This article covers the basic issues you'll encounter in a divorce in Texas.
To file for a divorce in Texas, one of the spouses has to have been a resident of the state for a continuous six-month period. In addition, one of the spouses must have been a resident of the county where the divorce is filed for at least 90 days.
A typical Texas divorce requires the following steps:
In Texas, a divorce cannot be final for at least 60 days after the petition is filed. The divorce is final as soon as the judge pronounces it so in open court and signs the decree of divorce. If the spouses are not in agreement, it typically takes about six months to one year or longer to finalize a divorce, depending on the complexity of the issues and the degree of conflict.
Texas law allows for "no-fault" divorces. However, if one spouse is at fault for the breakup of the marriage, the court may take that into consideration in determining what is an equitable (fair) division of the couple's property. For that reason, you may want to include fault grounds in your petition for divorce. The statutory grounds for a fault divorce are: adultery, cruel treatment (that renders further living together insupportable), abandonment (for at least one year with the intent to abandon), long-term incarceration (more than one year), confinement to a mental hospital for at least three years, or living apart for at least three years. For a no-fault divorce, your petition alleges "insupportability," which is defined as discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marriage and prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
The court starts with a presumption that all the property earned or acquired by either spouse during the marriage is community property, owned equally by the spouses. If you have separate property you have to prove it by tracing it with "clear and convincing evidence." Separate property includes property acquired by just one spouse by gift or inheritance. For example, you might show that you inherited some money from your grandmother and always kept it in a separate account with only your name on it. The court divides community property between the spouses in a "just and right manner." In most cases, that means a 50-50 split. In some cases, however, factors such as unequal earning power and fault in the marital relationship can affect the division of property.
Courts may issue orders awarding temporary spousal support if one spouse is unemployed or earning significantly less than the other. There are no guidelines for temporary spousal support, so if you're seeking support, you should be prepared to show what your needs are and what resources your spouse has to meet those needs.
In accordance with Texas alimony laws, the requesting spouse must meet one of four requirements:
If a spouse qualifies for maintenance under the first, third, or fourth requirement, maintenance can last no longer than three years, and the amount ordered cannot exceed 20% of the gross income of the paying spouse. If a spouse qualifies for maintenance under the second requirement, the term can be indefinite.
Under federal law, you might be entitled to keep your medical insurance benefits under your former spouse's group plan. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 created what are commonly known as COBRA benefits, which are available to the former spouses of people who work for employers who have 20 or more employees. In general, this law provides that employers must offer "continuation coverage" for the first three years after the termination of the marriage. The employer can charge the former spouse for this coverage, but the charge cannot be more than 2% greater than what is charged to employees. To obtain COBRA benefits, contact your former spouse's employer directly and request the appropriate forms. You must file your application with your spouse's employer no later than 60 days after the termination of your marriage. If you miss that deadline, you will not be able to get these benefits.