Grounds for Divorce in Texas

Learn more about the process of divorce in Texas.

In many states, couples can ask for a divorce without needing to give the court a reason, but in Texas, you might have the choice to point at your spouse’s misconduct as a reason for your divorce.

What Is a No-Fault Divorce?

Typically, if you ask the court for a no-fault divorce, you only need to tell the judge that your marriage is over and there’s no chance either spouse can fix it. Even though every state offers some type of no-fault divorce, the requirements vary depending on location, so it’s important for you to understand your state’s procedure before you file.

In Texas, couples need to allege to the court that their marriage is “insupportable” because of a conflict of personalities that destroys the relationship and prevents either spouse from reconciliation. Basically, you and your spouse have drifted apart, and for whatever reason, neither spouse wants to reconcile. You can pursue a divorce no matter how much your spouse tries to avoid or delay the process, which is why no-fault divorce is generally less time-consuming and less expensive.

Texas Allows Fault-Based Grounds

Divorce is more common today than in the past, so naturally, the divorce process has become easier. In pure no-fault states, like Michigan, courts don’t allow you to assert a reason for your divorce (other than a breakdown of your marriage). In other states, like Texas, couples have the option of asking the court to grant a no-fault or a fault-based divorce.

Before asking the court for a fault-based divorce, it’s important to understand that you must have sufficient proof that your marital situation warrants a divorce based on the reasons (grounds) you are alleging. In other words, if you can’t prove it, you can’t file for divorce using that reason. Acceptable fault grounds in Texas include:

  • cruelty
  • adultery
  • felony (when one spouse commits a felony and is imprisoned for at least one year)
  • abandonment by one spouse for a minimum of one year
  • separation and living apart for at least three years, or
  • confinement of one spouse to a state or private mental hospital.

When you file for divorce using fault, you’re telling the court that your spouse’s actions and misconduct led to the end of your marriage. Your spouse can contest the divorce based on your grounds if they don’t agree, so it’s important that you can prove it by providing testimony and evidence.

Condonation as a Defense to Fault-Based Divorce

Divorce is a highly-emotionally charged legal battle, and sometimes, spouses accuse each other of terrible things simply to make the process more complicated. Texas lawmakers took this into consideration, so the law allows a spouse to deny fault-based allegations and ask for a no-fault divorce if the filing spouse condoned the behavior. This defense, called condonation, is only possible if a judge also believes that there is a reasonable expectation of reconciliation. This defense helps eliminate fault-based divorces that can tie up the legal calendar, and instead, reverts the divorce to a no-fault petition, which is generally much less adversarial.

Condonation seems like a tricky concept, but if your spouse filed for divorce because you were cruel, for example, the court will grant a no-fault divorce instead, if you can prove:

  • your spouse previously forgave your actions, and
  • that you are truly remorseful and since your spouse forgave you, you did not commit the act again.

In one Texas case, a husband filed for a divorce based on his wife’s marital misconduct, however, his wife proved that he lived with her after he was aware of the bad behavior, which was enough to convince the court that at some point, he forgave his wife and therefore, the court required a no-fault petition for divorce.

Using Insanity as a Ground for Divorce

Every relationship has its moments of name-calling or other “insane” actions by a spouse, but, generally, it’s just a difference of opinion. However, if your spouse has a severe, untreated mental illness, you may have trouble filing for a fault-based divorce if your spouse was mentally impaired at the time of the behavior.

For instance, in one case, the court denied a husband’s request for a divorce based on his wife’s harsh and cruel behavior. A judge decided that, even though a doctor never officially diagnosed her with a mental illness, the wife’s actions were a result of her ongoing mental illness and emotional instability, and the husband couldn’t use that behavior as the grounds for divorce. Because her husband insisted on proceeding with a fault-based divorce using cruelty as a reason, the court had no choice but to deny the request. It would have been best for the husband to re-file using the simpler no-fault divorce procedure.

If you're facing a divorce but you’re not sure where to start, contact an experienced family law attorney in your area.

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