • what happens to the house in a divorce in Texas
  • who will pay what bills

The temporary orders hearing will also make it clear that no bank accounts can be closed, or other money or assets moved in any way. This can also be a benefit to the petitioning spouse if they are worried about movement of funds.

Divorce Process in Texas

filing for divorce in Texas

Filing for divorce in Texas with children can be impacted by initial guidelines set by a court order. The court order can state when and if the children can be taken out of state, whether the children can stay in their current schools or daycare, who gets to see the children at what times and on what days, and temporary child support.

Divorce laws in Texas will address all these concerns prior to the actual divorce proceedings.

Filing for Divorce in Texas

If you’re wondering how to get a divorce in Texas or what the cost of divorce in Texas is, it can vary based on your situation. After filing the paperwork, many courts will order mediation to avoid going to trial.

Judges typically prefer the couple work any issues out between themselves and determine what is best for both of them without having to go to court. Should mediation not work, the cost of divorce goes up and can be more stressful for both parties and any children they have.

Where to File for Divorce in Texas

Filing for divorce is done in the county where the petitioner lives if they have been there for at least 90 days. Each county can determine what paperwork they require, so the paperwork necessary to file divorce isn’t uniform throughout Texas.

Typically, there are four forms needed and they are:

  1. original petition for divorce (this can include a summons)
  2. a citation (or waiver)
  3. notice of service of process
  4. decree of divorce

As the divorce proceeds, other documents may be required by the courts such as those establishing all financial disclosures.

Where Do I File for Divorce in Harris County?

If you live in Harris County and want to file for divorce, the Harris County District Court is where all divorce proceedings occur. If the divorce is uncontested (both parties agree to the divorce), there must first be a petition prepared, filed and submitted to the courts along with court fees which can range from $200 to $350, depending on each case.

How to File for Divorce in Texas

As with most things in life, divorce can cost a lot of money. Using an experienced Houston divorce lawyer who will fight for the most in your divorce case will pay off in the end.

Going through a divorce by yourself can be stressful and stress can cause mistakes. The last thing you want is to allow something to happen or lose money because you were too stressed to truly understand what was going on.

Serve Your Spouse Divorce Papers in Texas

Texas divorce laws require the petitioner to notify the other party they are filing for divorce. This can be done by using a waiver, having the divorce papers served by a sheriff or constable, using a process server, or using a service by publication.

Do Both Parties Have to Sign Divorce Papers in Texas?

It is customary for both parties to sign divorce papers when filing for divorce in Harris County or any other county in Texas, especially in an uncontested divorce. However, Texas laws on divorce don’t require both signatures when one party is in default and hasn’t responded to the courts or filed an answer. The courts will continue the divorce process in Texas without both signatures.

Responding to Divorce Papers

If your spouse is filing for a divorce in Texas and you have been served papers, you have 20 days to file your response to divorce petition in Texas. This response specifies whether you want to be heard in the divorce hearing or not. If you don’t answer, the courts will proceed with the Texas divorce process and grant a default judgement to your spouse.

How Much Is a Divorce in Texas?

cost of divorce in Texas

Divorce can be costly and expensive to begin with. When you decide to file yourself and do it without an attorney representing you, it can become even more costly. Although having counsel can seem like a large upfront cost, is usually provides value in the end.

An experienced family divorce lawyer will understand how to divorce in Texas, the cost to file for divorce in Texas, and where to file for divorce in Texas. An experienced lawyer will know all of this and reduce the friction of this process, so you can focus on your future and not the past. Your lawyer will also help you fight for everything you deserve. In a State of Texas divorce, asset division is not a 50/50 split. Thus, it’s important to have someone knowledgeable fighting for your rights.

Contested – Cost of Divorce in Texas

If you’ve been wondering – how much does divorce cost in Texas? – it can vary widely. A contested divorce in Texas, in which neither party agrees to a division of property, can be much costlier than in a situation where both parties agree.

The cost is strongly influenced by how quickly the assets can be divided and agreed upon. However, in longer cases where both sides refuse to agree, it can be very costly.

So, how much does divorce cost in Texas? It truly depends on how willing both parties are to settle and agree. The actual numbers can be anywhere from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars depending on the length of time it takes for both sides to agree.

Uncontested – Cost to File for Divorce in Texas

An uncontested divorce is one where both parties are willing to agree to split assets, time with children, and a host of other matters in an amicable way. Many times, these divorces are quickly completed and the cost of getting divorced is minimal. Lawyers spend much less time on an uncontested divorce case than they do on a contested divorce. The actual numbers for an uncontested divorce are closer to just a few thousand dollars.

How Long Does a Divorce Take in Texas?

So, how long does a divorce take in Texas? The State of Texas has a statutory waiting period as part of the divorce steps in Texas. The waiting period is 60 days after filing. During this time, parties can agree to mediation or they can wait out the 60 days and go to court.

Can One Spouse Be Required to Pay Attorneys’ Fees for Both Lawyers?

Divorces are civil cases, which means that neither party is entitled to an attorney.  However, it is generally a smart idea to hire a lawyer, particularly if your spouse has one to represent him or her.  But for many married couples, one spouse controls the assets, making it difficult for the other spouse to pay for a lawyer in the event of a divorce.  In those situations, the spouse without access to funds can petition the court for the other spouse to pay for his or her attorney’s fees.  He or she must show the need for the funds and that the other spouse has the ability to pay the fees in order for this petition to be granted.  If granted, then the spouse with access to funds will be required to pay attorney’s fees during the divorce.

If you’re facing divorce and have questions like – how much is a divorce in Texas, how do I file for divorce in Texas, or even what do you need to get a divorce in Texas – let the Moffett Law Firm be your first call. We have a team of lawyers who can explain everything you need to know and who will walk with you through the entire process.

Our experienced lawyers will fight for your rights and what you deserve. Getting a divorce can be stressful and make life difficult, so why not trust a lawyer to guide you to the best outcome? If you’re in need of a divorce lawyer in Houston, contact the Moffett Law Firm today to schedule a consultation.


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