The process of filing for a divorce in Texas can feel overwhelming. But it doesn't have to be, especially if you and your spouse can take advantage of special rules and help available to couples who can work together on their divorce.
Before you file for divorce (also known as "dissolution of marriage') in Texas, you should learn whether you meet the state's residency requirements and will be able to file for an uncontested divorce. Then you'll need to get and complete the right divorce forms.
To get a Texas divorce, either you or your spouse must have lived:
(Tex. Fam. Code § 6.301 (2021).)
In an uncontested divorce (sometimes called "agreed divorce" in Texas), the spouses have reached a marital settlement agreement covering all of the legal issues involved in ending their marriage, including:
Also, both spouses must agree that conflicts have made the marriage "insupportable," with no reasonable expectation that they could reconcile—one of the no-fault reasons (or "grounds") for divorce in Texas. The state also allows a spouse to claim one of several fault-based grounds for divorce, but that would rule out an uncontested divorce. (Tex. Fam. Code §§ 6.001-6.007 (2021).)
When you file for an uncontested divorce, the forms and procedures are simplified—making it more likely that you can get through the process more quickly and without hiring lawyers (more on that below).
But what if you can't agree with your spouse on all of the issues before you file? Divorce mediation might be a good solution, depending on the circumstances. And when mediation is successful, many mediators will help prepare the document that reflects your agreements.
As with most legal proceedings, you'll need to submit some forms to start your Texas divorce case. When you're filing for an uncontested divorce, you can find simplified forms and directions on the Texas Law Help website (search for the forms in the guide that's relevant to your situation).
There are different forms depending on your situation, including whether you and your spouse have minor children, and whether you're the "petitioner" (meaning you'll start the process by filing the petition for divorce) or the "respondent" (the other spouse). The Supreme Court of Texas also provides a set of approved divorce forms—but only for uncontested cases where the spouses have no minor children and own no real property (like a house). Some counties in Texas might have their own local forms, so you should check with the court clerk in the county where you intend to file your paperwork to make sure you have all the right forms.
If the process of tracking down the right forms and filling them out properly is daunting—or if you just don't have the time for that—there is another option besides hiring a lawyer to handle it for you. You can use an online divorce service, which will provide you with the correct, completed forms based on your answers to an online questionnaire. Some of these services will even file the forms for you, usually for an additional fee.
However, if your divorce is a contested one, you won't be able to take advantage of either online divorce or the forms available from Texas Law Help. Many people in this situation hire lawyers to handle their divorce case. If that's completely out of reach for you, you might be able to find help through a legal clinic or volunteer lawyer.
Once you've assembled and completed all the required forms for divorce in Texas, you must file them with the court clerk in the county where you meet the residency requirements. (You can find current contact information for the district clerks on the Judicial Directory page of the Texas courts.)
To file the paperwork, bring the original and two copies of all the forms (one for you and one for your spouse) to the clerk's office. You will have to pay a filing fee, unless you qualify for a waiver and file a completed Statement of Inability to Afford Court Costs form. In Texas, the filing fees for divorce vary from county to county, but they typically run from about $250 to over $400.
After you've filed your divorce petition with the court, you will need to provide your spouse with a copy of the petition and other paperwork. There are two basic ways to do this:
If you have a child who has ever received certain federal benefits (Medicaid or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), you will also need to notify the Child Support Division of the Texas Office of the Attorney General about your divorce case by sending a file-stamped copy of your petition (either by email or by certified mail with return receipt requested).
After you've filed and served your divorce papers, the next steps will depend on whether your case is uncontested or contested.
If the respondent files an answer (even if the divorce is not contested), Texas now requires that the spouses must exchange initial disclosures, including certain information and documents about their property, retirement plans, and other financial matters. Unless the spouses have a written agreement to extend the time, they must provide these disclosures within 30 days after the answer was filed. (Tex. Rules of Civ. Proc., rule 194.2 (2021).)
Also, when you file for a Texas divorce, you or your spouse may ask the court to issue temporary orders aimed at preserving your property during the divorce proceedings. Among other things, the order might prohibit one or both spouses from hiding, selling, mortgaging, or damaging property that belongs to either or both of them. Judges might also issue these orders on their own, if they think it's necessary. (Tex. Fam. Code §§ 6.501, 6.502 (2021).)