Divorce can be stressful even under the best of circumstances. But it doesn't have to involve a drawn-out, expensive court battle. If you and your spouse can agree on how you'll deal with the legal, financial, and practical details involved in ending your marriage, you can save money and time by getting an uncontested divorce in Texas.
If you want to file for an uncontested divorce (also known as "dissolution of marriage") in Texas, you must meet three basic requirements: state residency, agreement on the reason for your divorce, and agreement on the issues in your case.
To get a Texas divorce, either you or your spouse must have lived:
(Tex. Fam. Code § 6.301 (2022).)
As in all states, you need a legally accepted reason (or "ground") for divorce in Texas. The state allows divorce based on both "fault" and "no-fault" grounds. (Tex. Fam. Code §§ 6.001-6.007 (2022).) If you file for a fault-based divorce, you'll claim that your spouse was to blame for the end of the marriage by engaging in a certain type of misconduct (like adultery, abandonment, or cruelty). In a no-fault divorce, neither spouse accuses the other of wrongdoing.
The most commonly used no-fault divorce ground in Texas is that the marriage has become "insupportable" because of conflict or clash of personalities, and it's not reasonable to expect that you could reconcile. You may also file for a no-fault divorce based on being separated, but in that case you and your spouse must have lived apart for at least three years without cohabitation (sexual relations). (Tex. Fam. Code §§ 6.001, 6.006 (2022).)
It's highly unlikely that you'd qualify for an uncontested divorce in Texas if you file for divorce using a fault-based ground. This is because your spouse would likely balk at the accusation of fault, which would hamper—if not outright eradicate—any chance of settling your case. Remember, if any aspect of your case is in dispute, the court won't consider the case uncontested.
Before you file for an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse will need to work out agreements on all the issues in your case, including:
If you're having trouble agreeing about any of these issues—or any other matters you want to address in your divorce—mediation might help you find solutions that work for both you and your spouse. Most mediators will prepare a document that reflects any agreements you've reached during the process. You can use this document to prepare your written marital settlement agreement (sometimes referred to as a "property settlement agreement" or "divorce settlement agreement").
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. 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 Texas Judicial Branch 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 district court clerk in the county where you intend to file your paperwork to make sure you have all the right forms.
To simplify matters, you could instead file for divorce online by using a service that will complete the proper uncontested divorce forms for you, based on your answers to a questionnaire. These services will typically also help you create a settlement agreement, and some will take care of filing the divorce papers, for an additional fee.
In order to initiate the divorce, you'll need to compete an "Original Petition for Divorce." This provides the court with information about your marriage. It also sets out what you're asking for in the divorce, such as spousal support or child custody. If either you or your spouse lives out-of-state, you'll also have to file an "Out-of-State Party Declaration."
Another thing you'll need to determine is whether the county where you're filing the petition requires "Standing Orders." These are court orders that take effect when you file the petition. Their purpose is to maintain the status quo in certain areas of the marriage until a judge has the chance to review these issues after a hearing. Standing orders typically involve:
Once you've completed and signed the applicable forms, you'll have to file them with the court. You do this by providing an original and two copies to the district court clerk of the county where you or your spouse lived for the last 90 days. You can either deliver hard copies to the clerk's office or use the court's electronic filing system. You will receive file-stamped copies of the documents.
You'll almost always need to pay a fee to file the divorce papers (more on that below).
Once you file the divorce petition with the clerk, it has to be "served on" (delivered to) your spouse, together with a "citation" (which you'll get from the clerk's office). The standard way to serve divorce papers is by having the sheriff's office or a private process server hand-deliver the documents. But because you and your spouse are cooperating on the uncontested divorce process, you should be able to do bypass this formal service method by having your spouse sign and file a "Waiver of Service Only" form to acknowledge having received copies of the divorce papers from you. This document must be signed and notarized no earlier than one day after you filed the divorce petition. (Tex. Fam. Code § 6.4035 (2022).)
In the interest of moving the uncontested divorce along as quickly as possible, your spouse may also sign the "Final Decree of Divorce" at the same time as the waiver of service. The final decree lays out the provisions of the agreement you've reached, and it must be submitted to the court in order to finalize the divorce.
Be aware that if your spouse doesn't sign the decree of divorce and opts to respond to the divorce petition by filing an "Answer" (which must be filed within 20 days of service), Texas requires that you both exchange "Initial Disclosures." These disclosures include information and documents about your property, retirement plans, and other financial matters. This exchange is required even if the divorce is uncontested. Unless there's a written agreement to extend the time, you must provide these disclosures within 30 days after the answer was filed. (Tex. Rules Civ. Proc., rule 194.2 (2022).)
If your spouse doesn't respond to the petition and doesn't sign the final decree of divorce, you may still get divorce by way of a "default judgment." But you'll have to provide evidence to support the requests you made in the divorce petition. (Tex. Fam. Code § 6.701 (2022).)
Note that if you have a child who receives federal assistance, such as Medicaid or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), you must send a court-stamped copy of the divorce petition to the Office of the Attorney General - Child Support Division, and keep proof that you sent it.
After you've filed the divorce petition, Texas has a mandatory 60-day waiting period before you can get your final divorce decree. (Tex. Fam. Code § 6.702(a) (2022).) Once the 60-day waiting period has ended, you can ask the court to schedule your uncontested divorce hearing. The procedure for requesting a final hearing may vary from county to county, so check with the court clerk in advance.
Hearings for uncontested divorces in Texas (sometimes referred to as "prove-up" hearings) are usually short. The judge will make sure you've complied with all applicable requirements for obtaining the divorce, and will review the decree of divorce which you and your spouse will have signed. On the date of your hearing, try to get to court a little early, so you can familiarize yourself with your surroundings and let the court personnel know that you've arrived.
As a rule, an uncontested divorce is a lot cheaper than a traditional, contested divorce. That's because many couples can get through the uncontested divorce process without hiring lawyers to represent them—which leads to big savings on the normal cost of divorce.
The basic expense for an uncontested divorce will usually be the court fee for filing the divorce papers. Texas's filing fee varies from county to county and sometimes depends on whether or not there are children involved. In any case, expect to pay somewhere around $350 (as of 2022, but always subject to change). If you can't afford to to pay the filing fee, you may request a waiver by filing a "Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs." (Tex. Rules Civ. Proc., rule 502.3(a) (2022).)
Beyond the filing fee, your costs will depend on whether you get a "pure" do-it-yourself divorce or you need some help with the process.