How Do I File for Divorce in Texas

Here are the basic forms you'll need to file and steps you'll need to take to start the divorce process in Texas.

If you're contemplating a Texas divorce, you probably have a number of questions. Most people are unfamiliar with the divorce process until they find themselves in the middle of one. This article provides a general overview of Texas divorce, which can help you move forward with your case.

Residency Requirements and Reasons for Divorce

To file for divorce in Texas, at least one party must have lived in the state for six months prior to filing. One of you must have also lived in the county where you wish to file for at least 90 days.

Texas is a mixed state, which means it allows both fault-based and no-fault divorce. Fault-based cases are relatively rare, as they require the filing party to prove that the other person committed some wrongdoing that caused the divorce. A no-fault divorce, on the other hand, allows the parties to proceed without assigning blame to either side. Instead of dredging up all the reasons why the marriage failed, you simply state that the marriage has become "insupportable" due to discord and personality conflicts.

Although used rarely, Texas law also provides a number of fault-based grounds, which include:

  • cruel treatment
  • adultery
  • felony conviction
  • abandonment for at least one year
  • confinement in a mental institution for at least three years

Preparing Your Forms

To begin your Texas divorce case, you must file a number of forms. The Texas Supreme Court has created a uniform list of domestic relations forms; however, some counties prefer their own local forms. Contact the clerk in the county where you intend to file to determine which forms your court accepts. At a minimum, your initial filing must include the following forms:

  • Original Petition for Divorce (includes Summons)
  • Citation (or waiver)
  • Notice of Service of Process
  • Decree of Divorce

Filing Your Forms

Once you have assembled all the required forms, you must file them with the appropriate county. Under Texas law, you can also ask the court to issue a Temporary Restraining Order, which prevents both sides from selling, moving, or otherwise diminishing the parties' property. This type of restraining order also instructs both sides to treat each other with civility. If you ask the court for a Temporary Restraining Order, it must schedule a hearing within 14 days. If you decline to ask for a restraining order, your spouse has 20 days to file a response to your original petition.

Serving Your Forms

Under Texas law, you must notify the other side that you have filed for divorce. This process, formally known as "Service of Process", involves delivering copies of all divorce documents to the non-filing spouse. The state allows several methods of service, including:

  • waiver
  • sheriff or constable service
  • process server
  • service by publication

If your spouse is relatively amicable toward the divorce proceedings, you can ask him or her to waive the service requirement. To waive service, your ex must sign a form acknowledging that he or she received copies of the initial filing.

In cases where waiver is impossible, most individuals choose either constable service or a private process server. The constable is a less expensive option; however, it is generally much slower than a professional process server. If you wish to move your case along quickly, a private process server is generally a better choice.

In cases where the filing spouse is unsure how to contact his or her spouse, Texas law also allows for service by publication. This form of service is generally quite costly, as it requires you to publish notice of the divorce in a local newspaper.

Financial Disclosures

In most counties, the parties must exchange financial information in a form known as a Sworn Inventory and Appraisement. The document asks each side to list retirement accounts, investment accounts, bank accounts, business information, real estate, and more. This financial disclosure helps the two sides identify the most important property issues in the case. Not every county requires the Inventory; however, the majority of Texas jurisdictions use the form.

Resources

Dallas County District Clerk

Texas State Statutes, Family Code

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