Contrary to popular belief, not all divorces involve fighting spouses and expensive legal fees. In fact, in Texas, divorcing spouses who can still communicate may qualify for a less expensive and adversarial process called an uncontested or “agreed” divorce.
The key to an uncontested divorce is for both spouses to agree on all divorce-related issues and sign an agreement to skip the trial process before a judge. This simplified divorce process in Texas is often relatively fast and has much less of an impact on your pocketbook than taking a divorce to trial.
This article provides a general overview of the uncontested divorce process in Texas. If you have additional questions regarding filing for divorce in Texas, contact a local family law attorney for advice.
An uncontested divorce is one where the spouses agree on all terms, while a contested divorce is one where the spouses cannot agree on one or more significant issues in the divorce, like how to divide marital property and whether either spouse should pay spousal support.
Texas is unusual in that it gives couples a few options for a simplified divorce process. For example, if you and your spouse agree on all divorce-related issues and you don’t have minor children, file for an uncontested divorce.
Texas divorce law restricts the uncontested divorce process to those who meet the following criteria:
The Texas Judicial Branch offers instructions and forms for couples wishing to file an uncontested divorce. You can find the toolkit titled “Supreme Court Approved Divorce Forms” and other documents under the “family” section. You can also visit the Texas Law Help website for a complete toolkit on filing an uncontested divorce without children.
If you have minor children, you don’t qualify for the uncontested divorce process in Texas. However, you may be able to utilize the “agreed divorce” process if you meet the following requirements:
Texas Law Help offers a complete set of instructions for divorcing couples with minor children.
For couples with minor children where the court has already issued a final order regarding child custody and child support, you can request an agreed divorce. However, you’ll need to utilize the toolkit on the Texas Law Help website titled “Instructions and forms for an agreed divorce (when there is already a final court order for child custody and child support of your children.)"
You can not use this toolkit or the forms included if the final court order:
If you and your spouse have any unresolved issues in your divorce, or if any of the above criteria do not apply, then you do not qualify for an uncontested divorce in Texas, and you will need to file for a traditional divorce.
A note on Texas’ requirements for “grounds” for divorce
In Texas, couples have the option to file a fault divorce using any of the approved reasons listed in the Texas Family Code. For example, if your spouse committed adultery or abandoned the marriage, the filing spouse can use those reasons as the grounds for a fault divorce.
However, to successfully file for an uncontested or agreed divorce, you must file using the no-fault divorce reasons of insupportability or living apart. (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 6.001 and § 6.006.)
Regardless of the type of divorce you plan to file, the first step in every case is the ensure that you meet the state’s residency requirement. For the courts in Texas to accept any divorce case, at least one spouse must have resided in the state for at least 6 months before filing for divorce. Additionally, you or your spouse must live in the county where you are filing for at least 3 months before you file.
If you meet the residency requirements, you can proceed with the uncontested divorce process if you don’t have minor children, and you and your spouse agree on every issue in your divorce.
If you plan to file for divorce without the help of an attorney, you will be responsible for filing the right documents with the proper court. Filing in the wrong county, or without meeting the residency requirements, will result in the judge dismissing your case, and you will need to start the process over.
Texas’ district courts oversee divorce cases and trials. Texas has approximately 456 district courts spread throughout the various counties in the state. You should file your divorce in the county where you live. However, if you and your spouse reside in different counties within the state, you can file in either county.
The Texas Court website offers online forms for completing an uncontested divorce or in hard copy at your local courthouse. You must file the following forms in your divorce paperwork:
If you and your spouse have children together under the age of 18, then you must also file:
The required paperwork to complete a divorce in Texas varies from county to county. It is best to check with your local court clerk if you have questions or to determine whether you need to file additional forms. When you submit your paperwork, you will need to pay a filing fee to the court.
Each county sets its own fee schedule, so contact your local court clerk to determine how much you should bring with you when you file. If you can’t afford to pay, you can submit a fee waiver form asking the court to waive all court fees for your case.
Texas has a 60-day waiting period to complete a divorce. (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 6.702.) Even in uncontested cases, Texas requires 61 days to have passed before the judge can finalize your divorce. The court clerk will set a final hearing with the judge to complete your divorce after the waiting period expires. If you’ve completed and filed all the necessary paperwork and the court finds that your agreement is reasonable, the judge will sign the Final Decree of Divorce.
It’s important to understand that your divorce only becomes final when the judge signs the final divorce decree, although this may or may not be the date of your court hearing. Additionally, Texas law prohibits both spouses from remarrying a third party until at least 31 days after they receive the final, signed documents back from the court. (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 6.801.)
If you have additional questions about obtaining an uncontested divorce in Texas, contact an experienced family law attorney for assistance.
For more information on uncontested divorces in Texas and to read the complete statute, see Texas Statutes and Codes, Title 1, Subtitle C, Chapter 6, Subchapter A.