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How Divorce Works in Texas: Frequently Asked Divorce Questions and Answers

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What Are the Rules for Divorce in Texas?

The basics you should understand when you’re considering a Texas divorce include:

  • Residency Requirements: One spouse is required to have lived in Texas for a continuous six-month period before filing for divorce. Additionally, one of the spouses must have lived in the county where the divorce is filed for at least 90 days.
  • Grounds for Divorce: Texas allows for no-fault divorce or divorces based on fault.
  • Waiting Period: Texas requires a 60-day waiting period from the date of filing before a divorce can be finalized.
  • Division of Property: Texas is a community property state, so most property acquired during the marriage is considered jointly owned and is subject to division between the spouses. However, the court will consider factors like the length of the marriage, each spouse’s financial situation, and other relevant factors when dividing assets and debts.
  • Child Custody and Support: Texas courts prioritize the best interests of the child when making decisions regarding custody and support.
  • Spousal Support: Spousal support, also known as alimony, is not guaranteed in Texas divorces. If a spouse is seeking spousal support, they must demonstrate a valid need, and the court will consider various factors when deciding whether to award it.
  • Mediation: Some Texas counties require mediation before a case can proceed to trial to lessen the burden on the court system.
  • Finalizing the Divorce: Once all issues are resolved, either through negotiation, mediation, or trial, the divorce can be finalized. The court will issue a Final Decree of Divorce, which officially ends the marriage.

What Does a No-Fault Divorce Mean in Texas?

The term “no-fault divorce” means that it is not necessary to prove that either spouse is at fault for the end of the marriage. Conversely, spouses may file for divorce on fault-based grounds. Fault-based determinations may provide a court with the authority to award the spouse not at fault with more community property than the spouse at fault.

What Are the Grounds for Filing for Divorce in Texas?

Texas family law details seven grounds for divorce, divided between no-fault grounds and fault-based grounds.

No-Fault Grounds

  • Insupportability: You can claim that the marriage has become insupportable due to a conflict of personalities that prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
  • Living Apart: If you and your spouse have been living apart for at least three years, you can file for divorce.
  • Confinement to a Mental Hospital: This is relevant when one spouse has been institutionalized in a mental hospital for a minimum of three years and it becomes evident that the mental disorder’s severity and character make it unlikely for the spouse to adapt or indicate a high likelihood of relapse.

Fault-Based Grounds

  • Cruelty: If your spouse has been cruel toward you, making it unsafe or intolerable to continue living together, you can file for divorce on grounds of cruelty.
  • Adultery: If your spouse has committed adultery, you can file for divorce based on that.
  • Felony Conviction: You can file for a divorce if your spouse received a felony conviction and has been imprisoned for at least one year without pardon.
  • Abandonment: If your spouse has intentionally abandoned you for at least one year, you can file for divorce on grounds of abandonment.

Every family and divorce scenario is personal and nuanced. Ultimately, filing for a fault or no-fault divorce is up to the person filing and will depend on the specific situation. If you’re facing an imminent divorce, it’s important to discuss your options with an experienced family law attorney who can help guide you through the process of seeking a divorce.

How to File for a Divorce: What Is the Process of Divorce in Texas?

With the help of your experienced Texas divorce attorney, a few issues must be evaluated before filing for a divorce. Start by determining the grounds for divorce. Then, obtain and file the required paperwork. A good starting point to get the necessary divorce-specific forms is the Texas Supreme Court, but make sure that your county doesn’t have its own required paperwork first. The minimum paperwork submitted to the court for a divorce should include an original petition and summons for divorce, a citation or waiver, a decree of divorce, and a notice of service to inform the other spouse about the divorce.

Discuss with your divorce attorney whether you should also file a temporary restraining order that blocks both parties from moving and from selling or destroying property.

What is the Process of Divorce in Texas?

The basic steps for a Texas divorce are:

  1. File a Divorce Petition: The first step in the divorce process is to file a divorce petition with the court. Whichever spouse submits the petition is known as the petitioner, and the other is the respondent.
  2. Notify the Other Spouse and File Proof of Service: After filing the divorce petition, the petitioner must legally notify the spouse (respondent) by serving them the petition. You must also file proof of service for the divorce to progress.
  3. Request Temporary Court Orders (if Necessary): Seek temporary court orders for urgent matters like child custody or support during divorce proceedings.
  4. Negotiate a Settlement: Contentious matters such as child custodyproperty division, or what to do with business assets can be challenging to agree upon, but negotiating a settlement is an essential part of the process. Spouses and their legal representatives should engage in discussions to reach a settlement. The court may sometimes mandate that this be handled through mediation before the case can proceed to trial.
  5. Trial: If negotiations fail, the next step is to proceed to trial. During the trial, both parties present evidence and testimony to support their claims concerning property, financial support, child custody, and other matters. The court carefully evaluates all evidence and testimony and makes final rulings on all outstanding issues.
  6. Finalize Judgment: The last step in the divorce process is to finalize the court’s judgment by obtaining a final decree of divorce. This document, signed by the judge, officially dissolves the marriage and specifies orders related to child custody, financial support, division of assets, and any other important matters.

How Long Does a Divorce Take?

In the simplest, most straightforward cases, a divorce may take as few as 60 days, but it can also take much longer than that. Texas requires a 60-day waiting period before a divorce may be finalized, which begins on the date the divorce paperwork is filed; if both parties are in agreement, the divorce may be finalized following this waiting period. However, if the parties do not agree on some issues, resolving points of contention can take much longer, depending on the complexity of the contested issues and the court’s schedule. A divorce in which the parties are deeply in opposition on some or all of the core issues may take anywhere from several months to more than a year to finalize.

How Long Does a No-Fault Divorce Take in Texas?

Even in no-fault divorce cases, the 60-day waiting period applies. However, if you and your spouse agree on terms, you can finalize the no-fault divorce immediately after the 60 days are over.

How Much Does a Divorce Cost in Texas?

The total cost of a divorce varies depending on the couple’s unique situation, ranging from a few thousand dollars for amicable cases to tens of thousands of dollars for couples whose divorce cases go to trial. A retainer for an average divorce case is typically in the range of $3,000 to $15,000. The retainer for a contested case varies depending on the facts and could be more than $20,000. Family law attorneys charge an hourly rate of $250 to $600 per hour or more.

How Can I Save Money on My Divorce?

Establishing your goals early on and being strategic in how you work to accomplish them can help to make your divorce more cost-effective.

  • Don’t use your lawyer as a counseling service.
  • Help your lawyer gather financial information and documents and assist in other work requested by your lawyer.
  • Tell your lawyer your goals and what is important to you.
  • Don’t allow your lawyer to fight for an asset that is worth less than the cost of acquiring it.
  • Settle issues such as the division of household items on your own if it’s possible.
  • Look for resolution, not revenge.
  • Make a plan to move forward with your life rather than dwell in the past.

How Long Do You Have to Be Separated in Texas to File for Divorce?

Texas allows spouses to divorce without separating for any specific amount of time.

Can I Get a Legal Separation in Texas?

No. Unlike many other states, Texas law does not provide any process for legal separation, which would allow couples to live legally separate lives without actually divorcing.

Can Couples File for a Texas Divorce When They Live Out of State?

To formally open a divorce in Texas, at least one spouse must have lived in Texas for a minimum of six months. In addition, the divorce petition must be filed in a county in which one of the spouses has lived for at least 90 days.

Is it Possible to Get Alimony in Texas?

You can seek alimony, also called spousal maintenance, in some circumstances.

As a general rule, spousal maintenance is not warranted unless the requesting spouse has exercised diligence in seeking to earn sufficient income to provide for their minimum reasonable needs or in developing the necessary skills to provide for their minimum reasonable needs during the couple’s separation and during the divorce process. A spouse may also seek spousal maintenance if they have a disability that prevents them from taking care of their own needs. In these situations, a judge may award up to $5,000 per month or 20% of the paying spouse’s income, whichever is less, for a fixed period of time.

What Is the Ten-Year Rule in Texas?

The ten-year rule in Texas applies to spousal maintenance. While spousal maintenance is generally not awarded in Texas, the chances of it being awarded are higher for a couple that has been married for ten years or more.

How Is Property Division Determined in Texas?

Courts decide property division equitably, which doesn’t necessarily mean equally. The factors considered in determining an equitable division of marital property include age, children, attorney’s fees, ability to pay, employability, and education. Texas is a community property state, meaning that the court assumes that all of the property acquired by either person is community property. However, if you can prove that something is your separate property, then you will have rights to it that cannot be taken away in a divorce.

Is Texas a 50/50 Divorce State?

No, Texas is not a 50/50 divorce state. The court will divide a couple’s assets according to what is “just and right,” which may not be an even split. Several factors are considered when deciding how to divide property, including the length of the marriage, spousal needs, financial independence, contributions to the marriage, conduct of the spouses, separate property, and other relevant factors.

There is no presumption of a 50/50 split in terms of child custody, either. Texas prioritizes the best interests of the child, but it is possible to achieve an equal parenting schedule if it benefits the child and both parents can cooperate effectively. The court assesses each parent’s ability to be present and engaged in the child’s life, considering factors like prior involvement and willingness to work on the parent-child relationship.

What Happens if a Spouse Has Committed Family Violence?

A temporary emergency protective order may be issued in urgent situations to protect the complaining spouse or family member from domestic violence. The temporary emergency protective order may force the other spouse from the home without a hearing under certain circumstances.

A temporary emergency protective order is only valid for 20 days, and during that time, a final hearing will determine if a longer protective order should be issued. At the final hearing on the protective order, the court must find whether family violence has occurred or is likely to occur in the future. Once a protective order is issued, if it is violated, the police can be called, and they may enforce the order by arresting the offender.

Generally, a protective order will last two years. It may also include provisions for the person found to have committed violence to complete a battering intervention and prevention program, attend counseling, and/or complete other requirements.

Do My Spouse and I Both Need Divorce Lawyers?

You are not required to hire a lawyer to get a divorce, but it’s highly advisable in order to protect your best interests. Note that if you do hire a lawyer, the lawyer cannot represent both parties; each party must retain separate legal counsel.

What Does Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”) Mean?

Alternative dispute resolution refers to methods for divorcing couples to negotiate the terms of their divorce outside of the courtroom. Two common ADR methods used in divorce are mediation and collaborative law. Both processes are confidential and allow for creative and customized problem-solving for divorcing couples.

What Is Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative Divorce is an option for divorcing spouses to keep their divorce out of the courtroom. A divorcing couple is more likely to come out feeling satisfied when they resolve matters amicably without court intervention. In a Collaborative Divorce, specially trained lawyers and neutral professionals, including mental health and financial experts, use a team approach to help the spouses develop equitable solutions, focusing intently on the needs of the whole family. The level of hostility in a Collaborative Divorce is drastically reduced, and the goal is to produce a settlement that maximizes assets and relationships. The average Collaborative Divorce is resolved in four to six joint meetings that are typically two hours in length.

Get Answers to Your Divorce Questions in Texas From Our Experienced Attorneys

If you have additional questions about your specific situation, contact Goranson Bain Ausley to schedule a consultation with one of our family law attorneys. We have skilled advocates at our Dallas, Plano, Fort Worth, Granbury, and Austin offices waiting to serve you.

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